Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A fundamental need for tools

One night I was called by a friend for an emergency. A leak had developed in a bathroom faucet and the leak was so great that the water was literally running into the sink. When I arrived, I found that the family did not own so much as a wrench or pair of pliers, not even a screw driver. One of the ingredients in gaining control of your life and your finances is to acquire basic home and car repair skills and a simple set of tools to do the jobs. However, the tools must be cared for, clean, and accessible. Likewise, the tools must be of high enough quality to be useful. Many of the so-called discount tools are not strong enough for even simple household or car repair jobs.

Whenever I have a repair job I first calculate the cost of hiring a repair person to do the job. Then I find out what the tools would cost. Inevitably, it is far cheaper to purchase the tools and do the job myself than to hire it done. There are a few qualifications however. First is whether or not the job can be done at all without the special experience necessary. For this reason, I seldom do plumbing jobs. But if I can see it done once, I can usually do the job myself the second time the repair comes up.

Second there is the consideration of time. I could do almost any job given enough time. But time is money and unless you are retired or out of work, some jobs just take too long to justify doing the work yourself. Like painting your house. One summer we hired one of our daughters to paint the outside of our house. She did the job in stages and took a few weeks to finish. When we hired the job out to a painter, we paid about the same, but had the job done in two or three days. (Note: our daughter did a better job than the painters).

A rusty or broken tool is no tool at all. It breaks my heart to see good quality tools rusting in the grass or lying broken on the garage floor. The job the tool can do is only as good as the condition and quality of the tool. Cheap screw drivers are just that; cheap. I usually end up using them as pry bars or to open cans.

There is a huge "do it yourself" trend in the U.S. but many young people have had no exposure at all to simple home or car repairs. Schools used to teach "shop" and "home economics" but neither of these subjects are taught in today's modern school system. If the students are allowed to take a "shop" class they seldom make anything more complicated than a napkin holder.

Fortunately, many of the larger chains of home repair sales, like Home Depot or Loew's have classes on how to do things, with hands on help. It is sometimes amazing was a few tools and a good attitude will do to save money.

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