A few years ago, one of my coworkers told a story that had our entire department cracking up. He had just gotten married, and he and his wife were living in an apartment while their new home was being remodeled. One night he noticed that the lightbulb in the fridge had burned out. He called his landlord to ask him to come replace the bulb and was pissed when the landlord refused.
My coworker told that story expecting us to agree that he was renting from a total jerk. When everyone burst out laughing, I wish you could have seen the look on his face. “You mean I’m supposed to know how to do stuff like that??” he asked. “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of renting?”
The Clueless Generation
I tell my dad all the time that I have no idea what will happen when all the baby boomers are dead. It seems like no one in their 20s or 30s knows how to do things for themselves. I have friends who pay people to do their gift wrapping, yard work, cleaning, and even laundry; not because they’re so busy, but because they don’t know how. I can’t think of a single plumber or contractor under the age of 50, because everyone I know shunned trades in favor of college.
I’m fortunate to be a girl whose father didn’t have a son. My dad taught me how to do all kinds of things for myself (though I admit I tend to call him when things go wrong) and it’s rare for me to shy away from the unknown. That said, my dad has a career and stuff of his own to do, so there are still times when I have to make a decision – will I attempt this myself, or will I pay someone to do it for me?
Here are 3 questions to ask before you pay for a service:
1. Can I do this myself?
I mean, seriously, folks. If you can do something yourself, there’s no reason to pay someone to do it for you. However, there are also variables that turn this question into two sub-questions:
A. Do I have the capability to do this? If you’re in a wheelchair, you probably aren’t the right person to clean out the gutters each spring. Similarly, if you need to rewire something and you know zip about electricity, don’t electrocute yourself in the interest of saving a dollar. But with all the DIY videos available online, there is little excuse for not figuring out how to do simple tasks (like changing the lightbulb in your fridge).
B. Do I have time to do this? Let’s say you work 70 hours a week and you need the outside of your house repainted. Unless you plan to paint by flashlight, you probably don’t have time. But many people use the “I don’t have time” excuse when the real reason is, “I don’t choose to have time.” Don’t make excuses – you know darn well whether you really have time or not.
2. Do I have a friend who knows how to do this?
I’m not saying you should bum off your friends or family all the time. But you could always trade something you DO know how to do for something your friend can do. For example (I’ve talked about this before), one of my friends and I trade household chores – laundry vs. mopping the floor. Not because we don’t know how but because we hate certain chores. There’s no reason you couldn’t do that for things you don’t know how to do as well!
Another example: I bought my mom’s gift for Mother’s Day because my sister lives on the other side of the state. Instead of having her Paypal her half of the money, I asked her to fix the zipper on one of my purses when she was visiting this past weekend. Why? Because I don’t know how to sew. It worked out well for both of us.
3. Can I afford to pay someone to do this?
Final consideration. If you can’t do it and neither can anyone you know, you’re probably going to have to pay someone. That is, if you have the money. Unless it is a real emergency, you should not go into debt to pay for any kind of service unless you have a plan to pay it off. If you’re remodeling, you’re probably going to go into debt, at least for a little while. That’s expected. But don’t use a credit card just because you want someone to make you custom window treatments.
It’s almost ALWAYS more expensive to pay someone than to do things yourself. (That is, unless you don’t know what you’re doing and you have to repeat steps or buy extra supplies.) When you pay for a service, you’re paying for the time and materials, but you’re also paying for the value of that person’s knowledge and skill. And when you need something done, you’re pretty much at their mercy when it comes to price.