Doing Things Yourself vs. Paying Someone Else

by James & Miel on November 5, 2009 · 0 comments

My senior year of college my roommates and I emerged from finals week and realized we had to get right on to moving out of our apartment. Because we lived in University-owned student housing, that meant a thorough cleaning which would be verified by a member of the housing staff. Any violations would result in a fine and we were staring a whole apartment worth of fines straight in the face. After surveying the considerable damage, one of my roommates and closest friends turns to me and with a completely straight face suggested we hire a maid service. I emphatically rejected this proposition based on the fact that a.) we had absolutely no money to pay a maid, certainly not enough to pay a maid to clean this disaster and b.) I swore I wouldn’t pay someone to do a job I’m more than capable of doing myself. We ended up cleaning the apartment ourselves, much to the chagrin of my friend, who complained the whole time.

I was reminded of this story the other day when I realized I was overdue for a trip to Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed. I hate going to some place to get my oil changed for the same reason I didn’t want to hire a maid to clean my senior year apartment. I may not be the most capable auto mechanic but given the right tools I can do the basic jobs: rotate tires, change the air filter, check the spark plugs, refill fluids, change the battery, replace fuses and lights and change the oil. Unfortunately my apartment complex does not allow me to make auto repairs, to the point where they have in the past indicated that they would fine people caught taking up space to perform auto maintenance. So, begrudgingly, I take my car to the local Jiffy Lube, sit in an uncomfortable chair in a smelly room for a half an hour until the job is done. But it makes me think about the cost comparison between doing it myself and going to Jiffy Lube (or some other similar place). To do it myself, I need the following equipment:

* Ratchet – $15

* Wrench for the Oil Filter – Wrench sets usually run around $25

* Oil Pan – $10

* Funnel – $2

* Oil Filter – $5 to $10

* Oil – Let’s assume four quarts at about $5 a quart, so around $20 (just like oil filters, this can be cheaper if bought in bulk)

* Rag – Negligible

Of course those are all rough estimates for the sake of argument. That’s a total cost of $77-$82, but only $25-$30 of that are recurring costs. Compared with around $35 for a oil change at Jiffy Lube, it would take about a year to make your money back, quicker if you already have the necessary tools.

That isn’t a lot of savings, but over the lifetime of your car, you could save a decent amount of money. Either way, I’d still rather do the work myself, on my own time, but I can certainly understand why some would choose to let someone else do it and save the hassle. Ultimately with these types of services (housekeeping comes to mind as well), what you’re really paying for is the time you save. For me, a guy who sits at a computer all day, it’s kind of nice to do something productive with my hands, but the time and hassle you can (potentially) save by going to a service station would certainly be nice.

What about you readers? What services are you willing to pay for, and which would you rather do yourself and why?

Check out other great savings posts at the 5th annual Saving with Sadie Carnival.

-Michael
Twitter: @michael_dink

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