How I Approach the Repair or Replace Question

When something isn’t working right – or isn’t working at all – do I repair or replace it? My answer always is to try to repair first. If that works, I save money and time. If it doesn’t, I can start searching for a replacement without the stress of second guessing. Here’s what I mean.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The answer to repair or replace is worth money.

The answer to repair or replace is worth money.

Whenever I have to decide whether to repair or replace something, I have a strong “repair first, replace later” attitude. That’s one reason I can keep my baseline annual expenses at $15,000. Looking first into repair is an absolute must for me when it comes to big-ticket items like a vehicle, a roof, or a major appliance. In these cases, avoiding a replacement can save me a boatload of money. Sometimes I find the only choice I have is to replace. But I always play the Frugal Game by checking first into possible repairs. Here are some examples.

My 1996 Dodge Dakota is a prime example of how my “repair first” answer to the repair or replace question helps me financially. Because of its 19 years and its 142,000 logged miles, many other people would have long since replaced this vehicle. Not me. I set aside $1200 a year to maintain and repair my truck so that it is safe, reliable and comfortable to drive. And I avoid the ghastly costs of buying a replacement.

Thinking “repair first” has also helped me save hundreds of dollars here and there on computers, refrigerators and other appliances. That is how a couple of years ago I saved myself over $200 by looking into repairing my existing computer before ordering a new one.

But this approach even pays off for me with little things. For example, last year the rubber soles of my “handyman” work shoes started separating from the shoe uppers. My first reaction was to go shopping for replacements, but the $20 price tag for such lowly footwear got me to rethink the situation. So, instead of the new work shoes, I bought a $1 tube of crazy glue and rebonded the shoe soles. And those repaired shoes have been working just fine since then.

Obviously it is not always possible to repair. But I always try first. That way I have no doubt or regret about spending the money to replace.

That is what happened not too long ago with my refrigerator. It stopped cooling properly and started making very alarming noises. Unfortunately, the repairman I called in pronounced the refrigerator unrepairable. So I replaced the unit right away (at a fraction of the retail cost, by the way) — with full confidence it was the correct thing to do.

Repair or replace? Consistently practicing my try-to-repair-first approach pays off for me in many ways. There is the money saved, of course. Also, repairing is often quicker and saves the time and effort it would take to properly shop for a replacement. And there is the personal satisfaction I get from solving a problem without resorting to a purchase. It’s all good!

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image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

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