FI Toolkit
FI Secrets - DIY

Do It Yourself (DIY)

Why pay someone for a service when you can do it yourself. DIY is not that much of a secret for individuals that wish to save a boat load of money. It is an "expense avoidance" technique that you could learn to incorporate into your lifestyle. It is fun to learn new things, and see the results of your handiwork. You can pick and choose what skills you want to develop and utilize. This article discusses just a few of the DIY activities you might adopt.

Around the Home

As you learn to own and maintain a home, you will find an endless list of DIY projects and skills you could master. Some may be more complicated than others (such as electrical wiring) and some are quite easy (such as painting a room). Each has its own skill set that may require viewing YouTube how-to videos or visiting your local hardware store for friendly advice. And, besides basic maintenance, incremental improvements to your home will increase its resale value when you sell.

As a real estate asset, your home will naturally increase in value when properly maintained. As a FI thinker, you will want to further increase its value with incremental appealing upgrades and other improvements.

Sweat Equity is another method for adding value by your labors, i.e., by cleaning up, sprucing up, and generally fixing what's broken or in disrepair. Make a long list for what needs attention and get to work.

Resist the impulse to contract out a major renovation costings thousands of dollars

Most new home owners find out that their home's architecture style and decor is outdated. Their impulse is to contract a major renovation costings thousands of dollars. They would also need interior design help before construction starts. Eventually they realize that multiple contractors for electrical, plumbing, cabinet installation and others are needed for the project to commence. And, to finance this project, they would need to receive a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) loan from their bank at an interest rate of 7%. As you can surmise, this typical approach would lead these new home owners further away from achieving Financial Independence.

DIY can be as much or as little as your skill set allows

Your DIY approach would be different. You plan to do much of the work yourself with selected portions contracted to professionals (not because you can't do it, but because it makes sense). How would this look?

  • Start with mastering some small DIY projects such as painting a room or repairing a sink's plumbing
  • Decide what other skills you want to develop (like laying tile or installing wood flooring)
  • Pick a "low risk" room to apply your DIY skills (like the laundry room)
  • Learn about style and decor (i.e., My Dream Laundry Room)
  • Develop a step-by-step plan of the project (e.g., Step 1: Remove the old cabinetry and sink, Step 2: Prep and paint walls, etc.)
  • Contract cabinet shop to build new cabinets using your dimensions and style choices
  • Contract the countertop shop to build a top to your specifications
  • Tile and grout the floor - DIY
  • Paint the room - DIY
  • Install the cabinets - DIY
  • Countertop shop installs the countertop
  • Install the sink - DIY
  • Hook up the plumbing - DIY
  • Install new light fixtures - DIY
  • Finish remaining work - DIY

Skills mastered in the above project can be applied throughout the home. When you find you need help, visit a local home improvement store, visit a how-to website, or take a class. Planning your DIY projects, developing fundamental "under-the-sink" plumbing skills, mastering minor electrical wiring jobs, painting walls and trim, and laying flooring can save thousands of dollars.

Add value to your home with your Sweat Equity and DIY cost savings

When it comes time to sell your home, perhaps when downsizing before retirement, you will have an asset that has obviously been cared for and loved with evidence in plain site. Your home will have an appeal because of the meticulous clean and functional kitchen, the creative and maintained landscaping, and the home's attention to color and style. No flipped home can compare. It shows when a homeowner pays attention and cares about their home as an owner should. Your home will pay-off handsomely when it sells.

DIY Activities Around the Home

Before giving thought to calling a contractor, consider these common DIY skills and projects.

Home Depot - Digital Workshops: How-To Basics

Basic Plumbing (Skills - pipe cutting, chalking, wrench turning, applying sealant)

  • Leaky plumbing
  • Install new faucet
  • Install new sink
  • Replace garbage disposal
  • Replace shut-off valve
  • Fix running toilet
  • Unclog toilet

Minor Electrical Wiring (Skills - isolate power, wire cutting, drilling, routing wire, connecting wires)

  • Replace wall plug
  • Replace light fixture
  • Add track lighting
  • Install ceiling fan
  • Replace vent fan
  • Replace thermostat
  • Install security camera

Painting & Trim Work (Skills - color selection & style, surface prep, scraping, patching & repairing, masking, drywall mudding & taping, trim cutting)

  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Install crown molding
  • Remove wallpaper
  • Repair drywall

Flooring (Skills - sanding, wood cutting, floor leveling, tile cutting, grouting, gluing)

  • Refinish natural wood floor
  • Install laminate floor
  • Install wood or faux wood floor
  • Install tile floor or tile walls

General Maintenance (Skills - drilling, fixing)

  • Replace locks
  • Fix cabinets
  • Repair fence

Landscaping (Skills - landscape design, digging, low-voltage electrical wiring, simple irrigation plumbing)

  • Place trees, shrubs, and other plants
  • Lay pavers and pathways
  • Install lighting
  • Install irrigation
  • Install outdoor BBQ
  • Basic lawn and plant care

Reference Information


Automobiles can be pretty complex. These days there are less and less DIY projects that apply to cars. Some DIY activities for cars include:

  • Regular oil and filter changes
  • Air filter changes
  • Battery changes
  • Head light and tail light replacement
  • Tire rotation (free at tire store)

Reference Information

One more Category - Fixing Stuff that Breaks

If you have the knack and other abilities relating to fixing stuff that breaks, the DIY - fix can save the landfill from another broken item and save money on buying replacement items. Examples of fixes can include:

  • Replacing dishwasher pump
  • Repair clothes washer leaking seal
  • Repair laptop electrical plug connector
  • Replace faulty security light sensor
  • Repair hair dryer electrical cord
  • Repair X-Box headset cable
  • Repair printer inkjet cartridge assembly
  • Repair garage door opener drive gear assembly
  • Refurbish old couch
  • Repair toilet flush assembly
  • Repair window blind drawstring
  • Repair ceiling fan
  • Repair ice maker
  • Repair stereo amplifier

Reference Information