I recently saw a television commercial for one of those services that will help you find that "perfect" plumber, landscaper, electrician, etc. It really got my attention. It was a young man who essentially said, now that I have kids, I don’t want to spend my Saturday morning replacing a toilet.
Now I am not making a judgment about this young man, but I know that if it were me, and I was confident that I could actually successfully replace a toilet, I would definitely do it myself. For me it would be an opportunity to perhaps save some money, to have a "sense of accomplishment," and to have "those kids" spend time with me at a do-it-yourself task, so they could learn those things and some life skills.
Now, I admit that I am one of those homeowners who maintains their own yard. I don’t do it to save money. I do it because it gives me a feeling of satisfaction. Also, I just love being outside. I always anecdotally say, "Getting my hands dirty and my feet wet makes me feel more connected to real life.". In addition, I tell all the fitness enthusiasts that there is no better cross training than being out there cutting, trimming, digging, raking, hauling, bending, twisting, and more.
Here are some interesting results from a 2016 Harris Poll, conducted for the National Association of Lawn Professionals. What are the reasons Americans don’t hire a lawn care or landscape maintenance professional? Sixty-two percent of those who didn’t hire a lawn/landscape professional in the past 12 months say the costs were too high, while nearly half (49 percent) say they enjoy caring for their lawn themselves. For those who have hired professional help, 52 percent did so to help their lawn/landscape look better, while 41 percent wanted to save time.
So bottom line, I do try to do as much around the house as I can, sometimes to save some money, but also for that sense of accomplishment and independence. I don’t know if people are still buying or getting those do-it-yourself books as a gift, like we did when I was growing up and when I purchased my first house. I also don’t know if people are teaching their children "do-it-yourself skills," or, rather, encouraging them to make more money when they grow up so that they can hire people. Perhaps, like everything else, there is a smart balance that can be struck. On the other hand, if it doesn’t contribute to someone being in consumer debt, hiring more trade professionals creates more businesses and jobs, which is good for the economy.
On a different subject, I would like to return to some additional observations and food for thought from the book, "Dollars and Sense." The first thing to keep in mind is that this book is behavioral economics applied to personal finances.
This one got my attention, because it is something that I have always done, but not for the reason the book suggests as a possible way to help us spend less. The book suggests that we often measure our discretionary spending money by how much we have in our checking account, especially at that time of the month when our bills are for the most part paid. Some suggestions on keeping our checking account balances down and fooling ourselves into thinking that we have less discretionary spending money are to either have our employer direct deposit some of our money into a savings account, or for us to transfer some of our money at the beginning of the month from our checking to savings account. It might cut down on a few impulse buying events a month, like those few extra dinners out.
Interestingly, I have always transferred money from my checking to savings account at the beginning of most months, when I go to get my cash from the ATM machine at the credit union. Not to artificially keep my balance down, as suggested, above, but because, even though my checking account is interest bearing, the interest rate in my savings account is higher. It just seems to make sense. However, it may be something that is keeping some of my spending down on things that I don’t really need, but never on the things that I can afford that make me able to enjoy life.
Next time: Would you save more money for your retirement when you are younger, if you could be more in touch with your older self?
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo