Do it yourself and save money

Last month, while it was still very early in the morning this particular Sunday, I turned myself around in bed to face my wife only to discover she was not there. I waited for a moment hoping she had gone to the toilet, but she was never to come.

I pushed the sheets aside, went to the toilet but she really wasn’t there. I went to the lounge thinking she may have gone to prepare for her lectures, but she was not there either. In my confused state, I went to my 5-year-old son’s bedroom and stupidly said ‘amayi ako akukhala ngati asowa m’nyumba muno (your mum has gone missing)’ the boy in his sleepy state just looked at me, smiled and tucked himself back into his sheets.

Well, I then remembered my wife had mentioned the previous night that she would be going to apply fertiliser at our garden so she would leave early—but I was too engrossed watching Al jazeera then. I guess it is a good thing paying attention when your spouse speaks. I learnt a lesson.

But there is a more important lesson that I wish to share today than just bringing family business on this forum. This relates to what she told me when she came back from the garden. I realised how much money we waste by not doing certain things by ourselves. Last year, we paid over K10 000 to aganyu (labourers)’ to apply fertiliser in the same garden. This time when she went with a brother and sister and we spent zero tambala.

One big caveat, right off the bat: I’m not claiming that you should do everything yourself. There are certainly situations where paying others to do things for you is beneficial especially if it requires somebody skilled, and those opportunities become more prevalent as your income rises.

However, the more things you do for yourself, the less money you spend on overpriced services.

This spreads across more avenues of life than you might initially think. “I don’t pay for a lawn service,” you might think, “and I’ll never hire a maid or a cook.” It goes far beyond that.

When you go out to eat, you pay for someone to serve you. Much of your cost of the meal isn’t in the food—it’s in the cost of the cook to prepare it and the waiter to bring it to your table. Instead, cook the same meal at home. Almost always, it will be significantly less expensive and often healthier. Better still, you often don’t have to burn petrol going to the restaurant.

When you buy produce at the grocery store, you pay for people to serve you. Most of your cost comes from people picking the vegetables and transporting them to you. Instead, why not have a small vegetable garden in the back if you have space? You will be physically fit and could extremely reduce on costs, particularly for the quantity of vegetables you can get from a good garden.

When you call up the plumber or the electrician, you’re likely paying someone to handle something that could be figured out from a YouTube video. If nothing else, it’s worth a few minutes to check YouTube for a how-to video to see if your problem can be easily fixed.

In each case, the same theme is clear: you pay a high price for someone else to do something for you.

Again, doing things for yourself has a big psychological benefit. It shows you that you actually can do these things for yourself and improves your self-worth. It increases your skill set. It often gets you moving and applying your mind and your body together in a task. These are all enormous benefits that aren’t derived from simply throwing cash at a problem.

In the end, the personal and financial benefits of doing things yourself add up to an enormous benefit for the time you invest in it. The next time you have something that you could do yourself that you’re about to pay someone else to take care of, step back and ask yourself if this is really the best move for you.

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