5 Things to Think About Before You DIY


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I heart DIY like nobody’s business, but I’ve also had some pretty bad DIY fails. So before you DIY there are some things you should consider. Most of the time the results of a DIY are a little time spent for some money saved and it produces either something for myself or a unique gift.

Other times it results in a lot of time and potentially a lot of money spent on something that really wasn’t worth it. Still other times it results in a scraped project.

Recently I’ve had projects that ended up being the later two. See as much as I am a minimalist, I also don’t like to just throw stuff out. I like to try and upcycle as much as possible which was the point of project #1. Project #2 was an attempt at some holiday gifts.

Here is what happened with Project #1 – Drink Tray from Canvas

I had a used canvas, a bunch of bottle caps, and some left-over paint from painting my apartment. My plan was to turn the canvas into a drink tray by flattening out the bottle caps to be the base, painting the canvas to match the apartment and add handles.

Had I just used the bottle caps as is and not decided to flatten them out, this DIY would have definitely been worth it. Sadly the time in took to flatten the caps, not to mention the pain it caused my hands/wrists/fingers was not worth it.

While I did finish the project, I would only recommend it if you use the bottle caps as is. I spent WAY too much time on a project that wasn’t really for anything. I didn’t need another drink tray. I wanted to upcycle and I did, I may or may not keep the outcome, it may also become a holiday gift.

I’m proud of a goal accomplished but given the chance, I wouldn’t do it again. The point is DIY can be fun, useful, and save some money but only if you factor in a few things. Here is a list of things you should consider before tackling a DIY project.

5 Things to Think About Before You DIY

1. Time

How do you value your time? Looking at my day job I can calculate an hourly rate. A lot of times and in the drink tray scenario especially, I could have easily paid for a new drink tray at the cost of less than an hour of my time.

However, I enjoy upcycling and making things. It is how I like to unwind. So most DIY projects I find to be worth my time. I put on some Netflix (I don’t have cable) to listen to in the background and chill making things.

If you don’t enjoy making things especially when it comes to something home improvement wise which usually requires more physical labor (ever installed flooring yourself?) then you may be taking a harder look at your hourly rate. Before you DIY, try to decide if the project is one that you would enjoy.

2. Materials/Tools

Before you DIY, do you have the tools necessary for the project? If not how much are they going to cost? A lot of times people DIY to save money, but how much are they really saving if they have to also buy or rent the proper tools? Again this is something to evaluate on a project by project basis.

Since most of my projects are smaller I usually have what I need on hand. If I do need to buy a new tool I always evaluate if I will be able to get more than one use out of it.

If not, it either isn’t worth it or you should make sure you are tracking down some sweet coupons before you make that purchase. Just in case you were wondering, below is a list of materials/tools I keep on hand.

3. Knowledge

Have you done a project like this before? How much knowledge do you have in this area? Different projects have different levels of complexity and thus require different levels of knowledge.

If you don’t have a ton of knowledge or experience you might need to educate yourself first before investing in the materials.

Again evaluate your time, before you DIY, is it worth the time educating yourself and completing the project? If not, bring in someone with the proper knowledge to help.

4. Cost

I’ve already touched on this a bit. If you are DIY-ing to save money, make sure you are actually going to save money.

If you DIY a project you don’t have the proper know-how for, you could end up paying more to have someone come fix your mistakes. Make sure buying extra tools doesn’t ruin your savings rate/ money budget and always keep in mind the value of your time.

5. Practicality

Why are you taking on this project and is your approach practical; if it is to make something you don’t really need or can’t gift, it might not be worth it. Is how you are approaching the project practical?

What Happened with Project #2 – Scarf Failure

Here is where an explanation of project #2 comes into play. So I have this scarf that I bought, love, and always get comments on. It is cream colored with text on it (Pride and Prejudice to be exact – #basic).

I thought it would be cool to make some scarfs for my friends for the holidays with their favorite books. Simple enough idea, until it came to determining the best way to put the text on the fabric.

I tried stencils- which didn’t look good. I then tried hand painting the letters, which also didn’t look great. As a last resort, I decided to try and just do the chapter titles with images (you can print them on iron on paper), it didn’t look good either. Not wanting the whole thing to be iron on paper I’ve decided to scrap the project.

I now have a bunch of left-over fabric. Fortunately, I don’t think it will be hard to find a new use for it. Tie Dye scarf, anyone?

The point is, I should have tested out the best way to do the text on fabric before I bought all of the fabric (though I did get it on sale and used a coupon). Overall the outcome could have been worse, but I also could have saved myself some time, money, and a headache.

Wrapping it Up with a Bow on Top

To ensure your DIY goes smoothly and doesn’t cost you more money than paying someone to do the work make sure you think about:

  • Time – the value of your time
  • Materials & Tools – Do you have what you need or would you have to buy or rent tools?
  • Knowledge – do you have the know how and/or experience to successfully complete the project?
  • Cost – what is the cost of the project in total, the cost of your time, materials, and any tools you might need?
  • Practicality – is your approach to the DIY project practical? Is it practical for you to DIY the project at all?

So with the reveal of some of my mistakes and some things to consider before you DIY I hope your projects go much smoother.

Any other things you think you should consider before you DIY? Let me know in the comments below!

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