Paying for Services When There’s a Free Alternative

Sites around the web, including this one, are always pushing free or DIY alternatives to lots of things.  And, in most cases, I think that they (and I) am right.  There are so many things that we pay other people to do that we can just as easily do ourselves.  Just about a year and a half ago, I built my own deck.  It wasn’t necessarily easy, and it certainly wasn’t quicker than hiring someone to do it for me, but boy did it save me some money.

I truly believe that there is little that you and I cannot do ourselves.  With a quick search on Youtube for the DIY project, and a few quick web searches, we can have some pretty detailed instructions on how to do anything.  Well, OK.  Probably not something like brain surgery.  There’s probably a bit more of a skill/knowledge gap there. But, certainly, most everything else.

Occasionally, I find a service that I decide I’d rather outsource to someone else.  Oil Changes are an excellent example.  Can I change my own oil?  Absolutely.  But, for $30, I get someone else to do it for me.  I don’t have to mess around with getting the filter loose, disposing of the waste oil, and I certainly don’t have to crawl around under the car doing it.  For me, it’s well worth the $20 or so difference to have someone else do it.  That’s more of a choice of convenience. Meaning, for me, that it is just more convenient to have someone else do it and save me the time and effort.

There are, however, some services that have less to do with convenience, and more to do with some other factors.

Paying for Services when there are Free Alternatives Saving Time

In the case of my DIY deck, I could have saved a whole lot of time by having someone else do it for me.  For a professional with a crew of a couple of guys, it probably would have only taken 3-4 days.  Maybe less.  It took me several weeks.  Obviously, it saved me a lot of money to do it myself, but if I had been crunched for time, it would have made a lot of sense to factor the time it would save into my choice.  I had the time, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.  (note: I say that now.  At the end of the project, I was seriously wondering why I did it myself)  The choice to have someone else change my oil isn’t weighted so heavily on saving time, but that is a factor.  I can have someone else do the work, and all I have to do is drop the car off.

Motivational

I think this is one that many people discount too often.  In many of those cases, people choose to do something themselves strictly to save themselves some money and then fail at it.  In my case, I’ve tried, for many years, to control my weight.  I used to be an athlete, so I’ve always thought that I had the tools to lose the weight myself.  I’d start by finding some calorie counter that was free and start tracking calories.  But, what inevitably happens is that I forget to count for a day or two and then it stretches to a couple of weeks.  If I had lost any weight, it goes right back on.  Sometimes, paying for a service that has free or DIY alternatives can be motivational.  You’re paying for it, so you better get the most out of it.  I recently joined Weight Watchers Online and that factor has helped a lot.  There are other factors, but you better believe that the fact that I’m paying for the service is playing into it as well and keeping me working at it.

Hate/Fear

How could I write this post without adding this factor.  There are just some things that you hate to do.  For one reason or another, you just hate doing them.  To you, not doing that task is worth the money to have someone else do.  Maybe it’s mowing the lawn.  Maybe it’s changing the oil in your car.  Maybe it’s losing weight.  Wait, maybe not that one.  But, how cool would that be! For me, I tend to avoid major electrical work.  There’s just something about the possibility of electrocuting myself that I don’t like…  Another would be doing anything very high off the ground.  Can’t do it.

Impossible

As much as I (and you), would like to think that there isn’t anything outside of our realm of possibility, we always seem to find something that we just aren’t capable of doing.  While I truly believe that you can learn to do many of the things that you think are impossible, I recognize that sometimes there are things that are physically impossible.  It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

Saving money by doing things ourselves is a good trait to have.  It helps us keep our budgets from overrunning. It keeps us learning new things.  It gives us a sense of self worth by developing new skills and knowledge.  But, sometimes, there are other factors at work and we make the choice to have someone else do the work for us.  Maybe the cost difference isn’t worth the time you’d put into it.  Maybe the extra time you’d spend on it isn’t worth the savings.  Or, maybe you need some monetary motivation.  Whatever it is, we develop our own factors that go into the decision, and make a choice over whether to do something ourselves, or to hire someone to do it for us.

What are your factors in deciding whether you DIY or not?

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