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Tip #26: Gardener? Cleaning lady? DIY instead

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This is Tip #26 of of the Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge. (See past tips.)

Today’s tip is to get rid of one service provider you’re currently using (a housecleaner, dog groomer, etc.) and learn to do it yourself instead. This is a small step to take that can amount to huge savings over the long run. And yes, it’s targeted at people who may be using a cleaning lady, gardener, etc. If you’re not, there are plenty of other tips for you.


This tip was submitted by Kris from Franklin Park, NJ who writes:

Stop using one service vendor, and come up with a plan to do it yourself. We fired the cleaning lady, and made it a family project to get the job done ourselves. It takes the family only 2 hours collectively. Even though the kids do very little, we got them involved and and we make it a contest with the kids to see who can vacuum faster. This same trick might work with the dry cleaner, dog groomer and probably many more.

The average American household spends $10,000 on local services like home improvement, entertainment and personal care.

To apply this tip, think about all of the things you’re paying someone else to do that you might be able to do on your own. For example, instead of paying to get your oil changed, learn some auto maintenance and do it yourself. Or:

  • Cut your own hair or do your own nails.
  • Cook your own meals.
  • Get rid of your personal trainer or gym membership altogether – run or bike instead.

By the way, as a trick to make this actually work, I’d suggest just picking one provider and cutting costs deeply, rather than cutting costs 10% across a few different providers. This can be either quitting cold-turkey, or extending the time between visits.

Total Saved: $20-$100 / month.

* * *

Last thing to do
1. Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip and any unusual techniques you use to make this tip work.
2. Want to submit your own savings tip? Submit a money tip here. If I use your tip, I’ll send you something cool.

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.


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  1. […] #24: Cut your commute expenses by 40% Tip #25: Earn more money using your God-given skills Tip #26: Gardender? Cleaning lady? DIY instead Tip #27: Use barriers to prevent yourself from spending money (52 votes, average: 3.23 out of 5) […]

  2. “Cut your own hair”: is anyone successfully doing that? (and I’m not talking about buzzed hair)

  3. Good tip, Ramit. But I would not go for cut my own hair or will let someone else (friends/family) to cut my hair. I did it when I was in grad school to save money but my friend did it so bad that I would not do that again! We specifically talked about this few days ago at work and all females said that they could definitely cut back spending on other things (cloths, transportation, food etc) but would not mind to visit a salon for a good hair style!

    Having said that, I agree with Ramit. The point of this tip is not to go in details and argue whether cut your own hair or clean up the house would work for you or not but to find out a service/product which you and your family can do it rather than paying to someone else.

    I am sure that some ppl would argue to spend that time with family and happily pay for the service (as one of my friend did!) . For them, here is an excellent link of one of Ramit’s articles (Time is NOT money–at least, not yours)-

    At the end, two good links on ‘How to change car oil’ are:

    Detailed instructions:

    Video from the Backyard Mechanics (For changing oil, How to change your oil):

  4. There’s no way I’m cutting my own hair… and I don’t really have the facilities to work on my car.

    However, I save big time by being able to sew and cook for myself. If you don’t have sometime to teach you, taking a class in sewing or cooking is worth the investment because the skills are so versatile. (I’ve spent a fraction of the cost on home decor items like curtains and throw cushions because I can make them myself).

    I find that doing my own spa treatments at home works really well — There are a lot of good recipes and ideas on the internet that use basic and inexpensive ingredients (rather than potentially harmful chemicals).

  5. Recently my father has been complaining about the cost of living in this tough economy. As he is currently paying for maintenance on 4 cars, the relatively inexpensive cost of oil changes adds up when one car is at the garage every other week it seems like. I’ve suggested that someone in the family learn how to change oil but it hasn’t been listened to. I was really excited to see this tip, so maybe when I forward it to him, he’ll actually listen!

  6. Alright, I will confess right away that I have a cleaning and I’m NOT getting rid of her.

    However, I do change my own oil. I have a finicky car and it costs about $75 to get an oil change at the dealership or about $50 to let the knuckleheads at the Quick Lube do it (and it makes me nervous!).

    I can do it myself in about 30 minutes and it costs me about $25 for supplies per change.

    Total savings: $150 per year.

  7. Single mom, I make $50/hr. I pay my cleaning/handyman guy $25/hr.
    My son is special needs, and I am also finishing my masters while working full-time.

    There are times when it pays to have help. I would not be able to complete my master’s, or even have a clean home, I’d have increased stress, and my son would not have the consistency he needs. I have help about 4 hours a week.

    Sometimes DIY means give yourself headaches. (I know it doesn’t match the acronym).

  8. Good tip! Cleaning takes us about an hour of hard work a week (we do some cleaning 15/min the other days).

    We use this tip for when we go out of town and need someone to take care of our pet. We have a friend stay over for the week and pay her $20. It saves her money because our location is closer to her job and she can use our groceries.

  9. @Freddy,

    I’ve been successfully cutting my own hair for 4 years now. I was a freshman in college and was away from my barber for an extended period so I decided I’d buy some clippers and cut it myself. Spent $30 on a pair of clippers and mangled my hair the first two or 3 times, but after that I got the hang of it and now I do a pretty decent job I think. I’m 23 and working full-time as an engineer at a big company and they don’t seem to mind. Now my hair is nothing special, very basic, shorter on the sides than on the top and I was only spending $15 per haircut. I only cut my hair once every 3-4 weeks so that’s only $15-$20 saved per month, but if you take 4 years worth that’s over $700 I’ve saved since I started, and if I continue for 20 years total that’s $3500 – $4000 saved.

    I’m sure cutting your own hair would not really apply to women and it’s not much of a savings (I can certainly afford that haircut now) but I think a big impact of little things like that is getting you in the right mentality for saving on other more important things. If I have a mindset of saving everywhere I can, then when it’s time to make a big purchase or I get an impulse to spend a lot of money, I’ll think twice about it and consider all my options and the consequences, rather than just blindly consuming like many Americans do.

  10. I don’t fully agree on this one.

    In some cases, time is as important as money. For example, in our house, we have cleaning lady coming in once a month to clean the house. It saves my wife tons of time and energy. She stays at home with 2 young kids, and it’s very tiring to keep the house clean.

    “Outsourcing” offers a lot of benefits. I think the key is to consider both the expense and the returns part of the equation. I wouldn’t make the decision purely on the merits of saving money. In a lot of cases, your time and energy are more important than the money saved.