HandyMan: How DIY Saved Our Budget

HandyMan: How DIY Saved Our Budget

The modern philosophy is consumption: buy new, throw out when it doesn’t work, and buy again. Companies have picked up on this, and now the products are being designed with this in mind. It’s a lonely world for a handyman.

But I’ve made it a point to change that philosophy in my own home. And through a couple key changes in my own philosophies, I’ve been able to better embody the handyman philosophy.

And it’s saved us THOUSANDS of dollars.

CandyMan vs. HandyMan

My iPhone is almost two years old. You know what that means! It’s about time for Verizon to let me get a new one with minimal cost out of pocket!

But why?

The easy answer is simply that’s it’s new. But the truth is that, even in its shiny newness, I’m not gaining any great advantage from upgrading at this point.

It’s like going to a candy store: you see something that looks amazing, drop the money on the counter, and consume. Sadly enough, the current trend goes far beyond what is traditionally considered “consumable” products. We now do this with our phones, our computers, our appliances, our clothing. You name it, we consume it.

But what if we were to radically change our perspective? What if we decided to fix things instead of replace things? What does being a handyman—instead of running to the “candy man”—mean for our homes and families?

The Making of a HandyMan

When Jenn and I first got married, I couldn’t put anything together without much difficulty, damage, or profanity. Today, I welcome new challenges with power tools and appliances. How did this change?

1. I Got Pushed Into It.

If it weren’t for my in-laws, I doubt I would have gotten very far. My dad (an incredible man in many ways) was the guy who misread the directions to our wooden fort kit and ended up building it twice as big as it should have been. He discovered this when he had to make a second trip to the lumber yard in order to build the other half of the thing.

Coolest playfort in the neighborhood, but an absolute mess of a process.

But my in-laws are handy people, and they spent much of their time before I met them remodeling homes, installing carpet, and repairing appliances. This meant that my first introduction into the handyman lifestyle was more or less shoved onto me.

But what I learned was that a little bit of support goes a long way. After a little guidance with a compound miter saw (!!!), I was in charge of all the trim work in a remodeling project. ALL. OF. THE. TRIMWORK.

I couldn’t put a flat-pack clothes hamper together, but I was the guy that handled miter joints, angled cutting, and quarter-inch trim perfection.

That boost of confidence was huge.

2. I Tried. Again and Again.

It’s easy to give up when you make mistakes. A handyman, though, learns from mistakes rather than making excuses for them. I screwed up some lumber projects, I messed up some repair jobs, and I definitely broke a few things worse than they were already broken.

But I didn’t stop. I went back to it, examined my mistakes, and improved my methods for the next time. So when I struggled getting a measurement correct for replacing our old wood deck boards with permanent decking, I didn’t give up and hand the job to a professional. I got another board, remeasured, and got back to business.

The result was that I saved our family more than 50 percent of the cost of having a professional do the project. And that is huge.

3. I Found Experts and Got Advice.

If you have a plumber in your family, that is handyman gold. Any tradesperson that can give you years of advice on some of the more mysterious elements of your home’s inner workings will save you incredible amounts of money.

Three years ago our garbage disposal started leaking. Not a drip, mind you: a full-out gusher. It had busted after six years of use. I had a choice to make: call in a plumber or figure it out on my own.

But water is hard to mess with, and it’s easy to make a big mess out of a little problem if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, knowing my wife’s uncle, Troy, was a plumber, I called him to get advice on the project. Simple questions, like: “Is this a DIY project, or should I ask someone to help?” “Can I get this done in a night without any assistance?” “What things should I get to make the job go well?”

Troy made it perfectly clear that I was more than capable of this job, as long as I had the right tools and a few simple supplies. It was a good thing I called him, though. I ended up being able to replace the sink baskets at the same time, giving the sink a fresh look while also replacing the disposal. 

Good thing I learned that skill. Less than a year later, I got a piping cap from a frosting kit stuck in the disposal by accident and had to do the whole thing over again!

The second time was much easier, if you were wondering.

4. I Looked to Other Resources.

The Internet is the handyman’s best friend. Seriously. If you can fix it, there’s a tutorial on how to do it. Even my auto mechanic friends swear by it.

Take for example the day I needed to replace a headlamp bulb in our GMC Acadia. I could have gone to a shop, spent $200+ on parts and labor, and wasted three hours of my life (the process I took with our old car a few years prior). I decided that I would try to cut costs and look on YouTube instead.

What I found was one of the easiest repairs imaginable. Acadias, as I came to find out, had literally won awards for the convenience of their headlamp bulb replacement system. All I had to do was turn the wheel on the replacement side towards the engine, pop a couple screws, and find the old bulb. With a little light, the first side was done in about 45 minutes. The second side (since you might as well replace both bulbs at the same time for balance) took all of 15 minutes.

I spent $50 on new bulbs and a little over an hour getting everything done. And it all happened in my own garage. That’s the handyman dream.

5. I Got Brave.

Once your confidence starts building, nothing seems entirely impossible. I started researching our appliances, started replacing parts and components when possible, and rebuilding things when they broke. And it was beginning to feel natural.

I was no longer afraid of being handy.

If I couldn’t figure it out by simply looking at it and applying my knowledge, I went to the Internet to search out forums, known problems, find tutorials, and gain any tips necessary to complete the jobs.

When it was a job bigger than I should be handling (furnace issues, stove and oven problems, electrical issues), I knew right away when the tradespeople needed to be contacted.

But even then, I wasn’t giving up without at least a close look.

I have now managed to replace two kitchen faucets, repair a broken water dispenser on the fridge, replace a hang-mounted microwave (in my own and my family’s home), install a new exterior light on our garage, and replace and repair trim around our home. Honestly, I’m alright with trying about anything once, if not twice or more.

And if I started totalling up the savings we’ve made since honing my handyman skills, I couldn’t have imagined that I would have saved more than $10,000 in the nine years we’ve lived in our home. That’s $10,000 spent on little things, not on big renovations or repairs, just little things.

Get Started

So get out there and start learning. Ask your friends, ask professionals, and seek out knowledge. Gain that confidence. Once you start, you’ll never want to turn back. And your monthly budget will look way better. Trust me.

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