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Save Money by Fixing Things Yourself

Written by Nickel - 16 Comments

After a weekend spent working around the house, I was reminded of the value of being able to make simple fixes yourself. I’m a reasonably handy guy, and I take a certain amount of pride in being able to fix simple plumbing, electrical, etc. problems myself.

Beyond the satisfaction that comes from maintaining my own house, there are a number of financial rewards associated with doing this.

1. Doing it yourself means that you don’t have to pay someone else to do it. Given how much electricians, plumbers, etc. charge per hour, your savings can be substantial.

2. Depending on how you’re paid, hiring someone else to repair things instead of doing can cost you a decent chunk of money in terms of lost wages. Given that most professional tradesmen work business hours, someone will have to be available to meet them, explain the problem, and then babysit them while they finish the job.

3. Often times people put off minor problems off until they become major problems, primarily in the interest of saving money in the short term. But guess what? Major problems can cost disproportionately more to fix than minor problems. If you knew how to make basic repairs, you’d be able to head a lot of these things off before they get out of hand.

4. Finally, depending on the sort of problem that you’re experiencing, the fix itself can result in direct savings. For example, we had a couple of leaky toilets. The fix was dead easy — it took a grand total of about 2 minutes to replace the “flapper” in each toilet (ignoring the time required to buy the replacement parts). And yet, from here on out we’ll be saving money on our water bill. It might not be a lot, but everything counts.

The good news is that, if you don’t know how to do any of this stuff, salvation can almost certainly be found online. While I typically just end up Googling to find what I need, there are also some nice one-stop repositories of do-it-yourself, such as eHow.com, DoItYourself.com, and Instructables.com that can serve as good general resources.

(Note that Instructables tends to feature more cool hacks and fewer simple fixes, but it’s still worth a look. Thanks Tyler!)

Published on March 17th, 2008
Modified on March 18th, 2008 - 16 Comments
Filed under: House & Home

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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16 Responses to “Save Money by Fixing Things Yourself”

  1. 1
    Tyler Says:

    Another great site to learn how to do things is http://www.instructables.com/

    Very fun and neat site!

  2. 2
    nickel Says:

    Tyler: Ahhh, yes. I totally forgot that one. While Instrucables tends more toward the “hacks” end of things, I’ll add it. Thanks!

  3. 3
    FMF Says:

    As far as saving money by doing it myself goes, I always have to add in the cost of gas for six trips to Lowe’s for the right parts. ;-)

  4. 4
    Fiscal Musings Says:

    I don’t think of myself as being very handy, but it is a good idea to be able to do a few minor things. And aside from how-to websites, there are a lot of people who are willing to give some guidance if we just ask them.

  5. 5
    Frugal Dad Says:

    I recently solved the mystery or a slow-draining toilet in our house. Turned out my son decided to flush a toy helicopter, and its blades snagged the toilet\’s exit into the main drain line (had it gone any further I might have had a real mess!). Total cost – $2.86 for a new wax ring to reseat the toilet. Who knows how much a plumber would have charged for that discovery!

  6. 6
    Kyle Says:

    Since I bought my condo, I’ve become pretty handy around the house. It’s amazing what you can learn to fix if you’re a cheap male and your ego is on the line.

  7. 7
    Anne Says:

    One other benefit is that you avoid taxes. If you hire someone, you have to pay them, usually from your income, on which you have to pay taxes. And they have to charge you more because THEY have to pay taxes on what you pay them.

  8. 8
    MITBeta @ Don't Feed The Alligators Says:

    I’m surprised there is no disclaimer here… fixing your own electrical problems can definitely kill you. I recently witnessed a careless do-it-yourselfer who put a saws-all through a 240v electric line. Luckily the sawblade contacted his heating duct and shorted out before it could kill him.

    Take care, friends, take care…

  9. 9
    Jeremy Says:

    I agree with nickel except for the disclaimer that you should know your limits. Do your research first if it is something you arent familiar with doing. Ill admit that I have “wasted” money on having plumbers and such fix easy things but at the time it was above my level of expertise. If you have a good service guy, they might show you a thing or two so next time you know what to look for and possibly not have to call them again :)

  10. 10
    nickel Says:

    Jeremy: Of course, I would always recommend that you respect your limitations. This is why I included the word “simple” when talking about the types of fixes that I tackle. Beyond that, one person’s simple is not always the same as another person’s simple. For me, simple electrical fixes are installing a ceiling fan or swapping out a light fixture, and not running additional wire for new circuits, installing additional receptacles, etc. For those sorts of things, an electrician is well worth the money. But everyone’s limitations will vary.

  11. 11
    rachel @ master your card Says:

    I agree that doing some DIY is a great way to save money. Unfortunately I am not at all handy and nor is my husband. I usually end up asking my Dad to do jobs for me and he doesn’t mind. Treating him to a lunch out is a lot cheaper than paying a handyman to do the work for me!

  12. 12
    KC Says:

    Most of my repairs are on the small side. I can patch a wall and fix some small things. But most of my repairs are just stop gaps. For instance our wood fence needed some repairs last summer. Some pieces were rotted and just fell off. A new fence would cost somewhere around $3000. But I went to Home Depot and bought what I needed and made the repairs for about $30. Basically it was a stop gap measure to get another year or two out of the fence. A year has passed and the repairs have held, but I have a feeling the full replacement will come within the next year. But I figure the interest I will make on not spending the $3000 a year ago more than pays for the $30 in repairs – so it was a good investment. Sometimes those small, stopgap repairs are just small money makers – but every bit counts.

  13. 13
    Wes Lewis Says:

    I think there are so other good points that can be said about being handy and DIY fixer.

    I just graduated college, and it’s surprising to me that most young people have never learned to fix things themselves. I am the only one I know who actually owns a drill and a toolbox.

    Here’s some of my personal reasons being able to fix things is a necessity:

    1) Favors:
    I always been called upon to help install things for friends shelf, tv mount, wireless network. Although I never ask for money, it’s always good to have helped out friends, because they will be more apt to help you in the future. Even if you get a few beers out of it, you still benefit.

    2) Safety
    I have always made sure to teach my sister’s and girlfriends how to change a flat tire. It’s pretty simple to do, but most people don’t know where to begin.

    I wouldn’t want them stranded somewhere at night. If I wasn’t around to help fix the flat, I would hope they would pull in a well-lit area, pop on the doughnut or replacement tire and drive to safety.

  14. 14
    Wes Lewis Says:

    I thought of another point to my list above, because it pertains to something that happened last night.

    3) Saving the Day!

    I was out with some friends last night and we were going to see a movie and get some dinner. One of the girls we were with broke her heel. Thankfully, I had 5 minute epoxy in my glovebox. Her heel was fixed and we all had a great night.

  15. 15
    Carma Says:

    My husband works for a large HVAC/appliance repair company. He has given classes to a women’s organization and brought up things you could do to avoid costly repairs in the home. I snagged his notes:
    He has often gone into homes to fix a dryer only to find that the dryer hose and/or vent is plugged – this really takes the life of your dryer not to be able to vent property. Also, there is every reason to de-lint between every load, venting (saves money on repair and power bill) and not delinting is the number 1 or 2 reason for a house fire.
    The new washers “interior” tub is made of a plastic that grows that red bacteria that cannot be cleaned out (no matter how much bleach). Your new washer can within a year start to stink and have to be replaced. Remember to leave your lid open. Do not overload your washer (speeds up wear and tear and takes it’s life).
    Pour bleach into your drains monthly (we have a septic, so I’m not doing this). This is a plumbing tip.
    Pour one cup bleach into garbage disposal monthly. Before you call for repair on your garbage disposal, remember there is a reset button on it. (Don’t stick your hand into it to unjam it unless you unplug it.)
    Dishwasher repairs are often due to owners not understanding how to use the dishwasher. Always run hot water to the tap before starting your dishwasher. That makes the water that fills the dishwasher at it’s hotest and it dissolve the powdered soap as well as clean the dishes. Clean the dishwasher once a month by puting 1 cup of bleach upright on the top rack and running the dishwasher without dishes. Then, pour 1 cup vinegar into the bottom drain, run again. (running the tap water to hot before doing this of course) My husband has solved owner’s dishwasher problems by telling them to use that most common brand in powder. Liquids can separate and that wreaks havoc on the final result, like little debri on dishes. Although, those are the repair company’s favorite calls – those and when the child unplugs the freezer and Mom thinks it needs repaired.
    Airconditioning/Heat Pump takes moisture out of the air . . . running the airconditioning in the day then open windows at night (or let doors stand open) isn’t cost effective – it takes about 3 days to get the moisture out of the air inside (that is a main purpose of the unit) – that puts wear and tear on the unit and runs power costs up. Keep heat pump at 73 Summer/68 Winter for best power value. Change furnace filters, change furnace filters, change furnace filters – both for life of unit and to conserve on power. Keep vents unblocked and opened, there is a science to the airflow for heating and air that the furnace or heatpump relies on to function property.
    The new glass top stoves are very sensitive in how to keep and use them. Even the pans you can use on them. I just bought one and the sales person told me nothing. My husband told me just before I ruined it. The manual has all the instructions.
    There is a ton more, but I don’t want to run on here. Here’s the deal. Read all your manuals, it’s worth the time . . . pay yourself first by making things last! Do I need a disclaimer here? Like, know your limitations! Unplug & kick breaker before you look and handle; and any and all common sense moves . . . although, I think I stuck with use and maintenance, not repairs. That’s another book. Sears used to have a 1-900 number that walked you through home repairs.
    We have found a nice auto dealership that does analysis for a killer deal. When it was an oxygen sensor, my husband said “show me where that plugs in” . . . then he ordered the sensor from them-saving us nearly $300.

  16. 16
    Sharon Says:

    I am definitely into fixing things or making things myself. I even fixed my dryer when it stopped drying the clothes. I am always looking for ways to save money, whether it is trying to repair things, cooking, or coming up with a replacement that is cheaper. For example, this year, I built my own raised garden bed to grow my own vegetables to save on groceries. Love saving money.

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