Guest Post: You Get What You Pay For

Our post this week come from Mrs. PickyPincher over at  They’re working their way from debt to FIRE and documenting all the trials and lessons they are coming across as they go.  She was kind enough to help us out and let us know that you should really consider all the costs to what you are buying.  Some times it might be worth the extra couple bucks in the long run.  So with that… I’ll let her take it away:

You Get What You Pay For

It was the fall of 2016 and I was a newly minted homeowner. We bought a house that was “quaint” by polite accounts and “oh damn, that’s ugly” by accurate accounts. Lime green walls and wood paneling, anyone?

Although Mr. Picky Pincher and I had cut our expenses and saved a big pile of money for renovating the house, we were in for lots of sticker shock. After the fees for electric, gas, water, and taxes after taxes after taxes, we were terrified to spend any extra funds. To avoid more heart attack-inducing bills, we decided to DIY all of our renovation.

Oh, how naive we were. Here’s what I learned about doing things the cheap way versus doing things the right way.

The Hard Lessons

Mr. Picky Pincher’s dad is a master carpenter with years of experience in building. He crafted us a wonderful custom kitchen just for the cost of materials–bless him. However, none of us were experienced in electricity or plumbing. I sure wasn’t going to shock myself or flood our home, so Mr. Picky Pincher bravely took on the task of wiring the house and fixing leaks.

We thought it went swimmingly until we woke up one morning and had to swim through a giant flood in our house. A water line disconnected and, in a matter of an hour, filled our entire house with an inch of water. I remember trying to mop up the gallons of water with two towels and a sponge, asking Mr. Picky Pincher, “Holy crap! Should we call a plumber?”

He scoffed and said, “I’m not paying someone $150 an hour to reconnect a water line!”

I didn’t want to pay that either, so I resigned myself to missing work to mop up water. Sigh.

We thought the flood would be the worst of it. The most terrifying part of our DIY renovation was Mr. Picky Pincher working on the electricity. Our house was wired with two breaker boxes and had all kinds of funky stuff going on. None of the wires were grounded and, even when you turned the breakers off, some wires would still be live and you’d have no idea.

Safe, right?

We stopped the DIY business for good once I heard a zap and a shriek in the next room. I came in, ready to do CPR, and mercifully found Mr. Picky Pincher frazzled but unharmed. Apparently a wire was live and arced! Mr. Picky Pincher stopped playing with electricity after his electrifying encounter.

You Get What You Pay For

I fully admit that we cut too many corners during our renovation escapades. We didn’t want to pay for a professional to do the work safely and correctly, so we took matters into our own hands. Did we save money? Sure. But we really shouldn’t have been messing around with this stuff ourselves.

If you want cheap work, you get a cheap result. Or worse, a couple of emergency room bills. Our approach to FIRE is all about spending money where it matters. We don’t have cable, drive reasonable cars, and frequent the library instead of going out to the movies. We apply our surplus funds to debt for sure, but it also needs to go towards quality services and products. After all, if we cheap out, it usually means a more expensive problem will pop up later.

In fact, once our air conditioner went kaput (which is an emergency in Texas!), we immediately called the professionals. Thankfully we used our home warranty, so the entire incident set us back a smooth $75. If we’d tried to repair it ourselves, it would have cost at least $500 for the parts alone. As a bonus, the professionals were insured and had a money-back guarantee. I could breathe a sigh of relief in my air conditioned house. Ahhhh.

It’s tough to reprogram myself to lunge at the cheapest option, but it’s important to regard quality and safety over just money. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.


  • FullTimeFinance May 29, 2017 at 8:16 am

    There are just some things your better off paying someone for. I do dabble in basic plumbing, but there is a line. My neighbor meanwhile attempted do his own roof… It didn’t end well. In addition to quality though there is also the question of the value of your time.

    • Mr WoW May 30, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      I completely agree. There are definitely times when a professional is well worth the money spent. I’ve burned myself a couple times by biting off more than I could chew.

  • Mr. Need2save May 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    My father is an electrician, so that sure is helpful. I can handle basic wiring (ceiling fans, outlets, etc.) but I bring him out for the big stuff. We’ve also tackled a few renovation projects that turned out pretty well – but they all took MUCH longer than expected. I value my time more now, so I don’t hesitate as much to have someone else do the work.

    One thing I hate doing is plumbing. I’m not good at it and you always seem to be in the most uncomfortable position under a sink.
    Mr. Need2save recently posted…Should 401(k) Loans Be Permitted?

    • Mr WoW June 1, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Yeah I definitely think there is some value in hiring a professional when there is something that’s dangerous, or something that might be overly difficult. I tend to try things myself. But being a renter, I like to fall back on the fact that I just have to make a phone call to get most things taken care of.

  • Steve Poling June 2, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    A man’s got to know his limitations — Dirty Harry

    I’ll try most such work myself until I can’t find a YouTube video walking me through it, or feel intimidated watching same, or find my best effort doesn’t hold. Then I write a check to someone who does it for a living.

    • Mr WoW June 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Yeah I learned this lesson fixing an iPhone. I was ok with replacing the battery and the charging jack, but the wifi receiver was a little much, so I just taped it together and let it be. Eventually ended up with a new phone. Most things aren’t that tough, but you have to have the confidence that you can get it accomplished, and you just have to give it a shot. Thanks for stopping by!


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