Five Reasons Why DIY Could Backfire on You

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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

In an era of constrained finances, the mantra is now do-it-yourself – or DIY.

I’m going to take a contrary view here and argue in the opposite direction. Here are five reasons why the DIY could backfire on you, and end up costing you even more money:

1. You lack the expertise

Some people are just good at repairs. They can fix just about anything, including things they never fixed before. That is just a gift that some people have, but most don’t. If you are not among the group of people who are blessed to have repair skills, DIY can become a disaster for you.

One of the biggest challenges in fixing anything that’s broken is figuring out exactly what the problem is. If you don’t know what the problem is, you can fix something that isn’t broken without ever repairing what it was that needed to be fixed. Worse, you can get caught in the weeds on a repair problem that will force you to bring in a true expert. Not only will it cost money that you were trying to save, but you’ll also be out the time you put into the attempted repair.

I suppose it is possible to learn a variety of repair skills, but that in itself will take time and could cost money. In addition, learning repair work often comes about by trial and error, which can also cost, both in time and in money.

2. You don’t have the time to fix everything

Anything you try to repair will take time. Whether it’s an auto repair, fixing your furnace, the electricity in your house, or even your toaster, it will take time out of your schedule that might be better used in some other direction.

Also, the amount of time that you will spend on any single repair will be in inverse proportion to your skill level. The less skill you have at any certain repair job, the more time you will spend working on it. This will be bad enough if you already have a tight schedule. But, if you do all of your own repairs, that effort could be the very reason you don’t have more time.

Yet another complication is that if you are accustomed to repairing whatever breaks, you could live in house full of items that are just days away from further breakdowns. Often when something breaks, it’s just the beginning of a series of problems. You could be investing your time doing little more than extending the life of an item by a few weeks or months. That can put you in a cycle of perpetual repair jobs that will leave you with even less time for everything else in life.

3. It could take away from making money

Often times when it comes to DIY, you can save money if you don’t count the time that you put into the project.

Let’s say that it would take an expert repair person one hour to fix a broken contraption, at a cost of $100 to you. Instead you decide to fix it yourself. If you normally earn $25 per hour at your job, and you spend 10 hours trying to do the repair yourself, you will have effectively spent $250 ($25 per hour times 10 hours) “saving money” by doing the repair yourself.

In in absolute sense, it would be cheaper for you to pay repair person $100 instead of doing the job yourself. And yet, this is not always the case. It is not as important a consideration if you don’t have the capability to earn additional income in the time that you might spend on repairs. But if you could earn additional income – from overtime, higher commissions, or more income from self-employment – you have to consider the opportunity cost of a DIY repair.

This could even be a test as to whether or not you do a repair yourself or hire someone else. Ask yourself the question: how much money could I earn in the time that will take to do this repair job?
If the answer to that question is “none”, then the decision is a little bit easier. But if you could be earning money instead of doing the repair job, you’re going to have to figure out which is more profitable to you.

4. It can be disruptive

Because it takes time to do repairs, and more so if you don’t quite have the skills necessary, it can become disruptive. For example, if you try to repair your own car, you’ll be without the use of the vehicle for the length of time it takes you to fix it. Would you be better off bringing the car to the shop where it will be fixed in 2 to 3 hours and back on the road, or doing the work yourself and losing use the car for two or three days?

5. If something goes wrong, it could cost you even more

Finally, we get to the question of what to do if your intended repair doesn’t go quite as well as you hoped? Most of us are pretty good at a few things, but none of us are good at everything. If you take on a repair project and the job takes a turn in the wrong direction, not only will you have lost time and all the efforts you invested, but you will certainly have to bring in a certified expert to fix the problem. That will bring you full circle to the exact situation you were trying to avoid by doing the work yourself.

Any time you attempt a DIY repair, consider your skill level, the time you will invest in the job, the opportunity cost and the potential of what could go wrong if you are not successful in your effort. DIY isn’t the automatic savings route it’s often made out to be, at least not for most people.

How about you all? Do you try to do most repairs yourself? Or do you turn them over to the experts and concentrate on doing what you do best? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. moneybeagle says:

      I generally agree. I try to do as much as I can within reason, but there are certain things I won't touch. Anything that could potentially result in a water leak, a fire or me getting blasted with electricity is completely not an option when it comes to DIY. Some things it's worth learning and you can even mess things up during the learning phase with no long lasting results. For example, my father-in-law was teaching me to patch holes in the wall before painting. My first try, I completely messed it up. His answer: No worries, just sand it down and start over again. Did so and it all worked out great.
      My recent post Get That Bread Out Of Your Refrigerator

      • Interesting you mentioned water leaks; many years back my father -in-law and I tried to fix a leaky pipe fitting in the kitchen. After 18 hours of trying, no luck. The leak turned into a gusher, and I called in a plumber, who told me the pipes were too corroded to be repaired. That ended my efforts at fixing water leaks. Too much time, greater damage and had to pay anyway. Alas, I still will do my own toilet repairs, they're much easier than most people think.
        My recent post How Much Student Loan Debt Is Too Much?

    2. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      Good points Kevin! I would generally agree . I am not the best in terms of fixing things around the house, but I do what I can and I like to teach myself some simpler tasks. Beyond that, it is not worth the time or effort for me to try and fix something that is well beyond my scope. It's generally much less stressful in the long run just to have an expert handle it.
      My recent post Things That Make Me Scratch My Head

      • I'm self-employed, so the time factor is super important to me. The more time I spend fixing things, the less money I make. And I'm not Mr. Fix-it to begin with.
        My recent post How Much Student Loan Debt Is Too Much?

    3. I love to DIY things at home and one of the things I've learned is that it takes time and the end result is not always good, but it does give you a sense of achievement However, I have to agree that if you're too busy and if it will cost you more money than if you have paid someone else to do it, then it would be better to spend a little bit more on the services of someone.
      My recent post Can You Invest if You Make Minimum Wage?

      • Actually, if you have the time and the inclination, doing DIY repairs can have an economic value beyond the money you save by not calling in repair people. If you become proficient, you can start a home repair business. I know several people who did this and are making more money than they did on their full time jobs. No many people can do repair work anymore, so it's a become a real niche.
        My recent post How Much Student Loan Debt Is Too Much?

    4. I pretty much try anything once. I am a DIY junkie and figure that I can only learn. If it is already broken, then me trying to fix it (using common sense) will not cause me to mess it up more. This is just me though. I don't tend to mess things up more when I try to fix them. If I don't have time or it is way beyond my skill set then I will call the pros.
      My recent post Why Do Sales Make Us Irrational Shoppers?

      • You obviously have a talent for repair work, and if you have the time it's certainly worth the effort. Most people aren't in the category.
        My recent post How Much Student Loan Debt Is Too Much?

    5. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

      I try to DIY because I have some free time,

      and wouldn't be working and making money the

      whole time I take to do it myself. With a

      busier schedule I would surely call a pro.

      Using your hourly rate is valid only if you

      would be working instead, not lounging in

      front of the TV.
      My recent post Financial goals update, March 1st 2013

      • Hi Pauline–If the time spent isn't time that can be filled on an income earning activity, then DIY makes more sense.
        My recent post How Much Student Loan Debt Is Too Much?

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