There are some pushy door-to-door sales people in my neighborhood. Let me start by stating that if I’m not seeking out a service, then I’m not interested. Door-to-door sales guys often prey on your humanity to close deals. They are betting that you are too polite to close the door, and, most of the time, you are. Do you like cookies? I don’t care if you’re on a diet that you have trouble controlling, how about if I send my adorable 5 year-old daughter to show you pictures of cookies; can you tell her no? Letting advertisers pitch you on your doorstep feels so un American, you should always have the power to mute an ad. That’s what helps level the playing field in the war between advertisers and consumers. Actually, that war was lost a long time ago when people decided companies were “cool.”
However, because my wife and I live in a newly constructed neighborhood we get a lot of pitches for services that we either don’t need or could do ourselves. In fact, my “crazy” (as my wife calls it) resistance to door-to-door sales, has inspired me to learn a number of new skills, such as: landscape maintenance, air-filter changing, “winterizing” stuff and even some concrete repair and pest control (though my current solution is to hope that any pests just go away). Hell, my entire passion for investing and personal finance was sparked by an encounter an Edward Jones guy.
Though there are some areas where saving money isn’t the top priority there are some surprisingly easy things you can do around the house to save a lot of money.
Here are 10 of my favorite ways to save money with DIY home maintenance and DIY home repairs.
1. Landscape Maintenance and Yardwork
Home Advisor reports that the average cost of getting your lawn mowed alone is between $30-$80 per visit. Not only do the costs of pruning, mowing, weeding, watering and aerating/fertilizing add up quickly, doing these tasks yourself can be emotionally rewarding. You could also do your own landscape installation to save between $5K – $20K but unless you are experienced with landscaping or need to stick to a budget, a competent landscaper is invaluable.
2. Painting (Interior)
Interior painting is a lot of work and for that reason I usually hire it out. However, a great way to save between $200 – $500 per room is to paint them yourself. If you are diligent about covering stuff that you don’t want to get paint on, painting your own walls or cabinets can save you thousands. We saved $2,200 by painting our kitchen cabinets with friends and family and they turned out great.
3. Surface Repairs (Wood, Carpet, Concrete)
When my wood flooring first got marked up by our cat I was devastated. Similarly, when our cat pulled up the carpeting in front of our (3) doors, I was also devastated. Come to think of it, when my wife surprised me and adopted our cat I was devastated, and we had to move within three days. Though we love Top Cat, he is devastating, but he taught me how to do so many household repairs that it almost makes up for it.
For wood floors, acrylic paint applied in tiny dabs works wonders. Carpet is amazingly resilient and simply removing the pulled up fibers made the carpet look almost normal again. Concrete was by far the scariest repair I undertook because I am so unfamiliar with it. Our walkway started cracking and when we finally got the installer to come by and repair it, he decided to cut the cracks into huge chasms and proceeded to fill them with some kind of flexible compound. Needless to say the cracks reappeared and the compound came out in globs over the next few weeks. However, with a little YouTube research I was able to learn how to fill in the cracks with actual concrete, which looks much better and saved me $300+ in repair work.
4. Seasonal Maintenance (Winterizing, Filters)
There are many services that will change your filters, “winterize” your house, maintain air conditioning etc. But these tasks are inexpensive, easy and not especially time consuming. These brief visits at $25 – $42 a session add up quickly and unless you really like strangers in your house, I recommend doing these jobs yourself.
5. Energy / Water Audit
Instead of hiring someone to help you maximize your energy usage, buy a couple of smart plugs, hook them up to your fridge, washing machine, or wherever. and note where you’re draining energy. Similarly, you can review your water usage by understanding each watering “zone” and how to adjust your sprinkler system. Water usage should be based on cost, weather conditions, seasons, droughts etc. If you’re watering even every other day you’ re probably wasting water. Plants and lawns cannot absorb water that quickly and over watering can cause your lawn and plants to develop a shallow root bed, since the roots don’t have to dig deeply for water.
6. Some Construction Projects
This is a tricky topic because there are almost no construction projects that I’m qualified to do. I was able to build a platform bed, and a coffee table which I am happy with. If you are already an expert in an area, it’s clear why you shouldn’t hire out these projects, but for others, don’t underestimate your ability to problem solve and accomplish a project. Here is a great list of DIY projects you can do with little building experience.
7. Cleaning (Home and Vehicle)
Around 10% of Americans use some kind of cleaning service. This figure surprised me, I would have guessed 5%at most. At $25 – $50 per visit, these costs add up quickly. Surveys also reveal that a typical American spends 6 hours per week cleaning, so pick your poison. If it’s significant savings that you’re after, however, cleaning your own house and washing your own car is a huge money saver. I don’t even really wash my cars, I just by dark gray ones. Like yard work, house cleaning is emotionally satisfying and increases my appreciation for home ownership.
8. Accessorizing / Interior Design
You wouldn’t think that a significant number of people use an interior designers to decorate, but survey says: 17% do. A much easier (and cheaper) way to design your interior spaces is to simply do a google image search and find a room that matches your personal style. My wife has a naturally great eye for design but we typically move stuff around every few months just to see what feels right.
Moreover, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on framed art “prints,” use a photograph you took, or buy a print and have it framed at a hobby shop for much less. We recently bought a framed art print for over $100 that was so shoddily constructed it needed to be returned. Art.com didn’t even want it back, they just sent us a new one (great policy by the way). So, I took apart the broken one, replaced the image with a new one and brought it to new condition for about $35. It was only in taking apart the frame that I realized how much profit is built into these framed prints.
9. Pest Control
Do you really need a professional assassin to rid you of that hornet’s nest? Probably not, but you definitely need one if you have bedbugs. I have a live and let live policy until I start seeing that a problem is developing. I have never had an at-home infestation that required professional intervention though, which has saved us a lot of money.
10. Miscellaneous Repairs and Upgrades
There are many home repairs and upgrades you can do yourself. There are also many you should hire out:
Home repairs and updates you could probably do yourself
- Patching drywall holes – Kits are available, making these jobs a piece of cake. Texturing is another story.
- Leaky faucets, running toilets and clogged drains – A few twists of a screwdriver, or some drano.
- Gutter cleaning / Christmas lights – If you’re comfortable on a ladder/ with heights
- Installing dimmer switches (turn off power first)
- Re-grouting tile – Much easier than tile installation
Home repairs and updates you probably shouldn’t do yourself
- Installing new carpet or new concrete – Too much training and experience is needed.
- Exterior house painting – Too much work, too much that could go wrong.
- Sprinkler system installation – Time consuming and installations can be finicky
- Any electrical work, including new light/fan fixtures – Dangerous if incompetent
- Most construction work