Lowering the cost of many projects

Need Help? Call a Semi-Pro

by Lynn Bulmahn


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Two out of the three toilets in my home did not work. I called the plumber, but he never called back. Maybe he was tired of making yet another trek to my house. Meanwhile, my handyman was over doing some other work. I mentioned the bathroom problems and he said, "Let me see if I can fix it." He did. My toilets flush but no longer run half the night, filling up over and over again due to a leak. Even better, my handyman charges far less money than the plumber. And he did a better job! The lesson I learned is that from now on, unless it is a major plumbing problem, I'm calling the handyman.

Although the first impulse is to seek out a top professional for a problem (including minor ones), it may save money to get a semi-pro to help.

I found this out a couple of weeks ago. I took my dog to the vet for her rabies shot and a heartworm check. I nearly had a heart attack when I got the bill. Did I pay that much last year? I looked up the bill. Nope, I'd taken her to a non-profit animal clinic and paid far less.

Next time, my dog will get her shots and pills either from that clinic or from one of the community clinics that are often held one Saturday a year at fire stations or town halls. My dog will receive identical medication, and I'd save enough money to buy her an overpriced Wobble Wag Giggle™ ball.

I've done that for my own health care. If it's not a major problem, I've gone to the so-called "Doc-in-the-Box" clinics for rashes and routine needs. A physician's assistant or nurse practitioner can handle the recurring routine problem. I can go there without missing work, and when I'm not insured, it's a cheaper fee. Currently, the fee is the same as my insurance co-pay at the doctor's, but the clinic is often handier.

Prior to being insured, I would get my annual woman's exams at Planned Parenthood. The nurse practitioner would be able to detect any problems, but again the fee is cheaper.

Some states permit physician's assistants to practice on their own, and you may get routine health care cheaper this way.


Usually when I need new glasses, the prescription does not come from an ophthalmologist but from an optometrist. If the doctor of optometry sees a problem, he refers me on. Again, there is a cost savings.

In some states, paralegals are semi-professionals who can help you draw up a will or do other routine legal business. They don't charge as much as an attorney. Another source of inexpensive legal help may be a Legal Aid office.

Instead of hiring a researcher, a reference librarian may point you in the right direction for free.

Although I'm not physically able to stand on ladders and paint, I still saved money. Instead of a paint professional, my handyman did the chore. For years, I dreamed of granite countertops to replace the dated white with gold glitter Formica in my kitchen. The cost was prohibitive! Researching on the internet, I found a "granite look" paint kit. My handyman once again did the job. The results were so beautiful that he had his wife come over to see it. She's a bit miffed that they installed real granite when my counters look so similar. My cost? It was under $400, which included two $79 paint kits.

How many other times does it save you money to call someone who is slightly lower on the totem pole than a top professional?

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