I talked recently about how you should be time conscious when trying to save money, and not get into a two hours project that would only save you pennies. One of my examples was fixing stuff, and doing your own things in general instead of delegating. I argued that if you are going to learn a skill, say how to fix a leak, to save the plumber’s fee, you have to factor in how many more times you will be able to apply that skill, to determine if your time investment is worth it.
In the case of learning basic plumbing, you would spend a few hours watching tutorials, and maybe fix your first leak in one hour, when the plumber does it in five minutes. However, you have a lifelong skill. The next time there is a leak at home, you will be able to fix it again, this time in 30 minutes. And so on, until you can do it in your sleep.
Your time investment will not only be to fix one leak, but to add a new skill to your range of skills, one that will last forever.
There is still a risk that on your first attempt you will burst a pipe and inundate your house, causing more damage and expenses than you ever thought possible, but if you are serious with your learning and follow the instructions to a T, it shouldn’t happen.
I have wanted to do a lot of things myself with my first website, Reach Financial Independence. Mostly because for the first six months, the site was barely bringing money and I was too cheap to spend that money on a designer or an HTML expert. It took a lot of research (and mistakes!) to find a good theme for the site, optimize it, remove coding errors and so on. However, a year later, I started a second site, Make Money Your Way, and bought The Savvy Scot six months after that, and my new found skills were really helpful the second and third time around.
What used to take hours on RFI took minutes on MMYW. I also found out that a lot of the tedious tasks, like server migrations, could be delegated on Fiverr. Why spend two hours doing it and hoping you did it all right when someone can do it for you for $5?
While some skills were worth learning, and doing them two, three, ten times drastically reduced the effort it took to do that one task, some other were better left in the hand of more capable experts.
The internet evolves really fast, and hundreds of thousands of programmers study code on a daily basis, so they can keep up with the trend. I learned a bit of HTML at my last job, and how to make websites from scratch at business school 10 years ago. I could dust up my skills and build you a basic website that would look very 2004, and take me weeks to set up, or I could get a free theme and a WordPress account then delegate a few Fiverr gigs to make it my own.
The same goes for real life, as many handymen and contractors offer their services on local ad boards like Gumtree for a steep discount compared to market rate. So better pay £20 and call the plumber, or learn for life?
I recommend being picky with your learning, asking the following questions:
How long does it take you to learn? There should be little mulling over a skill that takes 10 minutes to learn, but they are few such skills. Changing your first tire could take you over an hour, learning computer coding months. What could you do with that time instead? Work more to afford hiring out that task?
Is the time investment worth it? Learning Mandarin takes years, hiring a guide for two weeks will be much easier if you only plan on visiting China once, however if you want to live there, you must learn how to get by, and your investment will pay off in that you will be able to meet locals and have more meaningful interactions than if you only speak English.
How many times will you use your skill? Is this a one off thing or something you could use again in the course of your lifetime? By the time I finally get to learning basic coding, the coding language will have changed, because I don’t use it on a regular basis. If you learn how to make bread and will bake regularly, it makes sense to dedicate time and effort to the project.
How often will you use your skill? Learning how to change a tire is great, but hopefully you won’t have to do it every day. Unless you become the family’s tire guy and the whole neighborhood relies on your newfound skill, will you use it every month, every year, every now and then? Will you be rusty and need to climb back the learning curve or will you remember how?
You only have so many hours in a day, so when building an array of lifetime skills, be picky and choose wisely!