The Upside of Trying Your Own Repairs

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A few years ago, our daughter received a stuffed animal as a Christmas gift. This animal had a noisemaking mechanism that was activated by a small sensor in one of the animal’s paws.

Anyway, a few days after Christmas, the animal stopped making noise. This rather distressed our daughter, as she had become rather attached to the animal.

We told her that it was simply broken, but she was still very upset.

So, after she fell asleep that night, Sarah and I retrieved the stuffed animal. We removed the wiring from the inside, looked it over, found the loose connection, and resoldered the wiring. It worked! We reassembled it and stuck it back in our daughter’s bed.

The next morning, the little girl was thrilled that her doll had found its voice again.

There was essentially no downside to trying this. I could not have made the situation worse in any realistic way by trying to repair the stuffed animal.

Not too long ago, the toilet in our bathroom failed. The entire flushing mechanism stopped working, causing the water to endlessly run.

I could have called the plumber, but instead I went in there and had a look myself. The first thing I did was turn off the water connected to the toilet to stop the water flow. Then, I opened the tank and just drained all of the water out, sopping the little bit that remained up with a towel.

At that point, I realized I wasn’t going to actually soak anything if I gave it a shot, so I watched a few plumbing videos on Youtube, found a couple of tools in the garage, and was able to figure out that one piece was broken. I took it to the hardware store, bought an exact duplicate for $2, went home, installed the replacement piece, and put everything back together.

I turned the water back on and watched very carefully. The tank filled up. No draining. I flushed the toilet. It worked perfectly.

Again, once the water was turned off, there was essentially no downside to trying the repair myself. I was not going to damage anything too severely and the toilet’s innards weren’t functioning correctly anyway. I couldn’t flood the room. I couldn’t damage something that was already broken. There was no reason not to give it a shot.

In both cases, I could have just thrown cash at the problem. I could have purchased a replacement stuffed animal for my daughter. I could have just called a plumber.

In both cases, I recognized that there was basically no downside to trying it myself. The stuffed animal wasn’t talking anyway, so I couldn’t possibly make that worse. There was no water going to the toilet, so I wasn’t in danger of flooding the bathroom, and the toilet’s mechanism was already not working.

In both cases, I succeeded in fixing the problem. My daughter’s stuffed animal works to this day, as does the toilet.

In both cases, the money I could have thrown at the problem remained in my pocket. That’s a frugal victory.

If something goes wrong in your home, there’s usually not much downside to trying to repair it yourself. It’s already broken – usually, you can’t make it worse than it already is. All you can do is either succeed in the repair or leave it in the non-functional state it’s in.

In other words, most of the time, trying a repair, even if you’re unsure about it, has lots of upside and very little downside. It can save you quite a bit of money. Even if it doesn’t work, you’re still in the situation you were in before – calling for outside help.

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