Having been in the business of frugal for quite a while now, I think I take a few things for granted. There are habits that I’ve built over the years that I don’t think twice about. Some are good, some are definitely bad (monetarily speaking).
The bad ones I continue to work on month after month (food budget, miscellaneous expenses). The good ones seem to go on cruise control, but they are really they key to building a frugal lifestyle. One of those habits is looking at the world a little differently than most.
Where others see broken, I see value.
That Time With The Fridge
I’ve told everyone about The Buy Nothing Project, and if you’re not connected to a group yet, I HIGHLY SUGGEST you get on it! We recently found a REALLY NICE refrigerator on our local Buy Nothing group being given away ($2,000 MSRP). Intrigued, Michelle clicked thru to see what was wrong with it. The lady mentioned that the fridge wouldn’t get cold enough and has ruined her food several times in the past few months, and they were just done with it. Half-joking, Michelle tagged me in the post and said “Hey Jake, you think you could fix it?”
I jumped on, saw it was a sweet Samsung French-door stainless fridge and said “heck yeah!” There were about 50 others wanting the fridge as well, but apparently my name was drawn and I had a fridge to pick up (uh oh!). After a lengthy, somewhat tumultuous pick up, we had an awesome, broken fridge in our garage.
Broken Doesn’t Mean Broken
Over the years, I have developed a knack for fixing things, mostly out of necessity. When we first got married, we lived on $14 an hour, and we didn’t have the luxury of throwing something away. I quickly learned how to work on cars (thank you to my BIL and youtube.com) because both our cars had over 200,000 miles. Once we bought a house, I quickly learned how to replace a water heater (see the second post on my site EVER), fix and replace a dishwasher, fix a dryer, and continue keeping our (now 300,000+ mile) car running.
Because I just started doing these things, repairs and installations got easier. Life got less stressful (knowing how to fix things takes the worry out of something breaking). And I started looking at the world a bit differently. I started seeing “broken” things as opportunities to save a TON of money, and gain a LOT of value.
When Michelle and I would shop for things, we would start looking for furniture, appliances, and cars with issues. We knew the stress of that thing being broken would force the price WAY below its current value, and if we were up to the task of fixing it, we’d jump in a get a great deal. We understood something that most sellers didn’t,
We understood that Broken Doesn’t Mean Broken.
The Fridge Was Still Broken
We were excited to finally own a really nice appliance, but it was still BROKEN. So what did I do? What I always do, of course. I looked up YouTube videos on how to fix it. 🙂
There were a lot of different videos about refrigerators not cooling off, but one matched our symptoms (freezer works, but fridge not cooling). They mentioned the defrost system for the fridge may not be working if there was ice buildup on the back wall (and there was). The ice was blocking the cold air coming in for the freezer to cool down the fridge. So I had to fix either the thermostat (thing telling the fridge when to turn on defrost) or the defrost coil itself (the thing that melts the ice). I found a manual online that told me how to test the defrost coil, so I did and was able to see if melting the ice, so I knew it was working. So I figured it was the thermostat and bought one for $14.
I installed a new thermostat and turned on the fridge for a couple of weeks. No issues. I checked around the coil, no ice. BOOM!
I now have a running $2,000 refrigerator for $14.
When Someone Says Broken, You Should Think Value!
I’m not saying all of this to somehow show that I’m awesome, but to show that starting to build a habit of seeing broken things as fixable, you can save a LOT of money. I’m talking thousands and thousands per year! I recommend starting small.
Maybe you want to buy all new furniture because the little felt thing on the bottom of your dining chair fell off… I would say you should step away from the Pottery Barn, head to home Depot and grab yourself a 4-pack of felt glides for $2. BOOM! Just saved you $5000!
Or maybe your dryer takes too long, and you keep staring at the red washer/dryer combo. Those colors would look great in your laundry room, not to mention all those cool buttons and….
How about you just clean out the dryer vent and heck, just follow these instructions on cleaning out the dryer itself. DONE! Just saved another $2,000!
Isn’t this fun?
Now time to find something that’s broken and GET IT!
Find something that just “doesn’t work”, and someone if either selling for almost nothing, or giving it away. Make sure it’s something you were going to get anyways, and do a little research one common issue and repairs for it. Then find one you think you can fix, and GO FOR IT!
Value = More Money In Your Pocket
The bottom line of this exercise is to build habits that will allow you to fix and keep “broken” things much longer, getting more value out of them. And this value means keeping more money in your pocket which will allow you to hit your goals quicker! AND THAT’S A WIN-WIN!
In the near future, I’ll be diving more into how our refrigerator sparked an idea of updating our kitchen slightly, which turned into a full-blown remodel of EVERYTHING in the kitchen!
And we are doing it for under $4,000. STAY TUNED!