Do It Yourself – Save Some Money

The views and opinions expressed in Bob’s Blog are solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of the Office on Aging or its staff. Posted May 9, 2024 

Do rising prices upset you?  Do you worry because you’re on a fixed income and you’re quickly reaching the point where your expenses each month are going to exceed the money you have coming in?

You’re not alone. Many people are caught in this bind. Every month the cost of something else goes up and they have to give up something else to buy it.

One area where costs have risen dramatically is home repairs. Most of these are totally unexpected. When something breaks, the repair cost places a tremendous strain on a person’s budget.

This is not a problem for all. Some are naturally handy and can make a lot of repairs themselves.  Others cannot.

The Loser Sign Engraved in My Forehead

I personally always have been bad at making repairs. There are several reasons:

First, I have been impatient all of my life.  Over the years, I have gotten much better, but traces of it still remain. If something takes longer than I expect, I get upset at it. I beat myself up. Frequently, I hurry the work and do more damage.

Second, I have difficulty following directions. When I was much younger, I could put anything together if only two steps were required.  If there were 3 or more steps, I had major problems.

Just imagine how I felt when I couldn’t assemble toys for my young daughters. Their friends would ask them “What do you mean your dad assembled your doll houses only to have parts left over?” When those doll houses fell apart very quickly, my daughters cried.  Picture the Loser hand sign on my forehead. That was me alright.

As I grew older, I became more patient and much better at following directions. However, complicated assemblies are still not one of my strengths.

Google and YouTube – Life Savers

Google has been a life saver for me. I no longer had to buy a manual to guide me in building anything. I could look online and find out how to do what had to be done.

The steps listed are simple – written in basic English. Nothing complex. In addition, there frequently are one or more YouTube videos with people showing how to do it.  I can stop the video at each step, do what is required and then resume it I can continue to do that until I finish.

I also have never been good at car repairs. Even when the repairs were, I had to take my vehicle into a shop to have the work done.  Needless to say, it was always expensive. That frustrated me.

My Chevrolet Equinox and the Check Engine Light

I had a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox.  During the summer of 2022, my check engine light came on. Any time that light came on, it seemed something major was wrong and the repair would cost several hundred dollars.

This time when that light came on, I stopped at an auto parts store.  They have a small diagnostic tool which they can use to give you an idea of what the problem is. There is no cost to have a sales rep use the tool on a car.

He came out to my Equinox, plugged the diagnostic tool in and a code showed up. The code indicated a Camshaft Position Actuator Sensor was faulty.  That sounds like a big problem, doesn’t it?  That’s what I thought.

The next time I had an oil change, the service tech noted the check engine light was on.  He said it might be a faulty Camshaft Position Actuator but they would have to do more detailed testing to see if there was any other problem.  He estimated the repair cost would be several hundred dollars.

I asked him if I could delay having the repair done. He asked me several questions:

Did the engine run rough or stall repeatedly?

Did I notice a drop in gas mileage?

When I answered no to both of these, he said it would be ok to drive.  However, if either of these happened, I should have the problem repaired immediately.

My, Friend, Dan, Comes to the Rescue

In the spring of 2023, I decided it was time to get a new vehicle. The check engine light was still on.  I mentioned it to one of my friends, Dan, who has worked on cars his whole life.

He has done almost everything including rebuilding engines. Dan checked on Amazon and found 2 of these sensors sold together. One was an intake sensor and the other was an exhaust sensor.  The cost for both was about $25.

Dan had me order them.  When I received them, Dan replaced both of them in about 30 minutes.  The reason the cost was so high at a service center was in order to get to the sensors, several of the covers on top of the engine had to be taken off.  It took longer to take those off than to replace the sensors themselves.

Easy DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

While most car repairs are challenging and most people may not have a friend like Dan who can help out with them, there are many things around the home anyone can do. They don’t need a handyman to do these. Better yet, they can save quite a bit of money.

Most of the time, they can find the steps to make the repairs on Google and watch videos of them on YouTube

Here’s a few:

Rekeying locks on doors

Years ago, most people never locked the doors on their homes. There was never a concern for safety. When a family moved from one home to another, the people never thought the sellers would keep the keys to the home and never saw a need to change the locks on doors.

Over time, home burglaries started to increase and safety became a big concern. Now when a family moves into a new home, they automatically think about changing or rekeying the locks.

Initially they would replace all of the locks with new ones. If there were several different doors, that could be expensive.

A cheaper route is to have the locks rekeyed.  Initially, a locksmith would come out and rekey each lock so that the same key worked in each one.  Over the years, the charges for a locksmith’s time went up.

Now It has become very expensive to have a locksmith do this. It is much cheaper for people to buy a Re-key lock kit at Home Depot, Lowes or any other hardware store and do it themselves.  The job is fairly easy. There are videos on this on the internet that go through the process step by step.

Fixing Leaky Faucets

Years ago, it seemed that repairing a leaky faucet was a major job.  Manufacturers have made it much easier.  Here again, a person can get a repair kit and do the job very quickly.

Getting scuff marks off of walls

It seems that at some point, many young children have used their artistic ability and drawn pictures on a wall or walls.  They also may have scuffed the walls. Years ago, there was no easy way to remove the art work or scuff marks.  The walls had to be repainted.

That’s no longer the case.  As long as the wall or walls are painted with a high quality paint, the artwork or scuff marks frequently can be removed with a magic eraser.

Repairing cracks in concrete

Inevitably ground settles over time and cracks appear in concrete sidewalks or drive ways. Years ago, there was no easy way to fix these cracks.  It was difficult to mix small batches of concrete and it wasn’t worth the cost.

Now, concrete crack fillers are available. They are easy to use. These can be used on most cracks from the smallest to the larger ones. These fillers are also relatively inexpensive

Replacing air filters on furnaces

Years ago, air filters were in difficult places on furnaces and were always a challenge to replace. Not anymore. They are normally right in front and can be changed in a few minutes.

Cleaning blocked drains in sinks and bath tubs

Years ago, people had to use plungers to clear blocked drains. Sometimes this was challenging and water splashed all over the place. Then Drano and Liquid Plumber came along. They worked better. However, these are caustic. People had to be careful not to get any on their hands or arms because of burns.

Now many of these clogs can be cleaned out with a Zip-it Drain Cleaning tool.  They are easy to use and fast. Also, there’s no risk of chemical burns.

Smoke and CO2 Detectors

At some point, old Smoke and CO2 alarms have to be replaced.

The oldest ones are hooked into the electrical wiring.  Unless you’re familiar with wiring, it’s best to have a skilled person replace these.

Most of the newer ones are battery operated.  All you have to do is take the old one down. Put the new one up and insert the battery.

Growing Vegetables

Do you like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables? Have you ever thought about growing these yourself?

You may say you live in an apartment and can’t. That’s not true.

There are several different community gardens in Knoxville and Knox County.  People can sign up to use a plot at one of these and raise their own vegetables.  One of these is CAC’s Beardsley Farm Community Garden.  Not only do they have plots available, they also offer technical assistance if people need it. Check out their website by clicking here.

A garden plot may be too big for you.  If you have a patio or deck, you can grow vegetables in a pot or a five gallon bucket.  They don’t take up much space and give you the opportunity to enjoy those things you have grown yourself.

Stung by Rapidly Rising Costs

Each one of us has been stung by the cost of almost everything we buy rising rapidly. We can take steps to reduce the impact that has on us. In this post, I have outlined some things we can do to lower the cost ourselves.

Rather than paying someone else to do something for you, you might just check to see if you can do it yourself.  Google and YouTube can help you. Not only will you save money, but you will get satisfaction by doing something you didn’t think you could.


If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is