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By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 8/14/2007 7:40:38 PM ET 2007-08-14T23:40:38

You’re busy. You’re exhausted. You’re overwhelmed. But you’re also concerned about busting your weekly and monthly budgets.

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Here’s one definite way to keep more of your hard-earned money in your wallet: You can do all sorts of tasks yourself rather than paying other people to do them for you.

The price estimates detailed below may vary quite a bit depending on exactly where you live, but the overall principle is clear: You stand to save quite a bit of money if you can stand these sorts of tasks and chores.

1. Mow your own lawn. It can cost about $100 a month for weekly lawn-mowing, edging and trimming services. Decent lawn equipment that could allow you to do that work yourself could cost you about $500. After five months or so, you’d have that initial investment paid off, and you could start saving $100 a month – or $1,200 a year.

2. Cook your own food. If you usually spend $40 when you take your family out to dinner, and it would cost $10 to make the same meal at home, eating out one fewer night a week could save you $1,560 a year.

3. Wash your own car. Getting your car washed can cost about $5 at a gas station drive-through, or as much as $15 to $25 if you opt for a more thorough hand-wash, vacuum and detailing package. You can do much of that work on your own virtually for free by giving your vehicle 15 to 30 minutes of TLC in your driveway. Just be sure to make a modest investment in cleaning products designed for automotive surfaces.

4. Clean your own clothes. To save on dry-cleaning costs, you might be able to use a product such as Dryel in your dryer to care for at least some of your dry-clean-only garments. Also, a wash-dry-fold service that charges by the pound can be convenient, but it can really add up. Depending on the size of your family and the amount of laundry you drop off, you could spend anywhere from $15 to $40 each time you go. Washing, drying and folding that same laundry yourself at a Laundromat or at home could cost you about $5.

5. Clean your own house. Having a maid come clean your house twice a month can cost you at least $100 a month, and more if you tip well. (Note: You should tip well for this service.) By doing this work yourself, you can save at least $1,200 a year and get some great exercise at the same time.

6. Make your own coffee. Coffee purchased at a Starbucks or a locally owned café can taste great, but a $3-a-day latte habit can leave you with much less money at the end of the year. Even if you upgraded to the most expensive coffee you could buy and made that at home, you could save $780 a year by brewing your own.

7. Handle your own hair and nails. With each haircut you get, you can save money by forgoing the blow-dry-and-style step – just leave with wet hair. And if you know what you’re doing, you can save anywhere from $250 to $700 a year or even more by coloring your own hair and painting your own fingernails and toenails at home rather than having those services done for you professionally.

8. Clean your own pool. Do you have a pool? Depending on its size, it can run you about $100 a month to have the pool cleaned and the chemicals adjusted weekly. If you don’t feel comfortable handling the chemicals, you could still shave your bill in half by cleaning the pool yourself and leaving the water quality to the professionals. That step could save you $50 a month – or $600 a year. 

9. Exercise on your own. Health clubs can be expensive – and personal trainers can be really spendy. You can exercise for free by walking or jogging in your neighborhood, swimming laps in your nice, clean pool or doing exercises in your air-conditioned home. This approach could save you anywhere from $360 to $1,440 a year.

10. Know yourself. Are you certain that your fitness, diet, appearance, home and automobile would suffer from extreme neglect if you failed to pay for the above-mentioned services? Then don’t make any extreme lifestyle changes all at once. But at least stop and think: If you followed all of these tips, you’d save a minimum of $6,000 a year.

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