Fred Armisen has a new show on the Independent Film Channel called Portlandia. The series lovingly mocks the nonconformist counterculture proudly embraced by many of Portland's residents. In one particularly poignant skit Armisen and his partner, Portland native Carrie Brownstein, go dumpster diving to collect food and décor for their upcoming dinner party. They spend the day covered in trash, astonished that anyone would throw away a half eaten chicken carcass. Not surprisingly, their friends cancel right before the party, and Armisen laments, "To my friends I say this: 'OK, you guys win, but who saved more money?' And the answer is really they did because of all the energy and work. But still …" So is there a lesson to be learned here?
Benjamin Franklin famously said "Time Is Money," but this concept is easy to forget. It's easy to get swept away by the fantasy of building a rocking chair out of raw wood or finding that perfect quirky home accent on the side of the road. Unfortunately, the reality is that you often end up with a space filled with scrap lumber half-glued together and a roommate or partner nagging you to clean up the mess, instead of the well-crafted chair you'd imagined. And, more than likely, you will end up regretting the junk you collected off the street and the clutter it creates in your home. So if you decide to scavenge or make your own object instead of buying it, think about the reasons why you're making that choice and be realistic about the time and money it will take.
Reasons Why You Might Dumpster Dive or DIY
Protecting our environment is a laudable goal, but consider the actual environmental impact of your actions. You can buy recycled goods and environmentally friendly goods from a local establishment, which will reduce the amount of gas used for transportation and also save you time.
Scavenging or DIYing is a relaxing hobby for many people that mitigates any loss of time or money, but if you're new, especially to DIYing, ask yourself a few questions before you start a project. How much time do I have to give? How much time will this project take? How much space do I have to devote to a project? What is my level of craftsmanship? Do I have other projects I need to finish before I begin another one? I'm I the type of person who follows through with projects?
For DIY projects: Take the amount of money you would spend on a product if you bought it and subtract the cost of supplies, plus the amount your time is worth (amount you make per hour) multiplied by the total number of hours it will take you to realistically finish a project.
For Scavenging: Just take into account the amount your time is worth (amount you make per hour) versus the amount of time and energy it takes to find an object.