Flexing My DIY Muscles

Since I bought my first foreclosure and set about rehabbing the bathroom, living room and exterior of the house I’ve developed some serious do-it-yourself (DIY) skills.  These weren’t skills I brought to the table from the beginning.  I had to learn them out of necessity because it was how I was going to make my housing costs profitable in the long run.

Since that time I’ve leveraged those skill into a self-employment gig as well as being able to save money on a wide variety of services that in a former life I would have hired out.  Today I want to share with you a problem that occurred this week and how fixing it myself saved me money.

Remember when I told you about loving self-employment?  Well, Monday wasn’t a day I would have been motivated to write such an article.  Nope, this day was a little more challenging.  It was colder than I would prefer and not only would my truck not start while still on a jobsite, but my air compressor decided to stop working as well!  Never fear though, DIY man is here!


The Stoic at his day job.

Last summer I wrote a post outlining ways to maximize an emergency fund.  It wasn’t focused on how much should be in such a fund, it simply discussed five ways of getting the most out of those funds and number five was developing DIY skills.  When you know you can tackle certain problems on your own it gives you freedom to choose which way of handling a problem works best for you instead of being forced to rely on money to fix every problem.

I was able to get the truck started and stopped at a parts store to have them test the battery and alternator as I knew it was likely to be one of the two.  I was hoping it was the battery as that would be a quick fix, but I have to give credit to the Universe, at least she was being consistent today.  It was the alternator.

This is where you have a choice.  Do the repair yourself or take it to the shop and have a mechanic do it for you.  Can you guess which option I chose?

I’m not a mechanic and I’ve never changed out an alternator before, but I thought I was up to the task.  I made a couple of calls and was told that it wasn’t a hard fix.  Take out a few bolts, disconnect a few wires and BOOM! you’re done.  So I picked up the part which cost me $121.88 and spent an hour and fifteen minutes changing the parts.  My truck is running again, I saved money, added a new skill to my repertoire, and enjoyed a sense of satisfaction that comes with fixing problems yourself.

Out of curiosity I called a mechanic to see what the cost of having the repair done for me would be.  It would have cost $390.00.   I’m happy I kept that $268.12 in my own pocket instead of transferring it to someone else.

I’m not saying that every project should be done in-house, but so much of how we live our lives is outsourced to others.  Having DIY skills offers you a choice in how to deal with life’s problems and I would argue that there is a certain amount of value in having that choice vs. being locked in to one course of action, which is using money to fix all problems.

Which options is more appealing to you and why?


5 thoughts on “Flexing My DIY Muscles

  1. I am a big klutz when it comes to making things like a deck or a fence. However, repairs are a different story. if I can point to a part and see how it is unbolted or disconnected, I figure I can handle the repair. Like you, I would rather not spend the money. New battery? No problem. Head lights? Got em. Brakes…about my limit on car repair.

    I do like your thoughts on maximizing your emergency savings. Gaining skills that allow you to save money are a fantastic way to keep your savings healthy. My hat is off to you because you didn’t stop there. You turned your DIY skills into a money maker.

    • I definitely feel more at ease with carpentry stuff than mechanics, but I’m hoping to continue improving both sets of skills in the coming years.

      I think learning skills that give you the option of fixing things yourself certainly allows you to get much more out of each dollar you place into your emergency fund. I think we have allowed the division of labor to strip us of our belief in our abilities to tackle basic tasks. It has certainly served me well over the last couple of years and with the recent self-employment project, I’m hoping I get even more mileage out of these skill. 🙂

  2. $268.12 for an hour and fifteen minutes of work? Not bad at all! I do agree that DIY skills can help in many ways, and will save us a lot in the long run. Of course safety is an issue though, so I myself will probably not able to do that, knowing absolutely zero things about cars and parts. I do like the fact that you did your research and called up people to make sure before trying to tinkle with it yourself. Congrats on the new skill and the money saved!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Not everyone will be willing to tackle everything, including myself. However, I think we can all learn a little more about how things work in the world around us and become much more self-reliant in the process. For years I was horrible about just calling other people and paying them good money to take care of problems for me. Today, I try to limit that as much as possible.

      All the best

  3. Pingback: January: A Month of Automotive DIY | The Stoic Investor

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