I’ve realized that I often instinctively pay other people to do the chores I could do myself. In a way, it’s what a lot of us were taught to do. Without so much as a second thought, we throw our hard-earned money away to avoid doing commonplace tasks ourselves. For me, solving problems with my brain and my own two hands (with the help of Google) is an important part of becoming financially savvy. So I’ve made it my new year’s resolution to hone a few ~skillz~ that will make me more self-sufficient while also saving me money. I want to have an understanding of the things I use on a day-to-day basis, so I’ll know how to fix issues when they come up, rather than reaching for my phone and/or credit card. In addition to helping me keep some of my cash, I get a deep sense of satisfaction from learning new skills and accomplishing things for myself.
Here are four skills I want to develop so I can make 2016 my most informed and independent year yet:
Raw ingredients purchased from the grocery store – seasonal fruit and vegetables, milk, grains and the like – are typically cheaper than buying a salad at the place across the street. Case in point: I can get a delicious, fancy salad at a café next to my workplace for $6.90. Alternately, I can make at least five times as much salad of comparable quality at home for the same price. Most of us already knew that food costs way more when we eat out. However, we often forget that the same principle applies to premade food at the supermarket. I can buy one serving of frozen spaghetti at my local grocery store for $6.25. To make a similar serving at home with steamed vegetables costs me just under $3.
I’d like to get into the habit of cooking large batches of food and freezing individual portions. Thawing out your dinner combines the benefits of home-cooking with the convenience of takeout. So far, making homemade lentil burgers are a perennial favorite of mine. They’re easy to make, they freeze well, and when you’re hungry, you just have to pan fry and enjoy them. As I get into cooking more, I have tried a few online guides; I recommend Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Home Cooking Skills YouTube channel.
Be honest here – have you ever gotten rid of an article of clothing because of a broken zipper, or a small tear? I certainly have. Some people are amazingly talented seamstresses who can sew beautiful dresses for themselves. I am most definitely not. While making my own dresses might not be my calling, I can definitely learn to sew on buttons, fix a few tears, or take a hemline up. Mending and altering clothes can save you serious moolah because there is no need to throw out/give away that blouse and buy a new one!
Full disclaimer here: I am terrible at sewing. I’m pretty lucky in that my mother is a fantastic seamstress who has very patiently done all my clothing repairs and alterations for me. However, I think it is time for me to learn how to sew for myself. In the new year, I am going to take a sewing class, and ask my mother for all of her tips and tricks. In addition to learning how to mend clothes, I would love to learn how to produce my own items. It may take time, but if I sew a dress for myself, I’ll know that it’s been made to fit my own standards and body.
Mending clothing is also part of a bigger mindset change. Our fast fashion culture tells us to buy, use, discard, and buy again in rapid cycles. By taking a step back from this, we can escape that neverending cycle. Buying a smaller number of quality pieces that last (and look good) will ultimately leave you more satisfied and can encourage you to save money before buying more expensive staple pieces. If I focus on buying high-quality pieces (when I can afford them) and making my own clothes, I would feel physically and ethically better about my wardrobe.
If there is anything I’ve learned in the last year, there are two main things you need to be able to do to solve 95% of technology problems:
- Turn the device and/or program off, wait a minute, and switch it back on again.
- Make sure all cables are plugged in properly.
My friend (who now has an IT degree) always tells me to start with these simple fixes. Most computer problems are minor bugs that can be easily fixed. By solving the small issues, you don’t need to bring in the experts (and their fees). When it comes to technology, I’m an idiot. However, learning these basics (and if that doesn’t help, Googling the problem) has saved me hours of frustration. Prevention is also something I plan to look into more in the new year. For example, I’ve learned it’s also important to have good anti-virus software and anti-malware programs installed on your computer. Some computers come with anti-virus software as part of their package. If yours does not, you can buy this software online. I’m not an expert, but I’ve been looking into Malwarebytes and Spybot – Search and Destroy.
Home Maintenance Skills
If I’ve learned anything from living in my apartment, it’s that it’s only a matter of time before something breaks. Hiring a handyman means that you may have to wait a while for repairs, and it can be very pricey (especially if you own your own home). While I grant that I will probably not be able to solve the larger issues in my apartment, I do think I’m capable of unblocking a clogged toilet, fixing a chipped paint job, or setting up my television. Next time a problem with installing electronics or dealing with a clogged sink arises, I want to be able to solve the problem before I call for help. Some of these things are pretty simple, and can be done by anyone with two hands and access to the internet. As a rule of thumb, however, safety is worth paying for, in my opinion. Any situation which seems dangerous (like leaning out of a window, or lifting things that are simply too heavy for me) should be done by professionals.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not particularly good at most of these, but I’m learning. Although acquiring some of these skills may take a while, I want to commit to adding them to my repertoire. It will not only save me money, but will also make me feel more independent.
Hannah is a science student living in Sydney, Australia. She loves reading fantasy novels, hiking, and drinking tea (though not all at the same time).
Image via Pexels