Couple of years back, while it was still very early in the morning this particular Sunday, I turned myself around in bed to face my wife only to discover she was not there. I waited for a moment hoping she had gone to the bathroom, but she was never to come. I pushed the sheets aside, went to the bathroom but she was not there. I went to the lounge thinking she may have gone to prepare for her lectures, but she was not there either but she had left her phone on the couch. In my confused state, I went to my 9-year-old son’s bedroom and stupidly said ‘amayi ako akukhala ngati asowa m’nyumba muno (your mum has gone missing)’. The boy in his sleepy state just looked at me, smiled and tucked himself back into his sheets. Well, I then remembered my wife had mentioned the previous night that she would be going to apply fertiliser at our garden so she would leave early –but I was too engrossed watching Al Jazeera and I was not paying attention. I guess it is a good thing paying attention when your spouse speaks. I learnt a lesson.
But there is a more important lesson that I wish to share today than just bringing family business on this forum. This relates to what she told me when she came back from applying the fertiliser. I realised how much money we waste by not doing certain things by ourselves. Last year, we had paid over K25 000 to ‘aganyu (labourers)’ for hiring them to apply fertiliser in our garden. This time when she went herself with a brother and sister, we spent zero tambala.
One big caveat, right off the bat: I am not claiming that you should do everything yourself. There are certainly situations where paying others to do things for you is beneficial especially if it requires somebody skilled, and those opportunities become more prevalent as your income rises.
However, the more things you do for yourself, the less money you spend on overpriced services.
This spreads across more avenues of life than you might initially think. “I do not pay for a lawn service,” you might think, “and I will never hire a maid or a cook.” It goes far beyond that.
When you go out to eat, you pay for someone to serve you. Much of your cost of the meal is not in the food—it is in the cost of the cook to prepare it and the waiter to bring it to your table. Instead, cook the same meal at home. Almost always, it will be significantly less expensive—and often healthier. Better still, you often do not have to burn petrol going to the restaurant.
When you buy produce at the grocery store, you pay for people to serve you. Most of your cost comes from people picking the vegetables and transporting them to you. Instead, why not have a small vegetable garden in the back of your house if you have space? You will be exercising by gardening hence physically fit and could extremely reduce on costs, particularly for the quantity of vegetables you can get from a good garden.
When you ask for a tyre fitter to change your tyre or having them inflate your tyre, you are paying for service you can easily handle and save money—it does not even take long.
When you call up the plumber or the electrician, you are likely paying someone to handle something that could be figured out from a YouTube video. If nothing else, it is worth a few minutes to check YouTube for a how-to video to see if your problem can be easily fixed.
In each case, the same theme is clear, you pay a high price for someone else to do something for you.
One common counterargument to this is the idea that you are better off doing something and pay somebody to do it. If you have candidly weighed the costs and benefits, then fine but often this argument that one’s time is more valuable is a front for laziness. Sometimes do step back for a minute and look at it from a distance. Do the people who succeed in life succeed by taking the lazy route? Rarely.
Again, doing things for yourself has a big psychological benefit. It shows you that you actually can do these things for yourself and improves your self-worth. It increases your skill set. It often gets you moving and applying your mind and your body together in a task. These are all enormous benefits that aren’t derived from simply throwing cash at a problem.
The next time you have something that you could do yourself that you’re about to pay someone else to take care of, step back and ask yourself if this is really the best move for you. Blessed weekend! n