Car repairs are often unexpected expenses. The question is, should you turn over the keys or get under the hood?
Going pro. The major downside to hiring a mechanic is that the cost of repair includes parts and labor. In other words, that $200 fuel pump could cost up to $70 per hour to install. However, unless you happen to be a grease monkey and have all the tools, you’re going to need a mechanic for big repairs. Plus, one of the most attractive benefits of using a repair shop is the warranty that sometimes accompanies the work or parts. Also, if you plan on selling at some point, the paper trail of receipts that follow professional work will make it easier to prove to future buyers the exact maintenance history of your vehicle, which may help fetch a better price.
Do it yourself. Regular car maintenance generally involves simple replacements, like changing light bulbs and fluids (e.g., antifreeze, oil and wiper fluid). These tasks are great for beginners because they’re inexpensive procedures and you’ll become familiar with the vehicle. Plus the skills learned will save money in the future. If you’re unsure where to start, ask friends or family for a lesson. A vehicle’s service manual is also a good resource for simple maintenance instructions.
Buying a Home
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make. When you’re talking that much cheddar, it’s important to understand that there’s more to buying a house than signing on the dotted line.
Going pro. What is your experience with negotiating a home price or writing offer letters? For real estate agents, it’s second nature. Basically, they take care of all the gritty details of home buying, and they’re up-to-date on sales trends, pricing and neighborhoods. If you’re thinking of going solo because of commission charges, don’t worry. Sellers most often pay agents. Commission is built into the seller’s contract, and the seller’s and buyer’s agents will often split the commission. In this case, you will pay nothing directly to the agent. There are exceptions, though: if you hire an exclusive buyer’s agent or purchase a “for sale by owner” home, you may be responsible for the agent’s commission or pay an up-front fee. First-timers should seriously consider using a professional to buy a house.
DIY. As your own agent, you will not waste time on houses you are not interested in or cannot afford. The main cost will be the time and energy it takes to learn about every step of the real estate process and filing all the paperwork. If it’s not your first time, or it’s a simple transaction, you may be able to successfully take care of the details yourself.
If you’re ready to expand your portfolio, there are two options for cashing in: hire a full-service broker, or use an online brokerage.
Going pro. If you are looking for individually tailored advice on how to invest funds, ask the pros. Investment professionals are required to have specific training and certifications. They use their skills, expertise and time to help you make the best decisions for your money. Costs vary widely and could include per-transaction, annual and other service fees. The minimum portfolio size requirement at some brokers is also quite large, so if you don’t have a lot of money to invest, it might be best to start small on your own.
DIY. With online trading, you don’t have extra handholding; investments are entirely your decision. However, you have to do your own research, and lots of it, to ensure that you make the right decisions. Online trading is also more affordable, usually under $10 per trade.
When DIY fails, enlist the professionals. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask for a consultation to determine if going professional or amateur is the best choice for you.