Three Questions to Ask Before Starting a DIY Project

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Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of recipes you can use to make your own (insert product here). Along with those recipes and tutorials comes the promise that you will save INCREDIBLE amounts of money yearly if you do so. I’m all about saving money – as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve read any of my previous posts. The thing about saving money, though, is that it has to actually involve saving, and that’s why I’ve decided it’s time to address the truth behind DIY (do it yourself) projects and give you three questions to ask each time you contemplate a DIY project.

Reasons for DIY

When I started creating my own DIY recipes back in 2014, I did so because I wanted to incorporate the essential oils I was using in my home on a daily basis into skincare products that I could use on my extremely sensitive skin. It even became a little bit of a side business as well and remains that way to this day. My thought was never to save money by making my own products, something that I’d like to contemplate with you today.

Never start a DIY project without first checking out these questions.

If you have any reason for completing a DIY project that isn’t simply to enjoy the process, and especially if you want to save money, there’s a need to answer the following questions before embarking on your journey.

Question 1: Will this actually save me money?

This seems like a pretty self-explanatory question, but I assure you – it is not.

There is an overwhelming amount of Pinterest pins with step by step instructions on how to make a year’s worth of laundry detergent for a fraction of the price of the store-bought stuff. I’ve personally never tried it, I have my own cost-saving methods I use, but I have to wonder exactly how much cheaper it can be. I mean, I know from making bath and body products that the expense to make a product doesn’t lie solely with the ingredients.

Sourcing Ingredients

Accumulating the correct ingredients or components for DIY projects can often be tricky. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves purchasing any shea butter (for example), despite the cost, just to make sure we can complete this project we are dying to do. Is that wrong, not in itself, but if you are trying to save money make sure you watch out for this pitfall.

Shelf life

How to plan on ensuring that it won’t lose its effectiveness like many “natural” products do? I like to make lip balm (see the recipe here) for my friends and family at Christmas time and for gifts throughout the year. I make my lip balm without preservatives and the products I use do have a lifespan after they are combined. So, if I purchase enough ingredients to make it cheaper to make, then I will have a storehouse full of lip balm that, after six months, will be gritty and unappealing as opposed to the smooth texture they have right after production.

Storage

In addition to the shelf life is the concept of storage: every lip balm comes with a tube and those tubes cost money. Likewise, if I make a year’s worth of laundry detergent, it must be stored in some sort of container that will preserve it for that entire year. Sure, I could use a container that’s just lying around, but the moment I have to go purchase a container to store that laundry detergent, then the price of my DIY project goes up. Something to consider.

Extra Tools Necessary

Additionally, there’s the cost associated with any extra tools you do not already have. This might not apply to lip balm or laundry detergent (although I did eventually need a rack for filling my lip balm tubes), but in the case of Christmas décor or home renovation projects, additional tools may be necessary. Don’t forget to include that cost into the cost of completing your project.

This can also include the amount of product that you will need. I tried my hand at making truffles and every time I make them, I end up making a second run to the grocery store for more chocolate. It’s always more expensive than I anticipate when I start out.

tray of truffles

Question 2: Is the end result worth the time spent completing the project AND the time spent cleaning up afterward?

My husband and I love the idea of DIY projects. There’s nothing like going to the hardware store to pick out new paint colors. I mean, you can get samples, the kids can enjoy the paint chip cards, it’s like being a kid in a candy store, except with paint.

So, you’ve picked out the paint color, endured the splotches on your wall for a couple weeks while deciding, and now have several gallons of paint sitting in your bathroom. Perhaps you’ve even taped the walls and applied the first coat before you decided you are ready for the project to be done, already. Anyone with me here?

The last bathroom we painted, we did so over a typical weekend. By the end of the weekend, with my arms hurting from being over my head painting for two days I didn’t care anymore if the bathtub had a large splotch of paint on it, or if the walls still needed a touchup. What I really wanted to do was simply hang the brightly colored shower curtain and a few towels and hope that those elements alone would cover the mistakes.

paintchips

In this case, it wouldn’t have been cheaper to hire someone to come in and do the job for us, after all, it was just a small bathroom. It would, however, have been better to make plans to paint the bathroom during a time when we had more time to do it. Instead of a two-day weekend, we could have waited for a holiday weekend, or even taken time off to get the job completed in a way that wasn’t rushed and, therefore, full of mistakes and frustration.

When you contemplate taking on a DIY project, make sure you are thinking it all the way through. Will you have time to not only get the project completed (and done well) but also to clean up after it? Paint cans sitting in the bathroom for weeks on end as you plan on “touch ups sometime in the near future” do not count as “project completed”. In case you were wondering.

Question 3: In the case of DIY home projects – will I be okay with calling in a professional if something goes wrong?

Crafts

In the case of DIY crafts, most are harmless and will never need a professional to clean up the mess, (although I still have glitter glue coating the seams of my table from a project done three years ago) but in some cases, the ingredients you need can be harmful physically to you, your kids, or your pets. (Using lye to make soap in your home kitchen is one of the first things that comes to mind.) A trip to the doctor, hospital or veterinarian doesn’t save you any money in the long run.

Household

There are some household projects that we just know we are capable of taking care of: replacing light bulbs, cleaning windows, replacing filters, taking care of minor plumbing issues (and I mean minor), and replacing trim (I know there are others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head). Additionally, we might take a shot at trying to remedy aesthetic fixes, plumbing issues, and diagnosing why the pilot light keeps going out in our gas-fired water heater.

Ultimately, though, we draw the line at any issue that typically requires a trained professional. If an electrician is necessary, then, by all means, we call an electrician. The issue is more than personal safety (perhaps a discussion for another time), it’s this idea that if I mess with something a trained professional could have taken care of in mere minutes, and I happen to make it worse in the process, then I will be paying out even more money to have an issue remedied that I could have left alone in the first place.

Do I really want to be responsible for an additional $300 bill?

I feel the same about bathroom remodeling. From all of the DIY shows I’ve watched, I’ve become an expert in the process of remodeling a bathroom. (Haven’t we all?) What I don’t know what to do when we run into unsuspected issues, including mold or water under the floorboards. It truly unlikely that I am going to need a professional to fix that bathroom I painted. It might look rough, but it will still function. If I’ve pulled out the plumbing, though, only to find a bigger issue, then that is an entirely different story.

All this to say that when you start a project, be certain that you won’t regret it if you have to call a professional.

DIY should be fun

I hope I haven’t given you the idea that DIY projects are bad ideas. Absolutely not. Making lip balm and other bath and body products, experimenting with kids crafts over the holiday seasons, and (my most recent project) making pocket-sized hand warmers for the whole family have all been worthwhile (and fun!!) projects that come with an abundance of great memories.

pocket sized handwarmers

I simply want to remind you that just because something touts the idea of saving money by doing it yourself, doesn’t mean that’s actually going to be the case. Ask yourself the questions and make sure you are honest with your answers before you proceed with a project expected to “save you money”.

What DIY project are you currently working on? What DIY project do you regret ever starting? Leave a comment below in the discussion area!

Love,
Sarah

Looking for DIY projects or other ideas? Check out and follow my Pinterest board dedicated to just that. Want to try your hand at making lip balm? Find my recipe and tutorial here.

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