Thursday Rant #4 – DIY Home Improvement




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If you have been hanging around the personal finance community for any length of time you have probably noticed a trend of DIY’ers (DIY = Do It Yourself). This is especially true from the bloggers that are part of the massive frugality movement. The most prolific of the bloggers, leader of the Extreme Frugality movement, Mr. Money Mustache has been known to take on some massive DIY projects.

I will be the first to admit that MMM is very talented and from his writings it sounds like he really enjoys the work. During his most recent project that he documented on his blog, he installed a home-brewed heating system: “In a nutshell, this involved running thousands of feet of PEX pipe under my existing wood floor via the crawlspace and circulating hot water through it with a pump and a good quality tankless water heater.”

Then there is Mr. 1500 who just recently took a week off of work to try and get a bathroom remodel completed in that time. As most remodel projects unfold, there were plenty of surprises and unplanned events that kept Mr. 1500 from getting this completed in a week. Last I checked, I think he was almost two weeks in. Again, Mr. 1500 is another very talented guy when it comes to these DIY type projects.

Then there is me…

I try to avoid DIY projects at all costs. The only thing that excites me at all about DIY is the potential cost savings that typically comes as a nice benefit (notice I use the words potential and typical). My wife on the other hand loves them and deep down wishes I was a lot more enthusiastic about them (and handy like her dad).

At the end of the day I don’t have the talentpatience, or the desire to take on any DIY project of any size. I draw the line at hanging pictures, and even that can be pretty frustrating. Don’t laugh, those pictures that have two hooks on the backside can be a total pain in the A$$ to get level. Trust me, there is a part of me that wishes I enjoyed these types of projects, but I don’t.


  • DIY projects almost always take more time than originally planned. How many projects have you ever heard about that got done early or on time? I can’t think of a single story. And I have a father in law who is a very talented contractor.
  • I don’t have the innate talent or desire to acquire the skills. Are these skills something that could be learned? Absolutely! However, there are many ways I would rather use my time, like write this whinny post about why I despise DIY home improvement.
  • Manual labor sucks. That is why I went to college, I learned really early on that I had no desire to do physical labor, especially not to earn a living. I am no stranger to hard work and I have done plenty of manual labor in my time.
  • Something always goes wrong. It’s just par for the course.
  • I strongly believe you should not do things you don’t enjoy. You will be much happier for it.
  • Savings are not guaranteed. This is especially true if you are as inept as I am. Ok, maybe I don’t give myself enough credit, but man I suck at this stuff. I feel like the savings is never as much as you think it will be. I think I learned a long time ago, whether DIY or not, take your budget and double it. Or in this case, take your savings and cut it in half, to set realistic expectations.
  • DIY shows make it look way easier and cheaper than it really is. True story, my grandmother used to watch these shows all day long, and truly believed that you could remodel a bathroom for pennies on the dollar. Her perception was so distorted that a quote from my father in-law to remodel her bathroom (by her design) was 5X more expensive than how much she said it should cost. And this was with the family rate extended. Somehow she was the expert since she watched these shows. Needless to say, the bathroom never got remodeled, because she couldn’t find anyone that came close to her expectations. In her mind everyone was trying to take advantage of her (oh grandma).
  • Someone else can complete the job better and faster than I can (ahem, my father in-law). I would rather get it done right and well the first time. We are lucky to have my wife’s dad, because he does truly amazing work and usually extends the family rate (not free, but a good deal).
  • My time is worth something greater than zero. So in my opinion it is not the highest and best use of my time. There is always an opportunity cost.
  • Did I mention that I HATE it?

The not so perfect solution…

The way I see it is that there are really only a few solutions and none are perfect.

  1. Suck it up – I could just suck it up and do the work and take the time to learn some skills. And to be fair there are some very small projects that I have done this for, like hanging pictures, replacing a broken sprinkler and/or valve, installing some drip line, etc.
  2. Don’t make any improvements – Most of the projects we do around the house are not need based. So I could just put the kabosh on all projects that don’t need to be done to have a fully functional house. That would save us a lot of money. BUT, and that is a big fat but, that would not go over very well with my wife. And let’s be honest, a happy wife leads to a happy life. Let’s also not forget that I do enjoy the enhancements.
  3. Contract out most of the work – This is typically the option of choice if it doesn’t fall under option #1. It ends up costing more money, but it saves me a lot of anger and frustration. I also get to spend my time doing other activities I enjoy.

I should add that my wife does take on a lot of DIY projects without my participation. Recently she painted the entire interior of our 3,300 sq. ft. house. Unlike her LAZY and INEPT husband, she enjoys these types of projects and is actually quite talented. Her hard work is much appreciated, as is the savings.

Anyone that takes on DIY projects deserves props. And if you happen to be talented and in the Southern California area with some extra time on your hands, let’s connect. We have a long list of projects that we could use your help on. There is pizza and beer in it for you. Mr. 1500??? I know how much you love pizza. What about you Brian of Debtless in Texas? You seem to be really handy, and if I recall you like cigars. I can throw in some cigars to make it worth your travels 🙂

Do you enjoy DIY projects? Am I the only one that has no talent or desire to take these projects on? Are the savings really worth the effort? Do you have any DIY stories to share (preferably nightmare stories that will support my post)?

– Gen Y Finance Guy

Gen Y Finance Guy

Hey, I’m Dom - the man behind the cartoon. You’ll notice that I sign off as "Gen Y Finance Guy" on all my posts, due to the fact that I write this blog anonymously (at least for now). I like to think of myself as the Chief Freedom Officer here of my little corner of the internet. In the real world, I’m a former 30-something C-Suite executive turned entrepreneur turned capital allocator. I am trying to humanize finance by sharing my own journey to Financial Freedom. I believe in total honesty and transparency. That is why before I ever started blogging, I decided that I would share all of my own financial stats. I do this not to brag, but instead to inspire motivate, and also to hold myself accountable. My goal is to be a beacon of hope, motivation, and inspiration, for you, the reader, by living life by example and sharing it all here on the blog. My sincere hope is that you will be able to learn from me - both from my successes and my failures! Read More



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16 Responses

  1. I am somewhere in the middle as I enjoy many of the projects. I have some closet/shelf building planned and some flooring replacements coming up. I don’t like plumbing or electricity though, so beyond replacing a faucet or lightswitch or installing a ceiling fan or garbage disposal I am not much help.

    The savings can be unpredictable, but are usually significant. That is unless you could have used your time to create more income and sub the job out…

    1. Vawt – sounds like you have way more talent then me. But then again I tend to just deny any ability because of my lack of enjoyment. My wife and I did put slate flooring in our condo by ourselves. I have done my fair share of painting.

      Most of the time I just try to negotiate the best deal I can and save the frustration and struggle 🙂

  2. Haha — love that you poked fun at yourself in this post. We don’t love DIY by any means, but we’ve certainly done plenty of it and don’t mind it. You talk about not having the TALENT to do it, but talent has nothing to do with it, unless you’re talking about detailed craftsmanship like finish carpentry. Most DIY is just about willingness to learn, and trial and error. Maybe you don’t like it because you’re afraid to fail? The great thing is, there’s very little in home improvement that you’d do that can’t be redone if you screw it up. Don’t listen to the home improvement shows — instead make YouTube and your best friends. Any repair or project you want to take on, you can learn about them there, and see lots of detailed videos that break things down and make any project far less intimidating.

    Of course, if you hate it, then don’t force it. But given your wife’s love for DIY, it seems like you aught to suck it up at least a little bit, to be supportive to her. And in all likelihood, if you accept that you might fail but will get better, you won’t hate it as much as you think you do. 😉

    1. Glad you enjoyed the self deprecating posts. I think it is fun to poke fun at ourselves every once in a while. In these rants I go to the extreme, just for the fun of it.

      But don’t underestimate my ability to screw these types of projects up. You would probably just shake your head.

      You are right, it is definitely something that is learn-able with practice and time. However, its just not something I am willing to allocate much of my limited time doing. I do how ever support my wife in any DIY project she wants to tackle herself. I even volunteer to be the muscle at times. And there have been times where the savings is so great (like installing our own artificial turf) that I “suck it up” and do the work.

      Thanks for reading and dropping a comment.

  3. My husband is amazing at DIY, but I’m better at planning. It works out nicely for me to do all the planning and for him to do most of the work. I would feel bad about this, but he sort of kicks me out most of the time.

    1. Hannah – sounds like you have a really good set up and a good husband 🙂

      If he is not too busy we could use him for some projects around our house…LOL

      I am good at researching and negotiating the best price for things we need for any DIY project. An example would be last year when we put in an outdoor kitchen, my father in-law did the work, but I found all the equipment and negotiated the price. It took nine vendors competing for the business and what started at $6,500 “on sale”, ended up being $3,900 out the door.

  4. I am a huge fan of DIY. I manage most of simple car maintenance work including changing fluids, engine oils, tires, brakes etc… Due to availability of so many DIY videos online, I think almost anything is possible if done slowly. 🙂

    1. That is great BeSmartRich!

      I agree that if you are willing to do allocate the time anything is learnable online. The internet is amazing for that.


  5. Wow…this was like reading a post written by Mr. FI. Scary. There is a reason why our kitchen remodel right now is partially DIY. While we’d LOVE to do all of it ourselves, we don’t have the time or the patience (and most likely the extra money required when we inevitably mess things up) to not have a little help. Perhaps if we didn’t plan to have visitors in August I would have advocated to try to tackle more of the projects than we are ourselves, but on this remodel, we’re sharing responsibility with the pros and aren’t ashamed in the least about it! Thanks for the fun (yet deja vu-type) post.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Mrs. FI. Sounds like me and Mr. FI could be a brother from a different mother 🙂

      I clicked over to your site and saw your remodel post…looks like you guys at least did the demolition yourself. I can usually handle the grunt work, when you demo, there is no worry about messing things up.

      Looking forward to see how the kitchen turns out.


  6. GYFG, love it! DIY is pretty humbling, and it can be a reality check in the short time it takes to go from the hardware store to a filthy floor strewn with dozens of components behind the washer and dryer. Please count me as a fan of your self-deprecating humor, always respect the people who take the job seriously (but not themselves).

    My favorite DIY is outside. In the past four years, I have removed about 200 oak trees that were some combination of dead, broken, overcrowded, dangerous. The first year was an incredibly frustrating education on ‘how-to-do-it’, but now I love it! The task came about because of three misfires on hiring “professionals”, the last one having to be terminated when he and his crew showed up HAF at 11am to work. My favorite part is the stump grinding (I bought my own). It takes a lot physically, and I sleep long, far, deep, and well. And the thing about stump grinding is, to paraphrase a Dennis Miller joke about the difficulty of being a mortician, “really…what is the very worst that could happen?”:-) Always enjoy your writing, continued success to you!

    1. Stoked that you enjoyed the self deprecating humor, wasn’t sure how people would take it. Never want to take myself too seriously, and don’t mind being the butt of a joke 🙂

      I don’t mind the grunt work piece of the manual labor. It’s just the details I am not good at.

      200 trees? WOW!!!!

      Thanks for reading and your continued support.

  7. Haha it’s almost like you channeled me here :)!
    While I’d say that I do enjoy these DIY projects I’m certainly not one to get involved in them.. You’re right & I agree they take much longer than originally planned & why wouldn’t you use the extra time to earn extra cash or spend time with the family, out exercising doing something you enjoy etc..

    Having said this, if you enjoy it & are good at it for sure knock yourself out ha

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