Friday, June 09, 2006

Spending Money to Save Money

Sometimes to save money, you have to spend it. It’s a paradox I learned the hard way. Indeed, through trial and lots of error, I’ve learned that some thrifty do-it-yourself projects carry hidden (and expensive!) price tags.

Our course, if you have the time and talent, do-it-yourself projects such as home repairs, seamstress work and elaborate cake designs are a valuable way to save money. But if your reach dramatically exceeds your grasp of mechanical realities, it pays to have a professional perform the necessary tasks.

I call it “thrift overload,” a condition that can happen when dollars and common sense are in short on supply. That concept hit home this past summer while my family –vacationing in Orlando — watched a Cosby show rerun in a hotel room.

On the small screen, family patriarch Cliff Huxtable tried to fix the family dishwasher. His reasoning: Why pay a repairman when you can do it yourself? But hiring a repairman, Huxtable ultimately discovered, would have been cheaper than buying a new big-ticket appliance after a botched do-it-yourself repair.

I laughed at the sit-com, because I’ve been to that same cliff of self-delusion. Consider the evidence: I routinely destroy family cookware with my well-intentioned, but distracted efforts to cook. But even with my smoke alarm record, I vainly attempted (with my husband’s creative assistance) to bake an elaborate Pokemon birthday cake from scratch.

On the eve of the party, our creation kept us in the kitchen until 4 am as we melted butter and created several custom shades of food coloring for our cartoon-inspired cake. Hours later when the party finally started, we were too tired and clueless to take pictures of the cake or even the birthday boy. The party is a blur, but I clearly remember that cake.

Likewise, my short-lived web site designing career cost me a bundle. Armed with a do-it-yourself program, I built myself a pretty little website for free as opposed to the price quotes --$200 to $1,200 –I received from professional website designers.

Unfortunately, I am a former luddite who used to fall into a blue funk at the sight of a new computer system in the workplace. Given my skills and limitations, the so-called Click ‘n Build website program should have been renamed Click ‘n Cry.

After thirty hours of wondering aimlessly through menus and menus of graphics, fonts and photographs, I stopped watching the clock as the days passed me by. My little “free” website actually cost me about $3,000 (conservatively) in lost time and opportunity costs. (I could have written and sold several short stories during that time frame.) After that reality check, I belatedly realized that I should have just written a check to a web site designer.

1 comment:

Will Webbyte said...

Great site!