Has it ever happened to you that you are about to come out of a month victorious, with no one unexpected expense in the budget and BAM! There it goes! The muffler starts making sounds. You don’t even want to take it to the shop because you know you will not come out of there without spending less than $350; being conservative.
You know how it goes. You take the car in, they tell you they’ll check what’s wrong and let you know in a few. Meanwhile you are in the waiting room mortified, invoking any higher being to intervene on how much the repair is going to cost.
The verdict: Yes, the muffler needs to be replaced but also the catalytic converter is about to go and there is a funky noise coming out of a bearing, which they highly recommend to replace. Now your previous guess of maybe $350 has rapidly faded away and morphed into$700. From that point on, there is no holding back for a big F@#$!!!!! Why me?
In your mind there is always that lingering idea of “I wish I could just fix this myself?” But right away the same thought links to another automatic thought of “I’m not handy. I have no idea how to do it.”
Ok. Take it from someone that has been bestowed with the handyman title. Nobody is born handy. I wasn’t jumping my dad’s car when I was five, ten or twelve. I never fixed anything until I had no option and I was in desperate need to do it. And even until today I would say I am not necessarily handy but money driven. There are some things that now I have done them so many times, that yes, I can say they come easy. But more often than not I am trying to fix something for the first time and struggling.
How do you become handy? Well, I tell you a quick story that became my Handy 101 crash-course. I used to have a 1964 Land Rover Defender. It was all I could afford back then in the late 90’s. I loved that car, but the engine was in such bad shape that it required a liter or liter and a half of oil per week. Whenever I put my foot on the gas it was like a octopus escaping its predator; a curtain of black smoke would cover my path.
The time came when it overheated and the engine seized without ever turning again. I did not have the money to fix it; what seems like it has become the common denominator of my life. Maybe, and only maybe I thought I could afford to buy the parts.
Close to where I lived there was an area where mechanics would gather and work on the street for a more affordable price than a regular shop. They had taken over a corner where they always showed up and would fix any car brought to them. It was significantly cheaper, but still expensive for someone in his early 20’s.
It occurred to me that the difficult part of the job was to re-assemble everything. In my mind that’s what required the skills. After all, unscrewing bolts anybody can do right? I knew enough about mechanics to remember “righty tighty, lefty loosy.” So, I figured, if I can convince any mechanic to put the engine back together for me, I should be able to get the job done for half the price if I can take it apart myself. After all, I thought, all I have to do is wherever I see a bolt or screw I would just get it out. “Fair enough,” I said. Talked to one guy and he agreed. I got myself a deal!
Hours later I was going at it. Learning along the way what seemed to be the fuel pump, starter, valves, timing chain, etc. After being covered in grease for about a week I got it all out. Looking at the gallery of metal and greasy pieces all around my family’s condo I was ready to move on to the next step, as I was supposed to; but another idea came to me. ” Taking the engine apart wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” I could remember exactly how everything was supposed to go together. I knew the sequential order of the whole engine. I thought I could put it back together.
What happened next? I was opening new parts, taking some of the parts to be bored and properly sized, and in about two more weeks the car was running. I had a few difficulties along the way due to the fact that it was a British car and I was following a manual for American cars; the timing chain set up was different. But with a bit of extra help the car was running in no time. You can’t imagine my sense of accomplishment! I was elated!
From that experience, I realized that with a little bit of patience and willingness to problem solve situations the possibilities for savings are endless.
You don’t have to be handy. You must be just willing to do what it takes. Especially in this day in age we live in, all it takes is your cell phone to find information about fixing anything you want.
I have fixed dryers using YouTube; that was a one time deal. I had not a clue.
Our AC broke last year; I swapped the motor and capacitor for less than $100. I had no clue what the capacitor was and I still, quite frankly, don’t know. I had to ask my neighbor to help me with the wiring and watch several videos. I had no clue. It was my first time.
I regularly do our brakes. The first time was a whole day nightmare. Now it takes me about an hour per wheel.
I have replaced our mufflers a couple of times for less than $100, using Rockauto.com- awesome prices and delivered to my door.
Fences, painting, table building, boat building, furniture making, and the list goes on.
Please, dont think I am bragging. I simply want to share my take on this idea of being handy because I know how much unexpected repairs cost, and how much you can save if you are willing to try fixing some things. I know how it feels when you have a budget and these unexpected expenses come after you like raging zombies and you have no defense.
I actually don’t think that we could have afforded our current financial situation if it wasn’t for that “handy-ness” or will to give it a try solving all these unexpected repairs. It can be frustrating, and I would be the first one to say that nothing is easy; there is always the broken bolt or stuck piece that will make you get very creative with your vocabulary, but it is possible. If other people can fix things, so can you. You can also be handy.
7 things to become handy and start saving thousands of dollars!!
Dare to try
Make sure that you are safe at all times. Getting under cars or dealing with electricity ( My weak link) can be dangerous. Make sure you are using all the necessary precautions. With that said, do your due research and give it a go.
The web got your back
In these days you can find a tutorial for absolutely anything. Do your research before you tackle the job. It will make your life easier. By the time you decide to face the beast you know exactly what weapons you will need.
Be patient with yourself
It will require more time than what it takes a professional to do the job but the more you do it the easier it will get. Don’t despair. You may need a break, coffee and words of self-encouragement before going at it again. Your grit will be tested to its limit sometimes, but there is an end to it and if you persevere you will win.
By helping others you get a chance to learn new skills and even make mistakes. There is no learning if there are not failures along the way. Plus, your friends, neighbors and family members will love you. With that said, if you are getting into unknown territory be clear and let people know that you are willing to try but you do not want to be responsible if something doesn’t go as planned; it’s up to them. Don’t bite more than you can chew.
Don’t spend a fortune on tools
Remember you are trying to save money. Don’t go crazy spending thousands of dollars to save few bucks. When it is a job that becomes a routine every so often it may justify spending few extra dollars buying a tool that will make the job easier; otherwise it’s not worth it. Don’ t buy a car lift for a one time job.
Don’t forget you can buy like-new used tools for a fraction of their original cost; plus you will save yourself the sales tax. Apps like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist may be all you need to help you find the tool you need.
Don’t listen to the nay sayers
Like with everything else, there are always those people that won’t ever try to do anything and can’t conceive that others will . They will tell you all the possible bad things that can go wrong and have no hopes on you, themselves or anybody. They prefer paying whatever, and using their credit cards because they feel that by paying they are protected against any failure. They could not accept that if something goes wrong it’s their own damn fault.
I hope you find this helpful and encouraging to start saving some serious money.
Have you ever scored some great savings by fixing something at home? Would you mind sharing? What helped you or didn’t?
Good list! It’s true that you can learn just about everything online these days. I don’t mess with my car or significant electrical projects, but I’ve done just about every other house project. I enjoy it and it saves money – though definitely not time.
Small Budget Retiremet
Hey! Thangs for stopping by!
Time is always an issue especially with those things we don’t get to practice enough.
Oil changes now I can do under an hour for my two cars, for about $50 for two cars including best filter and oil.
Haircut: 20 minutes. Although the results when I started where no pretty.
Now I save about $40 plus gas between my son and I.
You are right. These are great times for savings thanks to the internet.
Good to see you here!
Great article. I like the angle you took – convincing others that they can fix their own stuff. That’s a huge opportunity that many people are not even considering. I’m glad you shared your experience coming from a non-handy background.
Small Budget Retiremet
Hey thanks for stopping by and the comment!
There is always a first time for anything, right?
Like you, my husband has fixed so many things using Youtube. He’s known for being great at diy. Whenever our friends or family ask him how to do something, he honestly says he doesn’t know and would just be searching for a Youtube:) And if that’s the case, they can probably give it a try on their own while he watches!
Small Budget Retiremet
Sounds like you guys are tapping into some big savings too. That’s awesome!
I agree with you. All it takes is trying.
Thanks for stopping by.