The fundamental tenet in building wealth is to save more than you earn. Easy enough. At some point, there is a threshold in which you pull the trigger to exchange those hard-earned dollars for goods and services. Most of the us who espouse responsible financial practices have streamlined what goods we consider to be suitable for our needs. Yachts, McMansions, and other extravagant material wealth or experiences should be logically put in check until we’ve reached a certain financial stability. Cooking at home instead of hiring a private chef is another example (yes, I know a surgeon who does that). Fair enough.
What about services? Guys like @Mr1500 are pretty handy and have built bookshelves and flipped houses with their skillset. No need to spend hundreds of dollars at Home Goods for a particle board desk when you can build your own out of cedar. MMM is able to haul laundry machines on his bike. Strong-willed doctors like @PoF have the ability to bike to work instead of firing up our standard fossil fuel-consuming vehicles. You get your cardiovascular benefit while saving the environment. Win-win. Some of us were not meant to be tough, no matter how hard we try. Mending a skirt? Only under duress. Hiking down a canyon or starting a campfire? No way. Some of us are in careers that make us less inclined to become true masters of DIY or machoism. I work with plenty of neurosurgeons, and I don’t know a single one who bikes to work before an anticipated five-hour craniotomy case. (If you do, please send me a note!) However, I do know a neurosurgeon who would rather run marathons and bike on Peloton than to bike to work. Peloton subscriptions are not cheap either.
Where is the cut-off? Is there a cost-savings benefit ratio that you look at before you start opening up the wallet? Most of us probably choose not to change our own oil in the car not only because we might not derive much pleasure from it but also because Jiffy Lube will do it for $29.99. For thirty bucks you can get your oil changes and keep your hands clean! I have two basic criteria to look at before I open up the checkbook:
Minimal risk and skill
First, the task has to be something that I don’t hate. I know some people who simply refuse to cook. Is it the smell, the difficulty, or just the risk of ruining the shellac? (Probably all of the above) That’s fine, but if you have a financial plan to get ahead in life you’d better have other ways to make up for the expenditures.
Secondly, I just look at how difficult the task is and the consequences if I mess up. For instance, I’m not an expert at baking cookies, but I’m pretty sure there is a low chance that I’d burn the house down if I tried. Check.
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If the task or service is often performed by many other people without much difficulty, then it is a good sign that I could reasonably attempt it myself.
The hourly rate argument is a touchy subject. Many plumbers I know charge an hourly rate above that of many doctors. This doesn’t mean that you should go ahead and change out a broken water valve or toilet yourself in order to save a few Benjamins. But if the task or service meets the difficulty and skill requirement already, it might be worthwhile to tackle a project or service that could save you some money (especially if you have available time).
My experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles
My driver’s license came up for renewal recently, and I was tasked to step foot in a Department of Motor Vehicles office. There was an automated kiosk to get a number for line, and my number was 417. To my horror, the next customer in line was 333! It took another ten minutes before the next customer was called, and it was #289!
I had cancelled some of my afternoon patients and left work early to arrive at the DMV by 2pm. They close at 4pm. It was apparent that I was rolling the dice if I expected to be called up by closing time. There was no way that I be able to reschedule another surgery or clinic day to wait in line again. I ended up going straight to a commercial motor vehicle outlet, paying an extra $60 to renew my license, and left by 3pm.
The moral of this story? I need to get into the commercial DMV business.
What situations have you encountered where you decided to pull out the wallet to save time?