First Person: Trimming My Home Improvement Costs

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There are many costs involved in home ownership. However, most of these expenses are known factors. You typically know how much you will be paying in property taxes each year (or at least have a general idea). You know how much your homeowner’s insurance premium will cost. You know how much your mortgage payment will be each month. After a couple of years, you will likely have a pretty good idea of what your utility costs will be as well.

It’s those sneaky home improvement costs that can catch you off guard — the back awning cover that rips, the sump pump that breaks, the toilet that keeps running, the cracked tiles in the kitchen or bathroom, the back screen door that just won’t stay latched, and all those other unexpected issues that crop up around the house — the cost and labor that you aren’t planning on but must be covered nonetheless.

While I’m no mechanical genius, I have discovered certain ways of reducing my repair expenses around the home.

Keeping an Eye out for Tools

It seems like no matter what tools I buy for a particular job or purpose, the next home improvement project calls for something other than what I have. And as most of us who have ever had to go out to the hardware or home supply store know, tools can be expensive!

In order to keep my tool costs down, I’ve found that searching for tools at garage sales — and especially at moving sales — can be a great way to find a variety of tools, often at super low prices. I also tend to keep an eye open when I’m visiting at friends’ and family members’ homes in an effort to build an inventory of tools that I don’t yet have. Not only does this help me pinpoint items that might be missing from my inventory, but this way I know who has what when it comes time for a job, and we can do a little trade out or I can borrow something to complete my work.

DIY vs. DI…Don’t

Throughout the years, I’ve learned what projects I should take on and where. With exception to my father, the majority of my close family has never been great at repair work — and that includes me. We can handle minor projects, but when it comes to major renovations and repairs, it is best left to the professionals. Otherwise it seems we make things worse than they actually are.

Fixing a leaky toilet, patching the driveway or a concrete crack, re-caulking the backsplash or tub, painting a room, puttying a wall crack, fixing a dripping sink, installing a new wall outlet, and similar, less detailed work are the types of jobs that are easily handled by people like me. When it comes to more in-depth work, I know my place, and while this might cost me money in the short term, it likely saves me time, money and frustration due to not knowing what they heck I’m doing and screwing things up worse than they were before I started.

Finding a Trustworthy Contractor

Knowing my home improvement limits means that I am forced to rely upon a trustworthy contractor or repair person for major home repairs. I know it’s often hard to pair those two words — “trustworthy” and “contractor” in the same sentence. However, doing your best to find someone who you can at least rely upon in a scrape and who you know won’t take advantage of you too badly can be great for peace of mind, not to mention cutting costs.

In my experience, I found a great guy by way of the Realtor who helped us buy our house. He’s up front about costs and explains timeframes and the processes involved. Best of all, if my request is one I could handle myself, he tells me so, and gives me a quick rundown of how best to tackle the problem. Then I slip him a few bucks for the advice and handle the issue myself, which often saves me money and teaches me something in the process.

I’ve learned that even when I hire someone to do the job for me, that by watching how and what they do to fix the issue, as well as by asking questions along the way, it can teach me valuable repair skills; skills that might result in my being able to handle the problem myself should it arise in the future, saving me more money on home improvement costs.

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Disclaimer: The author is not a licensed financial or home repair professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or home repair advice. For financial advice, readers should consult a licensed financial advisor. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is at the reader’s discretion.