1: I avoided costly washing machine repair
Because eight people use it, the washing machine stays busy. When my Whirlpool front-loader stopped draining properly, I determined to fix it myself instead of calling a service person.
Thanks to Google, I learned that the error code flashing on the digital display meant that the drain hose was blocked. The instructions for cleaning it out looked simple enough.
The drain hose attaches to the back of the washing machine like this:
The hardest part was removing the little doohickey (technical term) that keeps it in place. Once I used pliers to get a good grip, I easily removed it.
I cleaned that hole out out as far as I could with a highly specialized tool: a microfiber cloth wrapped around a butter knife.
Then I rinsed out the hose itself in my kitchen sink. I reattached the hose to the machine and fitted it back into the drain, then started a drain cycle. It worked!
With the next load of laundry, the same issue: an error code, a machine that wouldn’t drain, and soaking wet laundry.
At this point I knew I’d need to remove the back of the washing machine to access and clean out the drain filter.
I’d watched a YouTube video and felt confident I could do the repair. But, I wasn’t strong enough to pull the washing machine away from the wall so as to get behind it.
Enter my son, who thankfully is stronger than me, very handy, and also motivated to have a working washing machine. While I was out of town all week hiking in Moab, he tackled the problem.
He retrieved: $1.30 in coins, two of those annoying pads that float inside bras (I hate those things and always remove mine! Why they aren’t sewn in, I haven’t the foggiest idea) and some other miscellaneous detritus that had somehow gotten stuck inside the drain filter. (How did all that get in there? Also no idea!)
This particular job is now added to my list of annual home maintenance tasks.
I’d been having trouble in recent weeks with the gasket mildewing. Despite frequent cleaning and always leaving the door open, the problem remained. Hopefully this will solve that too.
2: I borrowed a whetstone to sharpen my knives.
I have a couple of knives that wouldn’t cut hot butter, as my mom would say. A local knife shop charges $7 to sharpen a knife. It’s certainly cheaper than buying new knives, and more environmentally friendly.
I then thought about buying a whetstone on Amazon so I could sharpen my knives myself into perpetuity, which is even more frugal. But then Jacob Lund Fisker popped into my mind. (I’m re-reading his book Early Retirement Extreme and binge-reading his blog of the same name.)
Fisker writes a lot about learning to be independent of the economy by doing stuff for yourself instead of always hiring it out or buying a product. Basically, if he has to buy something, he views it as a failure to think creatively enough.
One way to avoid buying a product every time you have a problem to solve? Rely on your network.
My retired neighbor frequently offers to loan me tools. He’s a self-proclaimed hoarder who has “a Home Depot in his garage“, as he puts it. (Also, I suspect he and his wife feel a little bit sorry for me as a single mom with six biological children + one adopted daughter-in-love living under my roof. I don’t mind.)
I decided to ask if he had a whetstone I could borrow, and he did.
I can’t install my own water heaters, but I can sharpen my own knives, by gum.
As the two examples above illustrate, frugality is easier when you have a network. And ultimately, true wealth is found in relationships, no?
Soapbox: In our hyper-individualistic, late-stage capitalist, addicted-to-convenience society, it’s easy to forget how the sharing economy not only saves us all a lot of money, but is also better for the environment. /soapbox
Examples: public libraries, my favorite use of tax dollars. Toy and tool “libraries” are popping up all over. Buy Nothing groups, Freecycle and bartering communities too. In this post I talk about how to host a swap meet to get free clothes and household stuff (the one I hosted was a huge success, and I need to do another!).
3: I snagged a $500 credit on my electric bill.
Last month my water heaters failed, flooding my basement. While my homeowner’s insurance covered the damages caused by the water, it did not cover replacement appliances. (Which was $4200 for two water heaters and labor, all out of pocket.)
I searched around to see if I could find some type of assistance, and discovered an incentive offered by my utility company. The Energy Assistance Program reimburses up to $500 when you upgrade to energy-efficient appliances or make other eco-conscious upgrades to your home.
A credit balance on my utility bill? I’m not mad at it!
The $500 credit sure helps take the sting out of a $4200 expenditure. All I had to do was upload a copy of the paid invoice showing that I’d purchased energy efficient appliances.
If in the future I need HVAC replacement, attic insulation, air leak sealing, duct sealing, or upgrade to LED lighting, I’ll qualify again for the program.
That’s only three things. Hmm, let me think.
4: I bought a used microwave in like-new condition for half the cost of a new one.
My microwave started malfunctioning two months ago. It started sparky little fires when I used it. I can live without a microwave and didn’t miss it. But, my eldest daughter wasn’t happy living without a microwave, and keeping her happy is a priority (even when it means expensive coffee).
5: I cut the grass using my free trash-picked electric lawn mower
Trash picking rocks my socks.
What have you done to save money lately?