Do-it-yourself isn’t always cheaper

Marketplace Staff Jul 3, 2009

Do-it-yourself isn’t always cheaper

Marketplace Staff Jul 3, 2009


Tess Vigeland:There are certainly other ways to declare your financial independence without resorting to eating roadkill. Lot’s of us have decided that maybe we should just try to fix the leaky shower ourselves. But that do-it-yourself project you took on to save money? It could cost you more than you think.

Sally Herships has that story.

Sally Herships: If you were a pioneer heading west in a wagon train a couple centuries ago then you needed to be handy, to be able to fix things yourself. At least that’s what Bill Horne says.

Bill Horne: If it’s 1830 and you’re in the middle of Kansas and the wagon wheel comes off, well, you’ve better know how to fix the wagon wheel.

Horne installs computers and fixes networks. But lately to save money, his customers have been going DIY — do it yourself.

Horne: But it’s not 1830 anymore.

Circuit boards can be trickier then wagon wheels and instead of fixing things, his customers tend to make them worse. Like the time a client pulled some old machines out of the stockroom and plugged them into the office network.

Horne: They didn’t call me; they just plugged ’em in and they’d been back there for three or four years. They didn’t know they had viruses.

It took two full days for Horne to debug the network, and he says it cost a lot more then it would have if they’d just called him in the first place.

Horne: It was probably about six times as much.

Herships: Ouch.

Horne: Yeah, I know.

So many of his clients are trying to cut back, Horne says, his only business right now is cleaning up their messes. But he’s lucky. He’s in a line of work where most jobs can be cleaned up. Then there’s butcher Marty Prokop.

Marty Prokop: And you take your knife and you want to hold it at approximately a 30 degree angle or so…

Prokop is a deer processor. That means he turns bucks — the kind with antlers — into burgers. And butchering big game can get pretty messy.

Prokop: Once it gets to the point where it starts to smell funny, there’s no amount of money that can fix that.

Like the deer carcass a hunter decided to clean before cutting up.

Prokop: Well, he soaked it in his bathtub.

Herships: What?

Prokop: In his bathtub, yes. Soaked it in his bathtub!

It seems like people will try anything to cut back. Prokop says hunting can be expensive. Bagging your deer could run up to $500.

Prokop: You’ve got the bullet cost — let’s say your shells are going to cost you a dollar or two a piece — you’ve got the hotel stay, the drive up…

And if you skimp on one thing — deer processing: do it yourself and do it wrong — you could be throwing all your money away. But the number of SOS calls Prokop’s been getting is up by 20 percent and he charges more when he has to salvage meat from a hacked up deer. So why do people risk the added expense?

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch: I alter my own clothes, like I make my own skirts. I made the pillow case covers over there and the little pillows.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch is a radio producer and a friend. She says she’s a pretty crafty person. To economize she decided to cut her own already short hair… with, I’d like to add, a pair of orange, plastic-handled kiddie scissors.

Boiko-Weyrauch: I basically just sat here and, you know, just like grabbed a little chunk in the back and was just like, chop, chop, chop.

Well, you know where this is going.

Boiko-Weyrauch: Maybe if I just take some off the back, it’ll look good. And then it was just like, no; I’ve reached the point of no return.

Not one bald spot, but two. Back to Bill Horne.

Horne: I wish people would just stop and think ahead and ask themselves how much it’s really going to cost when they try to save a penny.

Both Horne and Marty Prokop stand to get more business from customer screw-ups. But both say they’d rather see it done right the first time. And as for Boiko-Weyrauch, in the end she decided to head to the barbershop and pay a professional.

I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace Money.

Herships: Would you ever cut your hair again?

Boiko-Weyrauch: No. Unless I was going to give myself a buzz cut and that way I would be sure that I would not mess it up.

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