Save Money, Be Cool, Do Things Yourself

One of the basic building blocks of frugality, that I’m sure we all understand, is that little things add up to bigger things. One of these little things that I’ve become good at over the years is doing things myself. Where before I might call someone to fix something, I’m quite likely to get it done on my own now.

This saves money, sure. More than you might think. It also has other advantages.

Repairing things around the house is a small, contant, subtle money leakage. It’s also a frustration and a dependency that you can – to a large extent – manage out of your life.

Fixing things yourself can save you money, teach you new skills and get things done quicker than trying to find a specialist to do it for you.

Fixing things yourself typically saves you time as well as money. Booking a repair for something trivial like, for example, a wonky cabinet door, isn’t immediate. If you have the tools to hand, the door can be fixed in little more than the time it would have taken you to find and book a repair.

This works in more circumstances than you think.

An Example

My tenants ripped the door handle off the washing machine in my rental apartment. I blame the manufacturer of the machine – the construction of the handle deceives you into believing it needs to be yanked hard, when it’s actually pretty delicate. It’s not surprising the handle broke.

I looked at it and decided I didn’t understand how it worked and I had no idea where to get the part. I paid a fortune for someone to come over from the manufacturer.

As he got to work, I sat on the edge of the kitchen table and watched. By the time he’d finished, perhaps 15 minutes later, I was pretty annoyed with myself.

Nothing he’d done was sophisticated, technical or required special tools. In the time he’d taken to fix it I’d found the part I needed online for a very small fraction of the cost I’d paid his employer to replace it. Most stupidly of all, since their insurance requires that I be in the apartment with them at all times, I’d lost the time it took to repair the thing anyway!

And the skills? That’s what YouTube is for.

How much did he cost? On a per-hour basis, given that he took 15 minutes to fix the part… £600 per hour. £150 for the repair.

Lesson Learned

The next time an opportunity like this came along, I was ready.

My Sony noise-cancelling headphones that I’ve had for years and years were damaged. The foam padding on one side had torn and was falling apart.

I like these headphones. Perhaps they’re not the trendy brand that was recently bought by some private equity company. Perhaps they’re not the ultimate in high-fidelity noise reproduction. I know they’re not bluetooth-enabled, and you can get the equivalent much cheaper now since prices have fallen so far. Despite all this, they’re excellent, I can wear them for hours and I can barely hear the infant screaming 3 rows back. These headphones and I have travelled. We’ve become close.

The Sony website indicates that this is not a repair they do, and their customer service wants to know: Would I like to buy another pair of £100 headphones?

Hell no.

The replacement pads I found were on Amazon, you can see by clicking here (Amazon links are affiliate links), and they cost less than £15. They arrived in 2 days, took 15 minutes to fit and feel as good as the originals.

Decide to fix things yourself

The first step to taking advantage of these considerable savings is understanding that repairing small items is no specialist undertaking. You can do it yourself if you can follow simple instructions.

Second, you need to decide that this will be your standard response to something breaking from now on. That makes it worthwhile investing in the small sets of tools you’ll need as things break. They’re much more cost-effective if you use them more than once!

The next time a seam comes undone on a piece of clothing. When a cable frays. When your windows won’t shut properly, or you need to change the barrel of the lock on your front door. The next time a chair needs fixing or a stuffed toy needs restuffing. When your shoes are damaged or your bicycle needs a new wheel. In all of these situations – check how much it’ll cost you in time and money to do it yourself, and then… do it yourself.