9 essential DIY skills that are easy to learn — and will save you thousands of dollars

A woman painting the walls of her home

Some people love delegating tasks. But maybe you're more of a believer in the mantra: "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

Indeed, becoming a DIY guru can give you more control over your life and might even save you money: lots of it. With soaring rent and debt, hefty tax bills, and important goals you're saving for — like retirement — there's no doubt you need to keep all the coin you can.

For those working to curb costs there are other benefits to immersing yourself in DIY culture: the marketable talents you can gain along the way. You can do a lot more than you think you're capable of.

Plus, when you hire a professional, you don't just pay for their labor; your bill may also include marked-up costs of materials — paint, hair product, motor oil. By doing the job yourself, you'll save a bunch, some of which you can put toward buying higher quality materials or just pocketing the savings.

Over time, learning how to take on tasks that need specialized knowledge — and cost more for labor — frees up money, so you can outsource activities that take up a ton of time, like cleaning and laundry. Win-win! Here are 9 skills that, all told, could end up saving you more than $2,000.

1. How to cut hair

Cutting your own hair may not be for everyone or every haircut. But if you've got a low-maintenance look, you may benefit from picking up some pro tips and doing your own 'do. Not surprisingly, professional hair stylists don't recommend cutting your own hair without practice. But some do offer a few tips. If you have long hair, there's a HowCast for how to cut your own hair. You could also enlist a friend whom you trust. A lot.

Rachata Teyparsit/Shutterstock

If you do trade haircuts with a housemate, friend, or significant other or spouse, check out tutorials on how to cut someone else's very short hair or longer hair. Think of it as a trust-building exercise — that will save you hundreds.

Savings: A haircut can start at $15 and go into the hundreds of dollars at high end salons. But an average hair cut costs $43 for women and $28 for men, according to Angie's List. Assuming you have six $40 haircuts a year you'll save $240 to do it yourself.

2. How to repair plumbing

With plumbing it is important to know your limits. (And very important: you need to know where the water shut-off valve is, before beginning.)  You do not want to get in above your head and realize you need to pay a professional even more to undo your mistakes.


But for basic plumbing fixes — stopping a leak, repairing a toilet, swapping a faucet, fixing a drain — you can do it yourself. HowCast has a series of basic plumbing videos and Home Depot has a series on YouTube.

Savings: Hiring a plumber for a fix costs an average of $300, according to Home Advisor. If a plumber charges you on the lower end, say $170 for a simple job like replacing a $50 kitchen faucet,  you'll save $120 by doing it yourself.

3. How to sew a button and hem clothes

You don't need to be Maria von Trapp to get a bigger bounce out of your closet. But by replacing a button or mending a tear you may be able to extend the life of your favorite gear — and online tutorials are abundant.


Also, if you're able to hem a skirt or pair of pants you can save a good deal of money by doing it yourself rather than relying on a tailor.

Savings: It costs $20 to $30 to hem pants in, according to the Alteration Specialists, in New York City. And if you want to hem a skirt or dress it can be $55 to $150. If you have three items of clothing you need tweaked in a year you can save $100 by doing it yourself.

4. How to read a contract

You will encounter contracts all through your life: employment contracts, business contracts, cell phone contracts, contracts to buy a house or to sell one. When faced with a major contract, most people hire a lawyer to examine it. But what if you had the confidence and know-how to read these documents?


Many cities and counties offer free seminars and workshops for new home buyers, in which they go over the details of home buying, including the contract. Alternatively, you could take an online course at Harvard Law in contract law with Charles Fried, a leading authority on the subject. For free. 

You may not want to be a lawyer, but knowing why and how contracts are enforced is a cost-saving skill that you don't have to be a lawyer to have. As Fried says, its like taking an anatomy class: You may not want to be a doctor, but you should know how your body works, which helps if something is wrong.

Savings: Lawyers report the cost of reading a contract varies depending on the contract, but could range from a $100 to $500 or more per hour. Conservatively, if you had one contract a year that needed a couple hours of reviewing, you'd save $400 if you did it yourself.

5. How to change the oil in a car

Changing the oil on your car for the first time can be a little messy, but might save you $25 for a conventional oil or as much as $80, if you use synthetic oil.


There is no shortage of tutorials online: there are videos for total beginners, and a more thorough two-part instructional. You'll be able to save money and have the satisfaction of knowing that the job was done correctly. You can use the money you've saved doing it yourself on higher quality oil and filters, too.

Savings: The average oil change costs $46, according to Angie's List. If you use synthetic oil it will cost more. The materials for a conventional oil change cost about $23 ($4 for oil, $10 for filter and $9 for clean up and funnel). You can cut your costs in half and save $23 by doing your own oil change.

6. How to DIY your interior design

Just because you inhale shelter magazines and consume a steady diet of HGTV does not make you a designer: But you've probably got a head full of ideas. A little extra study and you can make your home look like it was polished by a pro.


Snag some free online instruction in design from Make Use Of's curated list. The list includes a six-session online series on the fundamentals of design from the Decorating Studio, a 53-session home design tutorial from HowCast and a seven-video YouTube Playlist on learning how to draw interior design sketches.

Savings: Interior designers can charge $50 to $200 an hour and the average cost of an entire project is $5,592, according to HomeAdvisor. Just in time alone, without including the cost of decor, a low-range three-day project with a designer who charges $50 an hour will cost you $1,200 — not including a first visit or consultation fee that can be between $200-$300. That's a lot of money to save by DIYing instead.

7. How to design a website

It is so easy to use available programs to build an attractive and engaging website yourself, that unless you are building one for a business (and have the money to spend), there's no need to hire an outside web designer. 

everything possible/Shutterstock

For straight-forward personal websites, you can use a programs like SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly or Jimdo to pick your layout, place your photos and insert your text. You'll need to pay for the hosting and occasionally for some design templates, but you'll save doing the design yourself.

If you want to go expert level, check out free resources online to learn front-end web development like CodeAcademy, EdX or Coursera. HTML, CSS and Javascript skills will help you create a truly original website. 

Savings: A professional web designer could cost you from $200 to an average of a $3,000 flat fee at an all inclusive shop like Your Design Guys — and even more for more involved projects. But compared with an independent contractor doing two hours of work at $100 an hour, doing it yourself would save you $200.

8. How to do taxes

Even if you don't hire a pro accountant or tax-preparer, which can cost around $250 and higher for an individual return, according to Angie's List, doing taxes yourself can be pricey. 

The prevailing tax prep software programs take you through the process of filing your taxes, step by step. Those programs, like TurboTax, TaxAct or H&R Block come in several different plans, ranging in cost from free basic plans to plans that, once you've filed, may cost you more than $100. And if you don't buy the right plan you may need to upgrade and end up spending even more.

Billion Photos/Shutterstock

But there are several free tax-preparation programs, like the one from CreditKarma, which is new for tax year 2016, called CreditKarma Tax. Also, if you make less than $64,000 you're entitled to free tax preparation software from the IRS and if you make more than that you can get free forms from the IRS. Want to make sure you're not missing out on cool tax perks that an accountant might know about? Be sure to read up on 2017 tax tips for maximizing your return.

Savings: What you put into it, you'll get out of it. By not hiring a professional, you could potentially save $250 doing it yourself.

9. How to paint a room

Nothing perks up a room quicker than a coat of paint, and you can spend thousands of dollars hiring painters to come do it. Or you can rally your crew, crank the tunes and make a productive paint party of out of it.  


There are some tips for smooth painting, like taping trim and molding, sanding the surface and picking the right paint. All pros know that painting is 2/3 prep-work and 1/3 actual painting

Savings: A professional painter will cost, on average, $1,697, according to Home Advisor. That can range from a smaller job may costing $400 to an entire apartment or home that may cost as much as $4,000. On a smaller painting job — two rooms in an apartment — your materials will cost about $80 ($40 for each of two cans of paint and 6 rolls of $4 painters tape and $15 for a brush and roller set with a pan) you could save $320 by doing it yourself.

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