This is a guest post from my friends and new bloggers Jack and Diane at Marriage in Debt who’ve decided it is time to get out of debt. And what better way to do it other than in the public?! Zany adventures are promised as they first work to get rid of over $78,000 of “traditional” debt (not including student loans or houses – those numbers are coming later). No gimmicks, no schemes, no inheritance, no lottery winnings here. Just plain hard work as a computer programmer and professional fundraiser figure this all out.
It was a crisp day on the street lined with homes filled with dozens of occupants attending the local university. Inside this one specific tall white beat-down house with the lopsided porch lived five guys. Nope, they didn’t start the hamburger chain (Jana’s note: though wouldn’t it be awesome if they did? Free fries for life!). They were all brilliant in school and studying engineering, accounting, geology, education, and mathematics (combined GPA of about 18.6). On this particular day, while also trying various methods to cure the hangover, they were gathered around the doorway to the laundry room. Quite simply, chicks don’t dig wet clothes and they were all too broke to call a professional. The math major was up to his elbows in parts and wires until the guys who studied finances, rocks, and actual mechanical engineering were satisfied the dryer was finally fixed. Confidentially the math major began to plug the new cord into the wall and then attempted to bolt it to the dryer. All stared in disbelief as a blazing bright blue arc of 220 volts shot from one of his hands to the other. There were no permanent damage (we think). It should also be noted that the washer had recently leaked and the math major was standing in this puddle of water. The engineer simply quipped, “cool!”
Ladies and gentleman, my confession at the moment is that I actually married the math major. (Jana’s note: I married someone who tried to do pyrotechnics with grain alcohol. I think Diane and I should get together and compare notes on what the hell we were thinking.)
The dryer incident was not the last of the near-death handyman incidents. I may have forgiven the great ceiling-fan-wire-melting-during-the-heat-wave-with-a-newborn-baby incident but certainly have not forgotten (obviously)! There has also been successful stories involving car alternators, oven doors, lawnmowers, and, of course, anything computer related.
My preference is to pick up the phone and call in an expert. But Jack likes to tinker with it first. Oddly enough, when the decision came to either hire a professional or attempt to fix on our own, the final verdict is almost always centered on the green paper bills.
Yep, it’s no secret that I refuse to call experts and, armed with whatever information I can pull off of the internet, I can fix ANYTHING! Do I have the tools, skills, knowledge, or any business tackling 90% of these projects? NO!
When looking at a project, you have to make the decision between DIY or hire the professionals. That has nothing to do with pride nor ego nor being-a-man bravado. This is about getting the job right that costs as little as possible.
- Research! The internet is a wonderful thing and can be used for more than just porn and fantasy football leagues. Surprised, right? Yeah, me too. Most vehicles have specific community boards where you can ask any question or search for any solution. Most appliances have self-help boards that include step-by-step instructions with pictures. Just put “How to..” into Google or Bing or Ask, and watch the knowledge come pouring onto your screen
- Take a quick stop at YouTube. Our Jeep lost all power to the driver’s side door. I kid you not, there was a video of a guy demonstrating how to find the broken wire and solder it back together on the same exact model with the same interior and exterior colors. It was uncanny that I peeked out the window. I have used YouTube to help install heating elements in dryers, patch sheetrock, and setup a garage door opener. It is amazing what is out there, and what people have recorded themselves fixing over the years. Be aware that they always make it seem easier on the screen than it is in real life.
- Consider your tools. If there is a mistake I always make, it’s that I do not have the right tools. I think I can get by with the tools I have rather than ponying up the dough for the right ones. And, each time, I end up doing more damage or spending three times as long finishing the project. Time is worth money too. Consider the investment in the right tools for this job that you will need to purchase.
- Duct tape and WD-40 work well in a pinch. When the back spoiler of our Trailblazer fell off on a family vacation, the always versatile duct tape held everything together until we got back home. And, when it turned out to be a $700 repair job, it held for a couple of months while we saved up the money. Our neighbors were super impressed with that car sitting in our driveway, but we paid $700 for the repair, not $700 plus 18% interest on a credit card.
- Utilize social media. We all have friends that have done these types of things before and can offer you some guidance. When our air conditioner unit fan stopped turning, we posted the problem on Facebook. Ten suggestions later telling us to “kick it” and ..that actually did work. So ignore all male impulses to NOT ASK and realize the end-goal is to get the project done right
- If you have friends or family that does this type of work professionally, utilize them. The best thing you can do is bribe them with some beer, have them show you how to do it, use their tools, and hopefully you can get the project down for the cost of parts only. And, the project is done right the first time.
- If after all of these options above you decide to call an expert, rely upon the above tools to find an expert to trust. A blind call from the yellow pages rarely worked out for us as that is how we found anti-politics guy, still-in-refrigeration-school guy, make-yourself-at-home guy, and sleeping-under-outdoor-running-spigot guy, and the I-swear-your-dog-did-it guy.
My attempts at DIY projects over the years has lead to some very interesting and entertaining stories among friends, especially the near-death ones involved large volts of electricity. But, I have learned a ton, become more confident along the way, and, more importantly, learned my limitations on what I can and cannot tackle.
Some of my buddies can tear down a car engine blindfolded or finish an entire basement with a single hammer. Other guys hire someone to paint a room or change a light bulb. If you are one that just jumps in feet first, do the research first to see if you are going to be over your head. Basically, put the porn down and do a little research. You may save yourself some big bucks with a little DIY knowledge.
Jana’s final thoughts: DIY is not for the faint of heart. It’s tough, it’s complicated and, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it can wind up costing you a ton of money in the end. Before giving DIY a try, follow Jack’s handy tips (see what I did there? Botched SNL reference. Yeah, I know. I’m hilarious) and determine if you really can pull off a DIY project or if you need to call a professional.