My journey into the DIY lifestyle came about from a desire to get out of debt. It worked well – the debt is gone, but the DIY habits remain. They’re fun! And it’s really cool when your friends say nice things about your projects (that actually turned out correctly).
However, one obstacle that I had to overcome at the beginning was the initial investment. After being in debt for so long and always strapped for cash, I was stuck in a “short-term” mentality. Living paycheck to paycheck, I was unable to look at the big picture. When I was able to switch from thinking about what it’s costing me now to how much it’s going to save me in the long run, I was able to make peace with the initial investments.
Here are my favorite things about investing in DIY:
We’ve found time and time again that an initial investment that seems pretty expensive ends up saving us a lot of money in the long run. Cloth diapers. High-quality tools. Alternative healthcare. All of these things have cost at least $100+ up-front (that seemed like a stretch for our tight budget), but we’ve seen some amazing long-term payoff.
Health – Since making the commitment to preventative, alternative healthcare, we’ve seen major savings in medical costs. Our family uses essential oils, fermented cod liver oil and real food on a daily basis to prevent and treat illness. We rarely get sick now and mainly use the medical system in case of emergencies.
Time – DIY projects can take a lot of time up front. There’s always a learning process, during which you may not be sure what you’re doing. And then there’s the time it takes to keep up with projects on a regular basis. Thankfully, we’ve managed to fit DIY into our busy life nicely, so that it’s just part of the routine.
Money – I’ve mentioned already that we’re now debt-free. We could not have done it without our DIY lifestyle. We saved thousands alone just by cloth diapering our children, which costs us a few hundred up front (we bought enough one-size pocket diapers to cover two kids at once). Our high monthly medical expenses from prescriptions and doctor visits has greatly decreased. And now, I even make money by selling extra stuff we make.
One Investment, Multiple Projects
The great thing about doing things yourself is that you can use the same tools over and over again. And not just for one project. In my simple kitchen, for example, lots of appliances perform double (sometimes quadruple) duty. Our food processor gets used for making meals, kneading dough and making laundry detergent. Not all at once, of course. Canning jars (which can be quite costly if you buy them new), are used for everything from food storage to everyday drinking glasses.
Making an investment implies a certain level of commitment. You’re in it for the long haul. That kind of commitment is important for the DIY lifestyle. If you’re not committed it’s easy to just say, “well, I can just go to the store and buy it instead.” Doing that just perpetuates the cycle you’re trying to remove yourself from (at least, that’s what we were doing). Instead, using the money that would have gotten you say, a few boxes of disposable diapers, you could buy enough diapers to last a few children for a couple of years. (I’ve got diapers on the brain today – my youngest is potty-training.)
Better Quality, Better Results
I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a tightwad. With a spending problem. How’s that possible? Well, I can rationalize the smaller purchases, but not the bigger ones. Unfortunately, I’ve paid for that repeatedly thanks to buying low-quality items that needed to be replaced after they broke.
Thankfully, I’m married to someone who sees the value in buying high-quality items. A few years ago, I bought a high-quality blender with a reputation for lasting a long time. Because I took my time and researched my options, I knew that I was getting a great deal. Now, I have a blender that can grind grains, make dough and do all the things a blender can do and I know it will work well for a very long time.
Just because you’re making an investment in the DIY lifestyle, doesn’t mean you have to spend a bunch of money. We’re frugal people (who are also eco-conscious), so we make a point to buy used whenever possible. That means budgeting for what we need and being patient and checking out yard sales, thrift stores and places like Craigslist when we need to buy something. We’ve also learned that borrowing is a great way to get the tools we need for short-term projects (we typically put the word out on Facebook).
You also don’t need to buy everything at once. If you’re just getting started, or want to tackle something new, I suggest making a list of the projects you want to do in the next few months. Then, list everything you’ll need for the project(s), and note what you don’t have. Decide what can be borrowed, what you can find used, and what you’ll have to buy new and budget accordingly.
Have you had good results investing in the DIY lifestyle? Share your experiences below!