YNAB Podcast Episode 91: Creation vs Consumption


Hello YNABers. My name is Jesse Mecham and this is podcast number 91 for You Need A Budget, where we teach you four rules to help you stop living pay check to pay check, get out of debt and save more money.

I am not the guy to talk about what I’m about to talk about because I am just simply not that guy. But in light of recent blog posts that Mark has written up, and just getting me thinking about different ways to cut back consumption, I was thinking about increasing creation in my own life.

And there comes a point where you fall into a bit of an optimization trap where you can almost always answer yes to, “Would it be better to pay someone else to do this thing?” Changing the oil – I used to do it myself, now I pay someone to do it. Mow my lawn – I thought I was going to do that this season, and after a week I was so bothered by it and just didn’t want to do it that I went back to using the guys I used the last two years. I used to do my own lawn. I quite enjoyed it. And then at some point I just thought, “You know what? This isn’t worth it.” It’s happened to me a lot where I look and I say, “Hey, I could be working on YNAB right now instead of spending three hours doing yard work, and that will bring me a greater return than the money spent paying these guys.”

Or oil changes, or fixing a leaky faucet, or causing a flood in your dining room because you didn’t tighten something down when you were replacing a pump in a toilet – which totally happened to me. And then I think, “Okay, not only have I had to pay a plumber anyway, but I’ve also damaged our floor.” Luckily it wasn’t too bad, but it is damaged a little bit. I’m just not that guy. I’m not that handy guy.

I did replace a headlight bulb in my Civic, and thanks to YouTube that actually did go pretty well and I felt surprisingly awesome. And there’s something about it where you just feel this satisfaction from doing it yourself that I want to capture, where the math doesn’t make sense but it’s still worth it. So, I’ve been looking for projects.

Strangely enough, Julie has all sorts of projects that she can give me at any moment. I said, “I’m looking for a project.” She said, “Well, you could put tile in the kids’ bathroom.” Right now there’s carpet in there – we’d love to have tile. “You can put tile in the kids’ bathroom and paint the walls, and get it all nice and spiffy – decorated and what not.” I don’t know how much it would pay an expert to come tile this small bathroom, but it couldn’t be that much. I spent a good couple of hours reading about how to tile. I’ve never tiled before. People always tell me, “Oh, it’s so easy,” and then I give up. So I just spent a couple of hours reading on that, and then Julie said, “Hey, maybe a smaller project just to get you started would be to refinish our bedside table.”

We’ve got these two bedside tables in our bedroom that are a normal wood finish and she wants them white, because this is the room that’s currently being worked on over the last three/four years.

Well, we’ve been in the house five years, and so far we’ve pretty much nailed the dining room and living room, and the master bedroom was next. So, that’s been the project for the last six months – kind of getting things all spiffed up in there. We need white bedside tables. So, I said, “Yes. It can’t be that bad.” So I started two days ago and I borrowed a sander from a guy – because one trap in this do-it-yourself stuff is all these tools that you supposedly have to buy, and that quickly makes it… I mean, even when I’m saying the power of creation trumps math, my head couldn’t handle that math.

So, I borrowed a sander and bought some sandpaper and went to town on the back of the bedside table. It was finished on the back, which surprised me. I went to town on the back because I know, “Hey, if I screw this up and have to stop it’s on the back and I can just leave it.” But it worked out alright, and then I’m working on the side. I’ve done two sides out of the five that are required to sand off the finish on one of these bedside tables. And then I have the other one. So I’m almost two tenths or a fifth of the way there. I’m almost at the 20% mark. And I made two trips to Home Depot, I sat and sanded and sanded and sanded.

I’m making progress, but man, it was slow going. And I HATE making extra trips to the hardware store. So I walk inside, end of the evening two nights ago, and I said, “I wonder what it would cost to have someone refinish those bedside tables,” and she said, “Oh, I found that out before.” And I said, “What would it cost you?” “I don’t know if I want to tell you.” But I said, “Please tell me.” She said $90 per bedside table. Now, I don’t know if some of you are like jaw-dropped, like, “Oh my word! Why would you ever pay someone $180 to refinish that? It’s so easy!” Or I don’t know if your jaw has dropped and, “Oh my word! That’s the best deal ever! Why would you ever refinish it yourself for only $180?” I was in that second group. And Julie said, “I knew I shouldn’t have told you.”

But I’m persevering. I’m not letting math trump. I want to be able to say, “I refinished those.” I know all you handy people are just laughing right now, but I want to be able to say that I finished those. And yes, it took me three solid days and I made 55 mistakes, and they don’t look as good as some professional’s work – but I did it. And I don’t care that the math didn’t work, I don’t care that $180 easily fits in our house interior budget category. I just want to do it myself and find that personal satisfaction. Maybe you do too.

So, there’s something to be said for creating versus consuming. The next project will be some cold frames from PVC. Mark and I are going to build them together, and that will extend the Utah growing season. So, we are creating the cold frames, and then we will be creating delicious green vegetables for consumption.

Until next time, follow YNAB’s four rules and you will win financially. You have not budgeted like this.