Monday, October 29, 2012

Man, I'm Broke Monday: Keep it, Repair it

Because we find ourselves tight on cash these days and I'm sure we're not alone, I thought I'd start a series called "Man, I'm Broke Monday".  I might post it weekly, or maybe I'll forget all about this plan after a month, but I thought I'd share what we do to save money or stretch our dollar.

Today I'm going to show you a frightening photograph.  Seems fitting with Halloween coming up to scare the pants off of you (thankfully, since you're safely behind the computer screen or phone, I won't have to witness you pant-less, although now I have an image burned into my brain of your Tweety bird undies).

Washer is the near the stairs, dryer 20 feet away, because that's totally logical.

I know.  Gasp-worthy.  Heart-attack-inducing. Those appliances are so old. And so ugly! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

But let me tell you why I chose to shock you: it has saved us a lot of money to keep these older appliances.  My father gave me this washer a few years ago--it is nigh unto twenty years old and has a huge capacity.  The dryer was "Free with Purchase". That is, when we bought the house, we found the dryer down here. We  needed it, too, since this house is rigged for a gas dryer, and our old one was electric.

The fact the appliances were free to us is not really my point.  What's great about them is that we can repair them. By "we", I mean Ryan.  In fact, you should know that the Great Washer Repair of 2008 sealed the deal between me and my (then soon-to-be) husband.  He took a day off from work a few weeks after we met and replaced the thingamajig that makes the washer spin.  Part cost was less than $20.  The devotion and respect he earned was priceless.

Since that time four years ago, Ryan has also rigged the lid sensor (see photo below of the bread bag tie he used) and replaced the belt on the dryer when it stopped tumbling (about six months ago).  

Ryan will answer to MacGyver.
Ryan insists this work is not overly complicated and that anyone could do it, even a lazy redhead.  There are internet forums and websites where you can find information on DIY repairs.


The next time you're looking at your old appliances thinking, "Why can't I get one of those nifty frontloaders that cost $1000/each? Oh yeah, because my wallet is empty and I'd rather not go on the five year payment plan at Nebraska Furniture Mart," just remember that you might have something you can repair yourself at a fraction of the cost of a new model.  Keep what you have until it just won't go anymore rather than trashing a perfectly good appliance.

Another option is that when your 25 year old Kenmore kicks the bucket, you could try to get a used or refurbished older replacement (on Craigslist, perhaps?), which can tide you over until your financial picture improves or you just can't drown out the call of a royal blue front-loader that promises you'll lose weight and save time if you buy it (It also will chaperone your daughter's dates and make an awesome lemon souffle, which you can't eat since you're on a diet).  Newer models are much harder to repair, especially those with complex electronic systems.  I have a friend who has a swankier washer, and within two years of purchase, she had to replace the motherboard.  She and her husband are handier than most people and quite technologically inclined...I'm not sure if most people on the street could replicate their work as easily.

Above all else, don't get caught in the trap of believing you need to spend a fortune on a new thing that claims to save money and the environment (in this case, water usage).  I know this is hard for some.  I've battled my desire to have things that don't waste water and other precious resources.  But the energy savings are not substantial enough to justify our going into debt or spending beyond our means.** If you love Sarah Richardson but have the budget of the typical working Joe, spray paint your existing model and make believe you have your own Tommy sidekick making witty comments while pointing out this awesome 9.99/yard fabric.  Of course, I've *never* spray painted appliances...

Anyway, I hope our set lasts forever. I know it won't, but I think we'll have gotten our money's worth.

**The claim is that the HE washers can save you about $60/year in energy costs.  I'm all for savings, but if you're struggling, should you buy a new $$ appliance for 60 bucks a year in savings?  For me, the answer is obviously NO.  It can wait for now.


  1. Starr…..hooray!! I love this post. Don't spend what you don't have, and don't go into debt to "save" money - I wish I could go back in time and put those sentiments into practice. We've been slowly getting rid of debt for the past few years and I'm come around to the mindset that we our big old tv is perfectly fine until it no longer turns on….kudos to you for being practical!!

  2. yes! we're now famous (or is that infamous?), we have the fancy washer... and i love it... and it replaced the 30+ year old machine (gotten from my mom - it was purchased new with her house that was built the year i was born) - that was pouring water onto our basement floor and weighed more than a 10x10 cube full of hardcover books or a large refrigerator or a smart car...

    also love the tip about craigslist... served us well in the dishwasher department.

    now if only the jeep would stop SUCKING MONEY THROUGH A STRAW SUCCESSFULLY! (shh, don't tell the other half i said that, although he likely agrees)


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