Fix It or Trash It? When to Toss or Keep Your Appliances, Electronics, and More

We’ve become a throwaway society: something isn’t working right and our first instinct is to replace it altogether.

But, there are a lot of things around the house that could be repaired just as easily — and for a lot less money.

That’s why we still have the “temporary” dining room table my parents gave us when we moved in here 10 years ago. Instead of replacing the entire set when the chairs began falling apart, we have made a few minor adjustments.

First, we upholstered the dying chairs. We finally did replace the chairs when the base began to fall apart, but we have kept the perfectly functional table. We just started using a tablecloth to hide the imperfections on the tabletop. (Bonus: update your kitchen with an inexpensive linen purchase.)

The decision to repair or replace depends on several factors — your personal finances at the time, the difficulty level or cost of a repair, the age of the item, and how often you actually use it in the first place.

If money is tight, I’m more likely to fix it myself. If the repair costs almost as much as a replacement, I’m going to just get a new one. And, if it’s not something I use often in the first place, I’ll either make do or get rid of it altogether.

Here are a few tips for the broken stuff in your house:

  • Furniture 1 of 8
    If the structure of your furniture is still intact, you can probably make minor repairs to bring it back up to par. Reupholster a couch, repaint a chair, cover a table — it's inexpensive and fairly easy to do yourself. Consider the cost of a minor repair on a high-quality piece of furniture compared to what you would spend on replacing lower-quality pieces more often — usually it's better to do the repair!
    Photo and tutorial right here on The New Home Ec
  • Laptops 2 of 8
    Back in the day, desktop computers were fairly simple — and cost-effective — to repair, but now that most people are on laptops, it gets a little more challenging. It depends on the brand — it's much easier on the wallet to make a $200 to 300 screen repair or hardware upgrade on your $1,500 MacBook, though you may find it makes more sense to retire an older laptop instead of shelling out for repairs. It is often less expensive to buy a low-end model than to have yours repaired. If you are good with computers, though, home repairs will save you money and can extend the life of your computer.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user computermonger
  • Cracked iPhone 3 of 8
    Cracked iPhone
    This is one that people think instantly means you need a new phone — but it's just not true. We actually replaced this cracked iPhone before I learned that the DIY was not as difficult as we thought. A replacement screen costs less than $30, and you'll find several how-to videos on YouTube.
  • Broken Zipper 4 of 8
    Broken Zipper
    It's so frustrating when the zipper breaks on an otherwise perfectly good bag, purse, or your favorite pair of jeans. Luckily, you can fix it at home with a few simple tools. If you're feeling frustrated with at-home repairs, don't toss it yet! Try taking it to your dry cleaners or local leather repair shop and seeing how much it would cost to fix — it could be worth it for a classic purse or quality pair of jeans.
    Photo and tutorial via DIY Fashion
  • Shoes 5 of 8
    I have this amazing pair of purple shoes — silly or not, wearing them makes me feel strong and confident. Then, the heel snapped. The hubby replaced them for me, but it just wasn't the same. I love, love, love my new purple shoes. But, I was thrilled to find out that the cobbler in our city can repair the heel for just $10. You can also repair or recover canvas shoes that need a little love — I love this DIY Toms update!
    Find the tutorial on Handmade Homemaker
  • Water Heater 6 of 8
    Water Heater
    Our water heater went out several years ago. We hired a service company who told us both heating elements were bad and quoted $1,200 to replace it. We declined, hoping we could find a better deal and install it ourselves with my handy father-in-law. He suggested replacing the heating elements on our own — it cost $30 and lasted for 3 years. We just replaced the elements again for another $30, but even if we had to do that every year, it would take a very long time to be worth the cost of replacing a perfectly good tank entirely. Check with your handiest friend or family member with experience before shelling out for a major home repair like this one.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user dsix
  • Dishwasher 7 of 8
    We haven't had much luck with dishwasher repairs, but sometimes when it seems like the dishwasher is broken, it really just needs a good cleaning. Try cleaning the filter, spray arm, and float or replacing the inlet valve before calling a repairman or replacing the dishwasher. With proper maintenance, a dishwasher should last up to 10 years.
    Find the tutorial on Family Handyman
  • Dryer 8 of 8
    We have replaced belts, heating elements, and cleared the ducts of bird nests (true story) to get the dryer working again. Once the problems became electrical, we had to replace it altogether. That's just beyond our expertise, and the service charges were close to the cost of a new (to us) dryer. You can find a lot of decent appliance repair videos on YouTube, as well. When should you get a new dryer? According to AOL's Daily Finance, washers and dryers typically last 10 to 15 years, so if you're facing a significant repair on an old machine, consider the upgrade.
    Photo Credit: Flickr


Article Posted 4 years Ago

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