When Do You Call The Guy?

A question as old as time. Handiness vs Frugality and When Do You Call The Guy? The answer varies from ‘never’ to “before anything actually goes wrong….just in case.” Like most of the FIRE community, I hate parting with money. I usually don’t unless I have to, or at least when it feels like I am going to get some value in return.

Project Scale, Time Suckage, and Worth(opportunity cost) are all factors that change with our own confidence and pocketbook.

One of the best things that ever happened to me was my first real house. It was from 1906 and had been gone over by packs of DIYers from at least three different waves of Chicago immigration. I could do no wrong. Here is a list of all the things I improved or replaced.

I was young. We were childless. I had a steady income and an inferiority complex about my Man Skills. All sorts of systems needed to be worked on and I could not mess it up any worse than it already was.

I taught myself electrical, HVAC, plumbing and general repair. The only system I did not tinker with was natural gas. A friend of mine’s Dad always said ‘don’t f@#$ with gas‘ and I just figured that made sense to me.

Later, I built a home had a home built and got almost 10 free years out of it before things started to go wrong again. But now, I have kids and a more demanding job, not to mention soft lawyer hands. I started to weigh when it was easier to just ‘call the guy‘.

The same is true for cars. I would try to fix my earlier cars because they were worth less than the repair bill would be at a shop and I did not care about cosmetic issues. But alas, cars became computerized and I finally had decent ones and started to rely more and more on ‘the guy’.

What factors do we use to determine if calling ‘the guy’ is warranted nowadays? Handiness vs Frugality

Bee hive, I got this!

Rabid opossums, there’s a guy for that.

Can I do it in one half of a Saturday? OK I’ll try it.

Instructions say it takes 2 people and 2 days, call the guy. My friends are past the point where pizza and beer can make up for 20 lost hours.

Instructions written in China by a guy who has never seen the finished product, I think I can ‘wing it’

Oil change in my own garage to save $20, nope, Call the Guy.

Can save $200 bucks doing it myself, will probably try.

Looks like this tree would fall away from the house if I cut here. CALL THE GUY.

I mow the lawn myself, but I have a guy winterize the sprinkler system.

I straighten up constantly, but I have a housekeeping service. (only every two weeks, It’s not like I’m a Czarina).

Over the years, I am glad I have built up a skill set that allows me the opportunity to tackle projects around the house if I feel like it. I think I am even more glad I have the resources to have it done by someone else when I don’t feel like it.

Where do you draw the line?

Specific Example; Always call for at least 3 estimates before deciding. I recently replaced a hot water heater and saved $600 by calling around. Not only do you get a feel for the price range, but you get a feel for the person behind the work.

And remember to call the people back even though you did not ‘go with them’. It is polite and our world needs more of that.

Where do you come down on Handiness vs Frugality?

15 thoughts on “When Do You Call The Guy?

  1. Hi Mr. Othalafehu. Nice post. I admire your skills. I’m not much of a DIYer nor do I care to be. My Dad’s super handy, but it just didn’t translate to me or my interests. So, I call the guy more often than not. It’s just something I have to budget for and deal with. It goes against my save more money goals, but I deal with it. I have to imagine a 1906 house has lots of needs and wants. A perfect learning ground. Tom

      • I am like Tom. I call the guy for more than 80% of the jobs, the 20% I mess around with are when I figure it will take less than 30 min of my time. My one hour of work is worth a lot, and since I am still working full time, I also value the same one hour of leisure a whole lot more! My wife also feels good if I just CALL THE GUY as she knows she’s getting work done from a professional than a soft handed amateur.

  2. I don’t touch gas too and above basic things related to electricity. Cars are out of my comfort zone. My rule: if you have free time do it, otherwise calculate, if cheaper to outsource go for it, if not take into account the accessories and skills needed and don’t forget the stress factor. If it still seems to worth it do it yourself 🙂 Hiring someone to mow my lawn or clean after me sounds ridiculous to me. I do what I can do, but if not, I call the guy.

    Good post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. There is so much wisdom (and been there done that) in this post that I don’t even know where to begin. Me and my husband are DIYers who always struggle with the decision to call the guy. The problem often is that the more you know how to do (or think you know how to do) the more you realize how little “the guy” is actually doing and getting paid quite a lot! Not always, but often enough to make us attempt all kinds of things we have no business doing. We have had our successes and failures (that have ultimately costs us more money) but we’re still alive to tell the tale – probably because we never messed with the gas!

    • So true. I have been downright offended how much the guy has made for so little work sometimes, but I have also said to myself I would pay that amount everyday and twice on Tuesdays for avoiding the hassle of doing it myself. It is an ebb and flow.

  4. My husband likes to tackle projects so we don’t usually need to call out. But there are certainly some things it makes sense to use a ‘professional’ for…like the septic system. It’d be crazy to get in over your head with that.

    I’d like to echo your last paragraph. And it’d sure be nice if they’d call us back too.

  5. We replaced a gas water heater in the last year or so and I definitely called the guy. Saved money by getting 3 estimates, but I was not pleased with the final installation and had to rework some things myself.

    Watching someone else tackle a project on YouTube is a great way to assess whether or not you want to take it on yourself. Using this method I decided to replace the rear struts and rear wiring harness on my Outback myself. Using same method I decided not to replace a wheel bearing hub assembly myself. In the latter case the video had lots and lots of cuts and the dude kept bringing out bigger and bigger hammers. No thanks.

    Yes, please call the runners up back!

    I would say this is at least a Top 250 Pagan Finance blog.

    • Thank You for writing out that YouTube comment, that is a really tip that I wish I would have put in the original article. I am blown away by how many things you can find out how to do on youtube.
      Separately thank you for ‘getting’ my award, I have had people assume is was serious.

  6. Time vs. money! I struggle with that all the time.
    At least we finally paid for a snow removal service this year. Working on the cleaning service now…I don’t know if I should call the guy???

    • Every week felt too bourgeois, one a month and we were living in a nest of our own filth. Once every two weeks felt just right, like Goldilocks.

  7. Your post is a good reminder of how we tip toe around saving money vs saving time/hassle when it comes to DIY vs hired out. I used to always DIY first and if I couldn’t figure it out or it was beyond my skills and my available needed tools I would hire it out. Some things I did and swore never again, like painting the exterior of my 2 story house. I just do the smaller projects now and hire out major work or areas of discomfort, like working with gas appliances (furnace/water heater-things that can go BOOM) or major plumbing. I limit my automotive DIY to anything I can do in 30 minutes or less. The days of spending an afternoon leaning over an engine or sitting on a stool changing breaks are long gone.

    • I took an H&R tax class because I liked doing my own taxes and was afraid I was missing out. I wasn’t. I used a service for a few years when my schedule K-1 stuff got complicated. But eventually I dropped them because they did not know how to do rental properties right. I use Turbo Tax Premier and that seems to work fine for now. Most professionals are just using software anyway. You?

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