You can save hundreds of dollars per month by learning to do a few easy recurring tasks on your own. Not only will you have more to put into your savings and investments, but you'll also feel great about your new abilities.
Michal Strahilevitz, associate professor of marketing at St. Mary's College of California, says the benefits of learning a new skill go beyond saving money. "Whether you're dyeing your own hair or changing your own car oil, there is something that is both primal and ego-boosting about taking care of a problem yourself," she says.
She uses the example of a baby who is taking their first steps or a child who masters riding a bike without training wheels. "Adults are not so different," she says, adding that the first time we master something we couldn't do before, it gives us a sense of empowerment: "We learn that we are more capable than we realized."
Here are three simple skills the pros suggest you can learn, and use to save money, based on their own experience.
Why it's important: Regular trips to the spa add up. "One of the biggest DIY projects I took on to save money was learning how to wax myself," says Shannon McLay, founder of New York's Financial Gym. You can also paint your own nails or do any number of beauty services yourself that can add up to hundreds per year. And you don't even have to make an appointment.
Where you can learn it: "With some practice, my skills have gotten much better," says McLay, who says her first attempts were rocky. Try to be precise, and stay cautious if you're handling the eye area. You can check out videos on hair-removal options and 100 years of brows, both from Allure.
How much you can save: "When I reviewed my finances for the year, I realized I spent over $400 on waxing services," says McLay. Waxing can run $60 and up for full legs, not including tax and tip. Instead of going to a salon, McLay uses this kit from Amazon that costs just over $40, which comes with a wax warmer, cooling gels, and other accessories. She says one kit will last her for several years. You can also explore other DIY beauty treatments, like making your own face masks instead of spending on facials.
Why it's important: You'll save money, plus waiting time, while also having more control over what you eat and creating meals you enjoy. Food blogger Cathy Erway says she saved $7,800 by not dining out for two years.
Neal Stern, CPA member of the American Institute of CPAs' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says he's gotten good at bringing his own food with him when he's on the move. He finds this particularly helpful in airports where the food can be pricey. "You can put together a quick lunch of a sandwich, bag of chips, and a bottle of water, and bring it along in a cooler pack, reclaiming the time you would have spent in lines or drive-throughs while watching the savings add up — with trade-up in food quality as an added bonus," Stern says.
Where you can learn it: Check out YouTube for demonstrations of meals that cost under $2 by chef Frankie Celenza, host of the Tastemade series Struggle Meals, as well as quick and healthy meals from Tasty.
How much you can save: Stern says he spends about $3 to $5 to create a lunch, compared to an average fast casual meal at $10 to $12. "Using this strategy about three times per week saves me over $80 per month, more than enough to cover my entire cellphone bill," he says.
Video by Jason Armesto
Why it's important: David Almonte, a certified public accountant and member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission, says cutting his own grass and doing other landscaping activities is a great money-saver. "I figured it was about time I cut my own lawn and actually learned to enjoy being outside for an hour or so each day by myself," he says.
Where you can learn it: Almonte says cutting the grass was easy to learn, it just required time. With two young children, he and his wife soon realized it was a great escape to clear their heads and get some exercise. And he recommends watching how a professional cuts grass first so you can observe good form.
How much you can save: "It helped to save approximately $45 each week," says Almonte, "which my wife and I were able to allocate to more important priorities such as child-related expenses, retirement goals, and building an emergency fund."
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