We Malawians are very spoilt. When a job needs to get done we almost invariably find a someone else to do it for us. Whether it’s painting, electrics, plumbing, decoration, anything – we want someone else to do it.
Why not just do it yourself?
Living in the UK I have been amazed at the things that I can do that I never thought I could. Hammers, paint brushes, sewing machines, you name it, I’ve probably used one and strangest of all, I enjoyed it!
Opportunity cost means that what you spend on one thing cannot be spent on something else. Even if the amount you are paying the labourer appears small that is still money you can’t spend on something else.
Here are a few things you can do to save money; all of them are easy and non-taxing.
Certain things are very quick and easy to sew provided you can get your hands on a sewing machine. This week I sewed my first ever cushion cover and it actually looked rather good. I saved money on the filling as well by using an old pillow for the job.
Granted getting cushions sewn is still relatively cheap in Malawi but things like clothes have started getting expensive and I have a couple of friends that have really sharpened their skills in the clothes making department so much so that they frequently make their own clothes for dinner outings.
Baby on the way? Why not sew some of his/her clothing? Create your own designer clothing line just for your child.
My house needs a fresh coat of paint and I’m going to do it myself. Why? Because my budget is limited and I also want to get a new set of mugs and other kitchen accessories. Getting the accessories wins.
The current thing I am into is shabby chic furniture. To get the shabby chic look you need painted wooden furniture and it doesn’t come cheap, no sirree! I happened upon someone who was getting rid of a solid wood bookcase that was still in perfect condition so I asked if I could have it and she said yes. I took it home, painted it and decorated it.
The amount I spent in upcycling the furniture is a fraction of what a piece like this would go for. If I wanted to sell it I would fetch 8 to 10 what I spent in upgrading the bookcase. I personally don’t want to sell it because I know it would cost me an arm and a leg to replace it.
There are so many things that you can do yourself if you build up your confidence. You might think you can’t sew, knit, paint or up-cycle but when push comes to shove you will be surprised what you can do.
I think our current culture not only makes us lazy but it discourages creativity. If you think creatively you can resolve any problems you’re facing, financial or otherwise.
As for time, most people have a lot of leisure time. If you have a worker in the house doing most of your chores how can you complain about time? You can pursue most DIY jobs in front of a TV or with the radio for company.
“The turning point, I think, was when I really realized that you can do it yourself. That you have to believe in you because sometimes that's the only person that does believe in your success.” Tim Blixseth
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.