While it’s great to want to be self-sufficient, some DIY projects simply aren’t worth the time involved. If a project requires specialized knowledge or an investment in equipment, or just plain takes too long, you might as well invest your time and energy elsewhere. Here are a few do-it-yourself options that I feel are best left to the professionals:

Home photo developing

Printing pictures at home is great for the occasional special photo, but the high-priced special printer, the ink, and the special photo paper add up quick. It costs about $.25 to $.40 to print a standard size photo at home, compared with prices as low at $.04 (yes, that’s FOUR CENTS) to get them printed at an online photo lab such as YorkPhoto.com, Shutterfly.com, KodakGallery.com and Ofoto.com. Do a search for coupons before you order and save even more.

Home-made personal care products

You may get a real buzz knowing your shampoo, deodorant, and baby wipes were all created at home by your loving hands. That pride is wonderful – but it won’t save you a ton of money overall.  You have to consider your time and often the cost of the special ingredients. Shop wisely and buy your soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish-washing liquid at sale prices. It’s often wiser to invest your time in a project that has a bigger payoff. Save your soap making for a hobby, not as a way to save money.

Making your clothes

This is another DIY project that brings tons of bragging rights, but won’t necessarily help your pocketbook. Making your own clothes from scratch requires a sewing machine, fabric, and all the accessories like matching thread, buttons, zippers, etc.. There was a time when it was cheaper to make clothes for yourself, but if saving money is your main motivation, you may want to grab a $3 t-shirt from Target instead. Again, like soap making, sewing is better left for an enjoyable hobby, not as a money saving project.

Exterior painting

Painting your own home is definitely possible, but it’s more of a specialized skill than whitewashing a few walls inside. To do it right, you’ll need to power wash the exterior, strip the old paint, sand off rough areas, and patch where necessary. You may need to prime, patch, de-mold, etc. etc. In general, this is a task best left to those who know what they’re doing and have the equipment to prove it.


I’ve moved the easy way (having someone pack, load, and ship everything), and I’ve moved the hard way (having ME pack, load, and ship everything). I’ve also packed myself and hired “muscle” to do the lifting. Trust me when I say I’d eat Top Ramen Noodles for a year to never have to pack or lift another box. The time and tedium, coupled with the damage to furniture and doorways, makes this one a no-brainer for me. I’ll do lots of hard work when it comes time to relocate into a new home, but I’ll always  leave the moving to the pros.

DIY projects are NOT always money saving projects. If you’re planning to do a project yourself to save money, consider the time it will take you, the equipment you’ll need, and the expertise you’ll need to get the job done right. If your project will save you money, then go right ahead and join the ranks of the DIY crowd. If not, then call your project what it is – a hobby – and enjoy it all the same!

Filed under: How to Live Frugally

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