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Fix, Repair, or Replace? DIY Ways to Save the Most Money

When your grandparents had their first television set, the TV repairman would be called if Lucy and Desi looked fuzzy or some other malfunction occurred. The television was a respected piece of furniture. In today’s throwaway world, it is often inconvenient to repair something. Finding a reputable, affordable fix-it person is tricky.

Take Care of Your Belongings
Follow the instructions that come with any purchase, including set-up, storage, and routine maintenance, and most items will last a long time. That’s especially true with your car. Whether driving a new or used vehicle, be sure to read that boring thick book in the glove box that lists preventative maintenance schedules; follow it impeccably, especially if you live in an area with extreme weather or dust. Oil changes every 3,000 miles (or quarterly) are generally recommended. Use the oil suggested for your auto make and model. Rotate and balance tires as suggested and they’ll serve you well for many miles, and check pressure monthly. Top off fluids and lubricate door hinges, especially when seasons change. Keep a small bottle of touch-up paint, usually less than $10, for that occasional parking lot dent on the car door. Make your car outlast your car loan.

With many of your electronic devices, check connections and change batteries frequently. These incredibly quick and easy procedures extend the life of even simple items like flashlights and smoke detectors.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be handy, a set of basic tools can be bought for less than $50. Everyone should own a screwdriver (both Flat Head and Philips), a claw hammer, a wrench and a pair of pliers. Even if you rent an apartment, some minor tasks can be done much quicker if you do them, than if you wait for the landlord. It’s also a good idea to keep some tools in your car.

Minor repairs on clothing can be done with ease, even if you insist that you are all thumbs. You should own a few sewing needles and thread in black, white, and some basic colors. You can sew a button or do cosmetic changes to a stressed seam or hem in minutes.

Can Extended Warranties Save You Money?
Experts and consumer magazines unanimously agree that extended service warranties are seldom cost effective. This is especially true if you take good care of your things. But, if you get talked into buying a warranty, be sure to read the fine print and see what is covered and for how many days, months or years. Occasionally, labor and parts for the same type of repair will have different time coverage.

Going Green or Saving Greenbacks?
Going green can often conflict with keeping more greenbacks in your wallet. This is where you’ll need to sort through your priorities. Salvaging and fixing broken items, though good for the earth, is sometimes costlier than discarding and replacing them.

To Fix or Not to Fix?
In the early 1980s, the IBM 8080 (a versatile PC for its day) could be purchased for a mere $3000. Replacing non-functional components was the only affordable option. But, unlike automobiles and most other consumer items, electronic devices continue to drop in price.

Take the case of Amber, usually a very careful student, who tripped on the cord of her laptop. The computer dropped and the screen looked like something Picasso might have painted. She explored her options thoroughly. She had bought the computer last year for only $500. She knew she could buy a new one for about the same price. Labor and parts to put in a new screen would cost about $300. Or she could buy a monitor for approximately $100 and give up the portability of having a laptop. But then she remembered her friend who tinkers with computers. He offered to put in a new $140 screen as a favor, if she paid the$140. Amber definitely plans on returning that favor soon.

So, in determining the real cost to you, diagnosis, labor and parts must be calculated. Depending on what is broken the diagnosis might be free, or might obvious to you, as in the case of Amber’s laptop computer screen.

There is no clear cut answer to what plan of action to take when one of your essential belongings is broken. The bottom line: take your time and look at the big picture. Each situation will be different but learning how to make minor repairs yourself will definitely come in handy in the long run.

By Debra Karplus for YoungMoney