Is DIY costing you more?
Do-it-yourselfers' tales of disaster aren't hard to find.
Chris Hubbard of Thousand Oaks, Calif., recalls when he and a friend decided to change the oil of his first car when he was 18.
"Well, we drained the oil just fine, but didn't know where to put the new oil. We thought it should go in where the dipstick goes," Hubbard wrote on my Facebook fan page. "Turns out we used the wrong dipstick and put the oil in the transmission fluid. I drove the car for three days with no oil and oil in the transmission fluid. Ended up costing several hundred dollars to fix and later got my engine rebuilt by my mom's boyfriend."
Lindsay Cowdin of Fort Worth, Tex., thought she and her husband could remove the old acoustic ceiling tiles in their family room, replace the old drywall, install new insulation and put in can lighting. They thought it would take them one or, at most, two weekends to get the job done.
"We quickly realized our miscalculation by how long it took to remove the ceiling tiles," she wrote. "Several weeks later we gave in and called a contractor. My husband is completely capable but had to bow to the clock. We just couldn't live with our family room in disarray for so long. The contractor knocked it out in two days like it was his job — because it was!"
After 25 years of being a part-time mobile DJ, Steve Stewart of Saint Peters, Mo., opted to do one of his own events.
"I decided to do the setup and tear down of my equipment FOR MY OWN WEDDING RECEPTION," Steward wrote. "Luckily I have a few DJ friends who were happy to take the mic and run the show so I could enjoy myself. Not a disaster but definitely not recommended DIY."
Sometimes, doing it yourself makes a lot of sense. You save money and get satisfaction from a job well done. So how do you know when DIY is a good option, and when you're about to get in over your head?
Whether it's a project involving your house, your car, a big event or your finances, you should think twice if:
Your attitude is, 'What could possibly go wrong?'
If you can't list several ways your project could go awry, then either you don't know enough about the task to attempt it or you're not thinking clearly about what's involved (sound familiar, Steve?). You may get some insights by talking to more-experienced DIYers or doing more research. If large sums of money or legal documents are involved, it usually pays to consult a professional.
You could kill yourself.
Courting death or serious injury in pursuit of thrift ... yeah, not such a great idea. That's why projects such as tree trimming, asbestos and lead paint removal, and anything involving natural gas lines or 220-volt electric lines are best left to the pros. Most financial decisions aren't going to get you killed, unless you borrow money from a mobster you can't pay back. But you could effectively kill your financial stability by taking excessive risks, such as putting most of your money in a few stocks or falling for get-rich-quick schemes.