Twelve Money-Saving Things Everyone Should Know How To Do

Photo of a paper sign tacked to a wooden wall or post with the word "Handyman" printed on it as an introduction to this do-it-yourself article.

Photo by Orbin Zebest

Life is filled with challenges, and every day we rise to face new ones. Unfortunately, much of the daily grind includes doing household chores that we are unable to avoid. Some of us have the luxury of hiring professionals to do minor repairs around the house. Most of us, though, have limited resources and must do some things ourselves in order to save money. Here are twelve money-saving household tasks that everyone should know how to do:

1. Reset a tripped circuit breaker.

Photo of an electrical panel to show circuit breakers.

Photo by Paulo Ordoveza

You don’t have to be an electrician to understand that when the power goes off to the outlets of a room, a circuit breaker may have tripped. Knowing where the electrical breaker panel is located and how to reset the circuit breaker is basic to running a household.

2. Clean the gutters.

If your house is more than one story tall, perhaps having a handyman clean the gutters is well advised, but for those who can reach the gutters with a short ladder, the expense of gutter cleaning is easily avoided. Cleaning your gutters twice a year is best, but once is probably sufficient.

3. Reset a GFCI receptacle.

Calling an electrician because of a tripped Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacle is unnecessary. Resetting a GFCI receptacle is a matter of pushing the reset button. You simply have to know where the receptacle is and that the button to push is labeled “reset.” Once a friend of mine lost power to an outdoor receptacle to which her Christmas lights were connected, and it took us over an hour to find the GFCI outlet in the garage behind a refrigerator.

4. Paint a room.

Painting the interior walls of a house is simple, but many folks pay professional painters to do it. You’ll find doing your own painting to be fun and satisfying, and if you feel the urge, you can get creative as well. Viewing your painted room is a joy, and the money you save will buy you more than a high-end dinner for two.

5. Understand how a toilet works.

For the uninitiated, the workings of a toilet are mysterious. You need not become an expert at toilet repair, but learning to do some simple maintenance, like reconnecting the flapper chain and setting the water level in the tank, is important. Doing the simple things that put your toilet back into operation will save you money and time. You can avoid paying high-priced plumbers’ fees as well as the inconvenience of having to be at home to let workers inside.

6. Change the oil in your car.

Changing the oil in your car will save you time and money. I change my oil in less than twenty minutes. In contrast, having someone else do it requires driving to an auto-service center and waiting an hour or more.

7. Change a tire.

In the days when the quality of tires was awful and AAA nonexistent, knowing how to change a tire was more important than it is today. Then, filling stations put lug nuts on with lug wrenches, and nearly anyone could remove them and replace the wheel. Now, lug nuts are cranked on with air-powered impact wrenches, and removing them with a lug wrench is challenging for a strong man. Some men and most women are unable to do it. Be that as it may, understanding how to change a tire seems important. Any problem that can leave you stranded is worth knowing something about.

8. Mow the grass.

Photo of a woman pushing a lawn mower.

Photo by Mike Marcotte

Many folks pay lawn-care services to cut their grass, as long as their finances allow it. Owning a mower as a backup is a good idea, though, and you should know how to fill it with gas, check the oil, and start the machine. Doing your own mowing, however, will save you hundreds of dollars a year and, if you use a walk-behind mower rather than a riding one, will keep you slim as well.

9. Trim bushes.

Trimming your bushes contributes significantly to maintaining a beautiful yard and garden. Read about trimming, purchase some hedge trimmers, and experiment with making your bushes more healthy and beautiful. You’ll be surprised at the interesting shapes that the plants themselves will lead you to create.

10. Caulk windows and doors.

Caulking around the frames of windows and doors can improve the heating and cooling efficiency of your home dramatically. This simple maintenance task is distinct from puttying a window pane (with glazing compound), but you might want to learn to do that as well.

11. Change doorknobs.

Photo of a brass doorknob with shades of gold and orange to show a typical doorknob.

Photo by James Lee

Doorknobs seem complicated, but once you’ve worked with them a bit, you’ll see that many of them function similarly. For a learning experience, take one off of an interior door, study it, and attempt to put it back on. The Internet is replete with video tutorials on all sorts of handyman subjects, and with a little online study and physical practice, you can become proficient at replacing doorknobs.

12. Change faucets.

Changing faucets in kitchens and bathrooms is intermediate-level plumbing, but knowing how to do this will save you hard-earned cash. Installing new hardware every few years updates your house with only a modest investment, as long as you do the labor yourself. The Internet videos on how to change faucets are excellent, and with a little persistence, you should be able to do this money-saving task.

Bookstores, lumberyards, and online booksellers stock how-to books that will help you do these and many other household tasks. Internet searches are helpful, as well, if you want to learn how to do specific tasks. Finding video tutorials online is easy–just use keywords that are related to the tasks you would like to accomplish. Doing these household chores will save you money and bring you satisfaction.
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4 comments… add one

  • Ryan June 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    You definitely don’t need to call an electrician if you just need to reset your circuit breaker or GFCI receptacle. I’ve been called out to a number of houses where all I needed to do was flip a switch. It ended up costing the home owners quite a bit because I had to drive all the way to their houses.

    Just be sure that if you do have an actual electrical problem that you call a professional, electrical work can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    I do all of my own oil and change my own tires when I get flats, I actually enjoy it! Thanks for the post.
    Ryan recently posted..Electrician QualificationsMy Profile

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  • Doug Eikermann June 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    You’re right about being cautious with electrical problems, Ryan, and it appears that you are honest with your customers when they call on you to address simple matters. I think of each household problem as a learning opportunity, but sometimes you have to observe a professional a few times before taking on a similar challenge yourself. I’ve reached a point where I no longer am willing to climb to the third story on a ladder, and I’m more than willing to pay someone to do that for me. Thanks for reading the article and for taking the time to comment.

    Reply edit
  • business electrician Ormiston May 11, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Choosing a good electrical system is a tremendous opportunity to save energy and make your carbon footprint smaller.

    Reply edit
  • Hazel Owens April 19, 2016 at 10:14 am

    I like your tip to clean the gutters at least once a year. Like you said, it may be preferable to hire a professional if your home is two stories tall. However, getting on a ladder and cleaning the gunk out of the gutters can go a long way toward preventing future water damage or other problems. Thanks for the article.

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