Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When DIY saves less than minimum wage

"The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy." - Matthew Crawford

When I am trying to save money, I often find it motivating to think of my hourly rate. For example, if it takes me about 10 minutes of hands-on time to make a half-gallon of whole milk yogurt, and normally a half gallon would have cost $8 at a grocery store, then whoopee - I just saved $7 in 10 minutes, or $42 an hour!

When I am trying to learn a new skill like sewing, however, I find this type of thought process disheartening. For example, this week I finished working on a pair of polar fleece leggings and a tunic that I had made for my 18-month-old. The fabric itself was not expensive, and the process of making the leggings was not hard, but finishing the details and stopping to think about certain aspects of the garment (I was doing this all without a pattern) drew out the process to well over three hours. When you stop to think that you could find a polar fleece tunic and pants for maybe $14 on sale at Old Navy, suddenly your hourly rate, after fabric, is around $3 an hour.

So is it worth it? Wouldn't it be better to just go to work for minimum wage and then use the money to buy clothes and have a little left over? I thought about this as I sewed, and what I realized was that for now, it's better to sew.

Sewing allows me to have more choice in what I sew for my daughter, and to do it in a way that works around my family's needs. I am not subjected to the designs of the season when shopping, and if I need more options in polar fleece for our colder climate, I can just create them. Sewing also allows me to grow my skills, which could generate income down the road. And finally, as Matthew Crawford alluded to in the quote above, it gives me a sense of satisfaction to figure out a problem like setting in a sleeve or learning how to use a double needle.

I can't afford time-wise to make my family's entire wardrobe, or even a fraction of it, but I think it is important for people to sometimes do something even if it would be financially "cheaper" to just work and pay for a product.

However, it all depends on what brings you satisfaction,. For example, some people find it fulfilling to line their laundry and point to the savings it brings to their utility bill. After doing some math, however, I figured out that each load cost us about 9 cents to dry with the current rates, and when you consider that I have some kids with bedwetting issues and a dusty/windy climate in the summer, and snowy climate in the winter, suddenly taking the time to drag up my laundry from the basement to hang each of the 15 loads I do a week to save 9 cents a load doesn't look so great.

What about you? Have you ever worked on something and gotten discouraged by what your hourly rate would be? 

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