Avoiding Doing It Yourself

I like doing things myself, whenever I can do it. Yesterday, when I posted a list of eight DIY tasks for spring, I relish the opportunity to do things like that. Sometimes, I even go beyond what I think I should be doing … in fact, that’s why our basement toilet has the water supply turned off right now. (I need to head to the hardware store.)

Not too long ago, I was looking at a friend’s car. The tires on that car were really low – I could tell that they were far under the recommended pressure. I figured my friend just hadn’t noticed, so I said something about it.

The response? My friend just assumed that the oil change place would take care of all of that stuff. This person didn’t actually know how to inflate the tire.

I was genuinely surprised, but eventually I found out at least one significant reason. My friend was afraid of doing something bad to the car. I think there were images of a completely flat tire and being stranded at a gas station.

The underlying assumption was that my friend would just mess up the whole process in a disastrous way, so it’s better to just pay someone to do it.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a fear of the unknown, something that a lot of us have. If you’ve never had the opportunity to have someone be right there with you when you try doing minor maintenance on your car, it can seem overwhelming.

It’s a fear well worth breaking. You can save a ton of money doing it yourself and it’s often not much more effort than calling a professional, making sure you’re there when they’re available to do the work, and handling the billing.

I completely agree with the idea of calling a professional if you’re in over your head. I’ve messed up things around our house and had to contact professional help to fix things.

Having said that, there are tons and tons and tons of books and guides out there that walk you through pretty much anything you might do to your home or car, step by step. I’ve walked through countless procedures using books and Youtube videos and I’d count my number of significant failures on one hand.

All of this still doesn’t break through the fear of messing something up. How can you start moving toward doing some things for yourself when you’re sure that you’re going to mess it up?

I think the best method is the one my parents used with me when I was growing up. Try out tasks that have very little downside if you fail until you build up some confidence.

For example, consider refilling the windshield washing fluid on your car. The instructions in your auto manual are incredibly clear and there’s almost no downside to messing it up if you follow the directions. All you do is pop the hood on your car, figure out where the windshield washer fluid is held, untwist the cap, pour in some more fluid, and put the cap back on. That’s it. It’s less complicated than doing a load of laundry.

From there, changing your own oil is only slightly harder. You go through all of those steps above, except that first, you have to get the old oil out. All you have to do there is peek under the car with a pan in your hand, find where the oil plug is, unscrew it over the pan, and wait for all of the oil to dump into the pan. When there’s no more oil coming out, put the plug back in. At that point, you just dump the fresh oil in the top. It’s incredibly easy to do and, again, there’s very little downside if you mess it up. You might waste some fresh oil the first time you do it if you forget to put the plug back in, for example. This process can save you $10 to $20, which you earn just by unscrewing a couple of things, pouring in some oil, and screwing things back in.

Another example: working on a toilet is pretty low risk. If you have a water valve there, the worst thing that can happen is a little bit of water spilling on the floor. Just turn the valve off before you do anything. When you’re pretty sure things are right, turn the valve back on slowly and watch. If something goes wrong, turn the valve back off quickly. There’s very little risk here and, again, if you do it right, you’ve saved a fistful of money on a plumber.

As always, if you’re not sure how to do something or how to figure out what is wrong, do some internet searching. Youtube includes many, many “how-to” guides that walk you right through things.

As you try more things, you build up confidence to try harder things. Every thing you try is going to save you money compared to hiring a professional to come in and handle it.

Break through the fear. The start of spring is a great time to start taking things into your own hands. Start simple and do it yourself!

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