DIY: Saving money or breaking the bank?

Students Kalisha Foy and Trent Taylor sew puppets for Y-Serve's Service to the World activity. These puppets are easy to pack and transport to other countries making them a great service project toy. (Elliott Miller)
DIY projects have risen in popularity, although it might end up costing more money than saving. (Elliott Miller)

Growing up in a poor home, BYU student Jessica Johnson is used to the do-it-yourself, or DIY, lifestyle. With a mom that made clothes, furniture and almost everything else, Johnson grew to love making things on her own. Now even though the family has money, they continue to make things on their own for the feeling of self-accomplishment.

The vintage, antique look is popular and the achievement that comes with making it yourself has led many people to DIY projects. While saving money is one reason for these projects, with little experience, the time, tools, and needed materials can end up costing more than buying the item from the store.

The DIY network has exploded as Facebook groups, Pinterest pages and blogs continue to grow with ideas and plans to make DIY projects. The Facebook group DIY Projects, created in 2013, has more than 500,000 likes.

Businesses are also feeling the hit and adapting to the DIY trend. As the DIY trend grew, Home Depot changed their marketing strategy. According to Ad Age, in 2003 Home Depot’s focus changed from contractors to individuals finishing projects on their own. Now Home Depot’s website features DIY projects and ideas as well as free DIY workshops.

Saving money or self accomplishment

Since the recession in 2007, the DIY trend has grown as local homeowners try to save money and cut costs. Individuals are doing home improvements, making clothes, reinventing furniture and decorating with homemade items.

But a DIY beginner can end up spending more to make a project than it would cost to buy it at a store. With necessary tools and equipment, the project can go from a simple repainting of a dresser to buying a sander, expensive chalk paint and new handles. In addition, the time figuring out how to do the project adds up.

DIY blogger and store owner Lauren Middlesworth said that going from Pinterest to reality can cost quite a bit of money.

“It is hard when you see something on Pinterest where you buy a dresser for $10 and it ends up beautiful. So you go to DI and get your $10 dresser. Then you are in $20 for a can of paint and then you don’t have any paint brushes and if you buy the cheap ones your project won’t turn out and so on and so on,” Middlesworth said. “I always joke if I do a DIY project that it will be $100 in craft supplies.”

Middlesworth also said time can factor into the expense. “Often people do DIY projects to save money, but you invest so much time and money it could be better off buying it new,” she said. “When I first started doing projects I didn’t realize how much time it would take.”

DIY builders justify costs with the satisfaction of accomplishing a project on their own. Johnson said DIY projects are a way to make something unique.

“DIY projects allow you to make it your own. When you go to the store you get what everyone else gets but when you make it yourself, you get to put your own spice or twist with it,” Johnson said.

Middlesworth agreed and said that not only is it a way to personalize an item but it also gives it a piece history.

“Anything is a favorite project if there is a story behind it. And if you can turn it from old into something beautiful,” Middlesworth said.

With the popularity of garage sales and thrift stores, DIY projects are also a way to stay with the times of showing off your ability to save money versus spending it.

“It is something cool to show off,” Johnson said. “I think people do it to show off and because you can justify buying a $5 desk when you can’t justify buying a $50 desk to yourself and family.”

The cost of DIY

Many home stores have felt a hit since the recession as people turned to doing projects themselves.

Home Depot Department Supervisor Shar Hancock said Home Depot has always been in favor of helping people do things on their own, but they changed their marketing strategy in order to make it more current. This change helped Home Depot maintain sales during the recession.

One of the things Home Depot has done to promote DIY projects is providing the help their customers need.

“People like to do a lot of projects themselves. I’m over flooring and we constantly teach people how to do flooring,” Hancock said. “We will do it from beginning to end with them so they know how to do it themselves. We offer classes online and in store where people can come and learn to do all kinds of things.”

Other stores have had to change their inventory to match the vintage and antique look and have felt a hit in sales. Bassett Furniture had a loss of sales in 2007 and rebounded only in 2013.

Bassett Store employee Brooke Candland said they felt the hit of the recession in 2007 and saw more people doing projects at home. But now they are on the uphill and have added furniture to match the DIY look.

“We have come a long way since then and the retail has gotten a lot better,” Candland said. “We have added rustic and weathered looking furniture, which is what the customers want.”

Another cost for DIY projects is the toll on time and body, Johnson said.

“It takes a lot more time because you don’t have the tools or experience, and it is physically exhausting because you have no idea what you are doing,” Johnson said.

“One example is a time I was painting a quote from “We Bought a Zoo” and I was cutting out the letters. I didn’t have an X-Acto knife so I was using a cutting knife and I was cutting up my fingers. There was blood everywhere. Finally I called my mom and asked if there was an easier way and she said ‘why don’t you use transfer paper, it’s like three dollars,'” Johnson said.

Built to last

The opinion of whether the DIY trend will last is varying. Some say the trend will last, such as Middlesworth and Candland, who said those who enjoy the projects will continue to create.

“I feel like the DIY trend is going to last and is going to stick around. It becomes easy with practice and experience,” Middlesworth. “Trends tend to stick around here in Utah, and I think it will stay here.”

Hancock agreed that with time, most projects do end up saving money and the achievement will fuel people to continue.

“Everybody loves to save money, and I can’t see that changing at all,” Hancock said. “There are a lot of people that get great satisfaction about doing it themselves.”

Others say it will die down as the look of used furniture goes out of style.

“I think there will be a really big hype for a while but then people will lose the patience and time and will rather spend their time on something else,” Johnson said. “It will go downhill; once Etsy and similar shops die down the trend will go with it.”

The overall consensus is if DIY is a lifestyle, it will remain but if it is done only to stay up with the trend, then it won’t last.


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