Become your own handyman
Your home is full of things that stall, shred, stick, crumble or clog. A whole bunch of those things can be fixed by you.
After she let me in, I pulled out my Swiss Army knife, flipped up the Phillips-head screwdriver and went at the door. In two minutes it worked beautifully.
The 20-somethings were all agog. It had never occurred to them to tighten the screws.
They could have called the landlord. So can you, if you're a renter. But if you own a home or a condo, you either have to fix things or pay to have someone else fix them. You can guess which option I'd recommend.
Your home is full of things that stall, shred, stick, crumble or clog. A whole bunch of those things can be fixed by you. Even the most amateur of handy-folks can avoid paying a plumber $100 to fix a $3 part. (Post continues after video.)
A comprehensive home-repair book is a great investment, but you'll also find a ton of articles online. Videos, too, which take the DIY concept from words on a page to watching the rubber meet the road. Or watching the toilet flapper being reseated.
The FYI on DIY
While I wouldn't suggest knocking down walls on your first attempt, surely you can do something as simple as changing that flapper. Toilet repairs are among the simplest (if occasionally nastiest) repairs you can do.
If Harrison Ford could make a living as a carpenter by teaching himself from a book, most people can learn to fix a garbage disposal. Hint: It's often as simple as hitting the "reset" button.
Didn't know that disposals have reset buttons? You do now. Those that don't restart can often be "repaired" with a few turns of an Allen wrench in the slot under the center of the disposal.
You could have learned this by doing an Internet search for "stuck garbage disposal." I hope next time you have a problem you'll search for stuff like for "tub drain fix," "shingle repair" or "refrigerator leak."
About that last: In the building I once managed, a tenant told me water was coming out from under the fridge. I went online and learned it might be either an overflowing drain pan or a clogged defroster drain.
The pan was dry, so I opened the drain and found chunks of slimy goo. After cleaning it out, I used a turkey baster to force water through until I could hear it dripping into the drain pan. The problem never recurred.
A sense of accomplishment
Obviously you should know your limits. For example, if I got a shock when I touched the washing machine, I'd call an electrician immediately.
Don't be casual about your research, either. A smart frugalist will read/watch more than one article/video about the fix he's contemplating.
When a long-ago ice dam caused a leak in our Alaska place, the bathroom floor became unsteady. My daughter and I removed the toilet, pulled up the linoleum, patched the sub-floor, replaced the throne and put down new vinyl flooring.
But before I so much as turned off the water supply, I must have read that section of the home-repair book eight or nine times.
Plenty of things are doable, even if you've never thought of yourself as handy. Before you call the expert, put a little effort into figuring things out on your own. Patching the drywall or installing laminate flooring does more than stretch your home-repair dollars. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Remember, though: Measure twice, cut once.
Readers: Got any DIY triumphs to share?
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DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT BUY A HOME REPAIR BOOK AT A HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE. Achew -- Home Depot. Upon looking through the book, a great amount of material was omitted which would ruin any attempt to fix something or send you back for more supplies or equipment.
Check out the ol' Reader's Digest Home Repair book from library. See what you think. Then pick it up used on BN.com or Amazon.
Another tip: If you hire someone to do it, stick around while they're doing the work. It seems counter intuitive, since you're paying them and you should get to go and relax. But you'll learn from them, and the next time you may not have to pay.
It took me years to learn this, but Water is your biggest arch-enemy. Keeping it out of, and contained in, the house will save you more money than anything else. At the first hint of water being where it's not supposed to be: attack it. Either yourself, or with a handyman/plumber. Don't ever accept putting a pan under the sink, or living with a leaky faucet or running toilet. these things are all usually cheaply and easily fixable and will save you TONS of money over the years.
But like my ol' Daddy use to say, "If at first you don't succeed, hire someone". Time is also money.
A handyman is just someone who has screwed up enough times to finally get it right.
There are two states of ignorance
1) Knowing what you don't know-on opportunity for learning
2) NOT knowing what you don't know-an opportunity for disaster
Therefore be bold but not wreckless
When you do it yourself the tools are free
Thanks for the tips. We had the garbage disposal issue not long ago and luckily I had a dad who knew about it. HAHA He ripped on me for not figuring out something so simple. My ex hubby I used to be the first to call in an expert and waste a ton of money. My new boyfriend is a total DIYer. I'm learning. It has saved us thousands doing so much of the work ourselves now.
I know a lot of small things I can do around the house to fix things, but I also know when I either do not have the skills or cant do a task safely. Safety both in the short term as you are doing it and long term so that it is safe from "fire, water leaks, etc." I was well taught by my father to check things like the reset button and such first before I even call for service.
As a renter right now I only keep a smallish selection of tools in the place. Basic tools for many home repair projects include regular and philips head screwdrivers, Hammer, Pliers, Wrench, container of random (washers, bolts, O-rings, screws, nails), Keep any such items that you might have left over after any job to use latter.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
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Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
When it comes to dealing with debt and clearing your credit, what you don't know really can hurt you.