DIY to FI – save money and learn new skills

DIY home improvement – save money and learn new skills. We live in an amazing time. Information is at our fingertips with key supplies and tools easily delivered in a day. 

We have numerous opportunities to learn new things. Sometimes we take those opportunities, sometimes we don’t. I’ve developed a philosophy over the last few years to at least attempt home repair or improvement projects. Go for it. The worst that can happen is you hire a pro. Gain some experience and new war stories in the process.

DIY Advantages

  • Labor savings – when you hire a pro, it’s expensive. Most trades charge very high labor costs right now because there is a shortage of skilled labor during a period of high demand. People are spending more time at home during this pandemic and trying to make their home as functional and comfortable as possible. For example, cost of a small bathroom remodel (8×5 – 40 square foot):
source: 2021 Small Bathroom Remodel Costs & Half-Bath Renovations – HomeAdvisor

For the small bathroom Sarah and I are remodeling. We have spent approximately $1470 in materials and new tools (total of 55 items).

  • Personal satisfaction – the pride felt when you complete a project is great. I can point to different things in the house and comment, “I did that and here’s how it went…” These projects become my little war stories. 
  • Shared experiences – Sarah and I generally work on these projects together. We get the chance to talk, imagine, shop and make decisions together. When the project goes well, we share the satisfaction. When it goes bad, she provides perspective. We laugh about the mistakes and bungles afterwards. It’s also a great feeling to impress your spouse with your skills.
  • Learn your limits – Over the years as you try things, you learn what is within reach and and beyond it. But, you can’t ever really know what you’re capable of if you never try anything new. And as you check off certain projects, your confidence to try other things grows. For example, because I changed the bathroom faucets in our master bathroom last year, I was confident enough to try replacing the other bathroom vanity/sink this year.
  • Acquire new tools – the right tool can make or break the job – smooth sailing with it and without you’re in trouble. With every new project, I buy new tools. For this recent bathroom remodel, I acquired 10 new tools: 
    • miter saw (which I’m super excited about – $150 or 10% of the total project cost that gives me a ton more project capabilities in the future. 
    • Levels of a couple different sizes
    • pry bar 
    • copper pipe cutter
    • snips for 14 gauge metal
    • New caulk gun
    • New safety glasses
    • Diamond tipped skilsaw blade for cutting tile
    • Mixer extension for my drill
    • Tile float tool
New miter saw from Lowe’s: Metabo HPT (was Hitachi Power Tools) 10-in 15 Amps Single Bevel Compound Corded Miter Saw in the Miter Saws department at
  • Build valuable skills – with your new skills (plumbing, tile work, finish carpentry on this project) you develop abilities you can use to help others or for income. With the scope of skills I’ve picked up on this project, I’m now thinking of the possibility of tackling rental homes in the future. I think I’ve gained enough confidence through vanity replacement, fixture replacements, tile flooring, toilet installation, baseboard carpentry and flooring transition install, that I could do much of the maintenance/improvements.
  • Avoid getting taken advantage of – learn the amount of skill and time involved for the job and even if you eventually hire a pro you’ll learn which ones you won’t attempt again. 

Recent project: 2nd bathroom remodel

A great place to attempt projects is in your first home – a learning experience for your next home. If you make mistakes or the quality is subpar, better to learn on a less expensive home that you will sell or rent in the future. Here’s a couple pics so you get the idea of the scope of this project – I should have taken a before pic, but just imagine a 20 year old small bathroom, with shell sink and linoleum flooring. Here’s a couple of the messy middle:

Clean slate – post-demo
Lovely view of our toilet in the foyer 😉

YouTube provides quality project walkthroughs. Search how to overcome project problems and you will learn how common certain issues are. You will find you are not alone and someone has already solved the problem you’re struggling with. 

My go-to video series on tilework for this project: SeilingsFloors – YouTube


Patience is key – give yourself plenty of time. Often the job takes longer than expected. Prepare to call a pro if needed. Reach out to friends or a neighborhood app for recommendations. You might even want to get a quote first to see what you’re looking at to hire the pro.

Amateur planning – often several trips are required to the home improvement store to get the project done – 8-10 for this one.


DIY home improvement – save money and learn new skills. Next time you see something small around your place that you’d like to change, watch a video or two for inspiration and then go for it.

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