When it comes down to it, every choice you make will cost you time or money. You can pay someone to do something for you or you can invest the time and learn to do it for yourself. Sure, you’ll make mistakes along the way, some costly, some not so, but each step builds upon the next to open new doors.
When Chris and I first started out, we bought our first home with only limited knowledge of changing light bulbs or decor. Chris’ first lock changing experience was the day we moved in. That took quite a long time to do (see below with the tools all over the place)! He also never changed a toilet seat, shower head, or light fixture. Said toilet seat sitting by the front door.
We didn’t have the money to pay for even the smallest service, so we had to use our time to learn how to do it ourselves. Our parents taught us when we asked for help, but mostly we stumbled along to learn ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned more each time and built our DIY skills and confidence in the process.
In the past decade, blogs or YouTube channels started popping up about everything from changing a light bulb to building your own house from the ground up. If there is anything you want to learn to do or need to do, YouTube is a great source we use frequently. I’ve even learned to crochet my own hats and scarves from YouTube.
If you are living below your means, it’s easier to make the choice to spend money to save yourself time. And sometimes, that is the better option depending on the time it would take you to do it yourself vs. having it done for you at a cost.
For example, we make our own laundry detergent. It takes about 5 minutes every six months and savings is well over $100 per year. This trade-off is easy to see how taking a few minutes of time saves a good deal of money in the long term. It’s simple and easy to do and it doesn’t bother me to do it.
Another example is learning to cook. This saved us a ton of money we would otherwise spend on prepared, frozen, or take-out meals. We don’t eat out as often as we used to, and we also buy far less prepackaged foods. It saves us money and has an added health benefit.
You might think, “well, that’s great, you know how to cook, but I don’t have the time to learn.”
Truly, we didn’t know how to cook at all until our mid-20’s while working 2-3 jobs each and working on graduate degrees. I could always say, “we don’t have time” but we make the time. We decided it’s more important to invest our time over our money in simple tasks that will help us reach our financial goals.
We ate a lot of horrible meals on our way to learning how to follow recipes. On our $40 weekly food budget, we baked a potato dish that never cooked and crunched on hard potatoes for dinner (I’m looking at you Chris), or made black bean burgers from uncooked dry black beans that were only soaked (raises hand).
I grew up in a house with canned vegetables (nothing wrong with that Mom!) and never understood how to steam anything. Chris was a lot worse, adding anything he thought might taste good into the pot much to his parents constant attempts to teach him how to cook.
We either could spend our time cooking meals at home, or paying someone to cook for us. We made the conscious choice to learn how to cook. Over time, that investment in learning how to cook through watching videos or reading food blogs (with pictures!) led to financial savings we are now able to put towards other goals.
My next venture is growing some of our own food this summer. I do not have a green thumb, so it will be interesting!
While I’ve taken on the task of learning a whole lot about cooking, gardening, or homemade items like cleaning supplies (which are more environmentally/kid friendly and cheaper) Chris has taken on the desire to learn woodworking and renovations.
Now, instead of saying I need a garden table outside that might cost about $150 to buy and put together, he can quickly SketchUp a table to my requests (simple math and measurements) and be done in about 1-2 hours at a $20 cost for a custom table to my height.
You have the choice to spend your time or money, but you’ll most likely always have to choose one or the other. The benefit of spending your time to learn is that it also diversifies your income opportunities.
Chris may one day sell custom wood pieces of furniture. He now has skills to bring in more income. I may one day sell crocheted items, or could look to work in a commercial kitchen if I needed to. And we are now able to snag odd jobs helping others do simple tasks around their homes for a free meal or a few dollars.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. I choose to spend my time on projects that not only increase our financial opportunities, but that diversify my skills to tackle new situations. I refuse to compromise my sleep, as I put in 8-9 hours dutifully per night, and use my waking hours thoughtfully.
This might mean skipping the ol’ FB news feed for a week while working on a project, but it will be worth it.