No matter how small your paycheck, you can always save money by doing things yourself that you would otherwise pay someone else to do. Below are five skills you should have in your domestic toolbox, ideally when you're just starting out on your own, but it's never too late to learn (and to save).
Cooking is probably the most effective money-saving domestic skill you can possibly have. My cooking skills have improved a lot since my 20s when I was first living on my own, but even then I was able to (and did) cook for myself. Growing up, I spent a fair amount of time observing and helping my mom in the kitchen and I really believe this is the best way to learn. But I also came of age when the Food Network was taking off and I learned many basic techniques and was inspired to try new ingredients and recipes from watching food tv.
Nowadays, the internet offers so much cooking inspiration and instruction—there's no excuse not to learn.
2. Sewing and mending
Sewing your own clothes is usually not a money saver because clothes are relatively inexpensive these days compared to the price of fabric, but the ability to alter and repair your own clothes can save you plenty of money at the tailor's. (I'd love to know what percentage of people don't have to have new pants hemmed.)
Sewing for your home is where you can really save money though. Making your own pillow cases, placemats, napkins, curtains, etc. as well as gifts for others are places where sewing for yourself can amount to a lot of savings..
Gardening takes time and patience, but pays you back with "free" food and herbs. Grow what you love to eat and "shop" from your garden before meals. I love snipping a bit of herbs to put in a meal knowing I'm not buying a huge bunch of basil, for example, when I only need a few leaves. Saving money is only one benefit of having your own garden—easy access to fresh, homegrown food when it's in season—may have you eating better, too.
Unless you are an experienced plumber you should not attempt big plumbing fixes, but everyone should know some very basic things like how to stop a running toilet, unclog a drain or toilet, fix a drain stopper, turn off a water valve, etc. Year ago someone gave me the book Dare to Repair by Julie Sussman & Stephanie Glakas-Tenet and I turn to it whenever I'm facing a very basic plumbing task.
5. Painting and Wallpapering
If you have more money than time, go ahead and hire someone to paint or wallpaper for you. But you will save a lot of money by learning to do it yourself. Painting is not as easy as buying paint and a slapping it up with a brush - do some research (or ask an experienced friend to help you) to learn the best techniques for both. And don't be intimidated to learn how to wallpaper. It takes patience, but is actually quite easy.
Finally, before you hire - see if you can barter.
You may not acquire all of these domestic skills, but even learning one or two, especially as a young person, will save you a lot over the years. For things you've yet to learn, try bartering with a friend or neighbor. A basket of veggies from your garden for shortening some pants, perhaps.
What domestic skill do you wish you had?
(Image credits: Bethany Nauert; Leela Cyd; Drew Steinbrecher; Christine Lu; Kate Legere)