My mother once said: “Kim, you can’t do everything yourself.”
I’m pretty sure she declared that when I was atop a ladder, cursing, as I attempted to replace some outdoor lighting at her own house.
I was extremely cash poor then, a student, which meant any time I could figure out how to do something on my own, I did it.
I dismissed her comments, continued my work, but made a mental note for future reference.
Years later, I can afford (at least for many things) to pay someone else to do similar tasks for me. The question is, when should I do that?
I can’t erase 20+ years of growing up in a working-class home.
Thankfully, we rarely wanted for the basics, but if I had a picture of the Cabbage Patch doll replica I was given as a kid, you’d understand. Yarn-knitted body, no birth certificate. Upon seeing it, I cried out in a typical middle-schooler’s distress.
So, as an adult, when I have the option to avoid being a do-it-yourselfer, I hesitate. Instead, I run this nerdy mental equation:
Value of self-satisfaction of a job well done
– cost of doing it myself
– $$ of hours of missed work
+ $$ of hours I’d otherwise be watching useless TV
– (# of curse words x $10)
= Doing-it-myself value
If the sum of the above falls below the cost of having a contractor, they’re hired. Otherwise, I roll up my sleeves and dive in.
I’ve miscalculated along the way. In redoing my downstairs bathroom, I under-estimated the number of f-bombs I’d drop during three months of upheaval (a rookie renovation mistake).
This weekend, though, I think I got it right.
I ran the cost-benefit analysis and determined: I should prepare my own taxes and fix the water-damaged wood problem under my kitchen sink.
The latter came first. I pulled out my never-been-used jigsaw (the tool not a puzzle). Kneeling before my kitchen sink, wearing a sundress and sunglasses (I couldn’t find my safety goggles), I obliterated the rotten wood below.
Hell to the yeah! That was awesome!
High on the smell of sawdust (a favorite scent as the offspring of a builder), I decided to tackle taxes. I am a finance major after all – only laziness lead me to pay for that in the last few years.
The IRS explanation of what qualified as charitable contributions erased my enthusiasm. Overcoming the urge to poke my eyes out, I removed some deductions, in an abundance of caution, but still completed my return online and avoided several hundred dollars in tax preparation fees.
I consider that money well saved for celebration or donation.
Perhaps, if I’m inappropriately audited, I can claim temporary DIY insanity as my defense? After all, unlike Benjamin Franklin, I’m certain of three things: death, taxes and my unwavering obsession with power tools.