Buy or DIY?

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Making something yourself can be a great way to save money. But there are always costs to the Do-It-Yourself method. Should you buy or DIY?

This week I made pickles. Ten pounds of cukes became 11+ quarts of homemade kosher dill pickles right before my very eyes.

There were a number of snafus in procuring the pickling cucumbers, too numerous and boring to tell you about. I spent about three to four hours scrubbing cucumbers, filling jars, watching a pot boil. In the end there was a beautiful array of jars of pickles to enjoy in the coming year.

I felt quite proud of myself the next morning to see that collection of jars on the kitchen counter. My heart sang when I tried to pry off the lids with my fingers, but found that all the lids had sealed as they should.

No morning shower of pickle juice is a good thing.

Provided that my family likes this style of pickle — I tried a new recipe — we’ll have many months of pickles to enjoy on hamburgers, sandwiches, and pulled pork.

But was it worth it to do it myself?

My friend Anne posted this great flowchart to help her think through the process of Buy or DIY? Read the whole post to check out the beautiful projects she created recently and to see how she assessed the worth of those projects.

Anne asks some wonderful questions in the flowchart, prompting us to consider:

  • Can I do it?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Will I enjoy doing it?
  • Does doing it myself make it special enough/worth any extra effort or cost?

I pondered her questions as I waited for my cukes to arrive, having ordered them several weeks in advance and having no way to back out. Still it was a good exercise to walk through.

In the instance of my pickle-making adventure, I walked through the questions. Can I do it? I’ve made pickles once before. We liked them well enough for me to make them again, but to try a different recipe. I want to get better at canning and preserving, so while I don’t have mad skilz, the only way to get better is to keep trying.

Can I afford it? The cucumbers were purchased from a local farmer. Obviously, they would have been cheaper if I had grown them myself. I paid $20 for 10 pounds of beautiful, small pickling cukes. The cost ended up being less than $2 per quart. Since these are mostly organic pickles, that’s a pretty good bargain. Tiny jars sell for $3 to $5 in these here parts.

Will I enjoy doing it? I do enjoy the process of canning, barring illness and crabby kids. My grandmother canned all their foods and I feel a certain kinship with her in going back to the old timey methods. Canning skipped a generation in my family so I never learned as a child or saw it first hand, but I’m teaching myself through research and trial and error. I have such a sense of accomplishment when I see those jars lined up in my pantry.

Is it worth it? If we like the pickles — we’ll know in about a month — then I’d say it was definitely worth it. If we don’t, well, back to the drawing board.

Think it through before you do it yourself.

I love this thought process, though. Anne’s questions provide a great starting point to help you figure out if you should tackle a project yourself or find an economical source to buy it from instead.

This is a great way to save money, effort, and time!

Today’s Frugal Friday!

Time to swap ideas and inspiration for saving money.

How do YOU save money?

Please remember to follow the Frugal Friday Guidelines or be deleted.

  1. Post a money saving idea and explain how it is helpful in your post.
  2. No giveaways or deals posts.
  3. Recipes are allowed, but you must explain how it saves people money.
  4. Please include a link back to Life as MOM.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. i like Anne’s flowchart. thanks for sharing.

  2. Love the flowchart! I’ve not tried making pickles but have done several tomato sauces.

  3. I often go through this thought process when it comes to sewing, and usually buying wins unless I am in a really creative mood, and truly just want to see if I can do it.

  4. I love the direction you went with this! I can’t wait to hear how the pickles turned out. Please update us when the month is over!

    Also, to me those do seem like mad canning skilz 🙂

  5. I love the flow chart. The Tightwad Gazette goes through a similar process, but Anne’s version is more artistic and appealing.

    Homeschooling vs private Christian school (public school is not an option)is a big YES for me. It saves us over $20,000 a year. But I’d do it anyways, because it’s so good for the kids. It’s one of the few DIY that wins on all counts for our family.

  6. Great flowchart! Also of note, I recently read the book “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” – the author took on a variety of DIY (though all food if I remember right) and did both cost and quality analyses to figure what was worth it to make homemade. Interesting enough for a once through, probably not a repeated reading though.

  7. Jeanine says

    Have you done a post on the how-to of canning? My grandma canned, too (there were still jars from 1978 in the pantry after she passed, (eek!) my grandpap just couldn’t throw them away) but my mom never learned. Or can you recommend a resource? I would looooove to learn how myself.

  8. I love this article – especially the flow chart. I always try to DIY things, but sometimes it’s just not worth it. Great post 🙂

  9. I love that flow chart, my husband and I have the conversation a lot of is my extra effort to make it myself worth it so that is perfect! I shared a post on how to salvage wormy fruit to maximize your harvest to get more food to feed your family. Thanks for hosting!

  10. There is a great book called “Make the Bread Buy the Butter” which goes thru several different types of food comparing cost, amount of time it takes, effort, realness if the food and taste difference to decide if it is worth it to make it yourself. Same idea as your chart. Great book!

  11. I’ve been re-examining some of what I do recently. I realized this summer that we need to cut back on the flower gardens. They don’t contribute, and I don’t have the time if I want to do things with the kids. I’ll still do the vegetable garden because it does help our budget; it supplies us with organic produce; and the kids help to some extent.

  12. This is brilliant. My most recent DIY Fail was trying to make something for Montessori preschool & realizing (after I bought all the supplies) I had paid *more* than it would have cost to buy the materials new… and I still needed to do all the work!
    I need to print off this flow chart 🙂

  13. Great post! I taught myself to can a few years ago and really enjoy it! I’ve done a variety of projects – the biggest success was apples as we got a huge load of them from a friend for free! I like freezing better as it’s easier and not as messy, but there is only so much freezer space available!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I agree. Freezing is way easier, but power failure and space are good arguments for canning.

  14. Great minds think alike! I wrote “DIY or buy” on Wednesday!

  15. I always go through the same thought process before starting a DIY…sometime the “furgal” option doesn’t always save money/time!

  16. I love the flow chart. I need to post that on my fridge, I think! Thanks for hosting again! 🙂

  17. I am a grandmother, but still find this site interesting, especially since my son and wife are homeschooling their kids for the first time this year. I will recommend that they look at your site.
    My comment is to your statement (My heart sang when I tried to pry off the lids with my fingers, but found that all the lids had sealed as they should), my way of checking if jars have sealed is to tap the lid with my fingernail and you should hear a ping, but if it sounds dull it is not sealed. To me that is a saver way in checking the jars.
    Thank you for your time and sharing your site with all of us.

  18. I always try to think about how much of something my family uses when deciding whether to DIY. I like to pick and freeze blueberries, but since i’m really the only one in my family that likes them, i don’t bother. We just dont eat enough. But my family will eat through a jar of pickles or grape jelly every few weeks. Since we have grapevines and we can easily grow cucumbers here, it makes it worth my time and effort.
    Also, when i make those things, i know they dont have fake sugars or dyes. Since we eat those things in large quantities, its a greater health savings than something we eat only occassionally.

  19. Elizabeth Kane says

    My grandmother canned all their foods, too. I remember watching her sometimes – it all looked very complicated and overwhelming to me when I was young so I never thought of trying it now since I wasn’t taught growing up. I like how you’re teaching yourself to do it. I’m thinking of researching some canning 101 methods myself now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. I hope your family enjoy your cucumbers! I am also loving canning, but have lots too learn. What I find most satisfyimg, is enjoying your preserves several months later & knowing your efforts were totally worth it!

  21. I love this post. Its so true we do not always think of the costs associated with making something ourselves. I just made home cleaners and it is a not only a big savings but better for our health and planet. However I was recently looking at making a new comforter for our king size bed and when I shop sales and rewards it is cheaper to buy from the store or get a nice one on consignment.

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