The many reasons--besides frugality--to do for yourself
Doing for yourself--cooking your own meals, making your own clothes, growing your own vegetables, playing your own music, baking your own bread--is sometimes justified on the grounds of being frugal. This often leads to an analysis as to just how frugal it really is. I don't think that analysis is very useful, primarily because doing for yourself is often a wise choice whether it's frugal or not.
Deciding whether it's better to do something yourself or to pay someone else to do it on the grounds of frugality, leads inevitably to the intractable problem of how much your time is worth.
One reason it's intractable because it's hard to extend any particular earning rate for an arbitrary extra number of hours per day, or even to conjecture that you'd be doing that paid activity instead of something else. Just thinking about it leads immediately to humor:
This guy is late getting home from work and his wife asks why. He explains, "I decided to save a dollar by walking home instead of taking the bus." His wife scoffs, "If you were going to do that, you should have saved ten dollars by walking home instead of taking a cab."
The more fundamental problem, though, is that it's dumb simply to suppose that activities that are only worth doing if they're worth being paid for. It's especially dumb when there are other activities (called "entertainment") that not only are not remunerative, but that we pay to do. It's wrong-headed to imagine a binary division between the things we get paid to do and the things that we pay to do. Most things in life are neither and ought to be.
There are many other reasons to do for yourself--reasons that are much better than frugality.
For me, the really important reason for doing for yourself, is that it lets you move a portion of household activities outside the realm of the money economy. That can be critically important during hard times--whether your own personal hard times, due to a shortfall in income or an unplanned expense, or hard times in the greater economy due to inflation, recession, resource depletion, or any of the many ills that economies suffer.
Aside from that, there are all the ordinary good reasons to do for yourself:
higher quality--If you do for yourself you can use higher quality ingredients or materials, do higher quality work, and produce goods (and provide services) that match your needs and your tastes. That's true of meals, clothes, home repair, house cleaning, child care, and so on.
more ethical--If you do for yourself, you don't need to wonder (or try to convince yourself that it doesn't matter) if your clothes and shoes were made by child labor, if your beef and pork came from animals raised in a feedlot, or if the jet that brought your fresh asparagus from Chile contributed to global warming.
deeply personal--A brief note will always say what you mean better than a greeting card. Only a fool outsources his love poems.
build and maintain skills--The time may come when it's important to be able to grow vegetables, repair a bicycle, knit a sweater, fix a leak, shingle a roof, plow a field, and so on. It's worth doing these things simply to know that you can.
more fun--I take great pleasure in making a loaf of sourdough bread. It may even be a dollar or two cheaper than buying a loaf of good bread at the store, but that's not why I do it. I don't do it because I bake better bread than the bakery either, although the bread I bake is more to my taste. I do it because I enjoy it, and that's enough of a reason even if the result is more expensive and of lower quality. Doing a craft adequately yourself will often produce more satisfaction than buying something made by a master craftsman.
There's nothing wrong with buying something made by a skilled craftsman. Free trade makes both parties better off. But "being better off" is the goal, not a mere side-effect. If you want to do something, do it. You don't need to conjure up a bogus rational of frugality. Most especially you shouldn't deny yourself the pleasure of doing for yourself just because the low-cost producer can squeeze enough productivity out of oppressed workers that you can buy the item cheaper than you can make it.
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