FI/ER, DIY, and YouTube: save thousands by leaving your comfort zone

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” — William Blake.

“The road of high repair bills leads to YouTube and the purchase of a few basic tools.” — Early Retirement Dude.

DIY repairs can be a huge boost to FI/ER, but I’ve left a lot of money on the table by foregoing additional opportunities to save…simply because I lacked the tools and know-how.

Not anymore.

Maybe you’re OK with swapping out a washer in a leaky faucet or tightening down a squeaky stair tread. But how about replacing the circulation pump motor in your dishwasher or replacing your car’s mass airflow sensor?

Look these jobs up on YouTube and you’ll discover what I did:  they’re affordable and relatively easy…as are many more common household repairs that could cost you thousands if you hired them out.

Job: replacing the circulation pump motor in a dishwasher that won’t drain.

  • Repair estimate from service tech: $400 – $600.
  • Cost of pump: $89.90
  • Time required: 1 hour.
  • Savings: $315 – $515.

Job: diagnosing and fixing the transmission coupler in a clothes washing machine that won’t spin.

  • Repair estimate from service tech: $200 – $300.
  • Cost of coupler: $5
  • Time required: 90 minutes.
  • Savings: $195 – $295


Job: diagnosing and replacing a car’s mass airflow sensor.

  • Repair estimate from service tech: $300 – $350.
  • Cost of sensor: $35
  • Time required: 30 minutes.
  • Savings: $265 – $315

Job: replacing an old heating/air conditioning thermostat.

  • Repair estimate from service tech: $200 – $250.
  • Cost of thermostat: costs vary depending on features, but call it $40.
  • Time required: 30 minutes.
  • Savings: $160 – $210

Job: replacing frozen PVC pipe.

  • Repair estimate from service tech: depends on size of job.
  • Cost of pvc pipe varies: costs will vary. At the least, the cost of the service call and a couple of hours of labor.
  • Time required: ???
  • Savings: potentially a LOT.

A note on tools. Most of these jobs only require a single one: an all-in-one multi-head screwdriver that costs about eight bucks on Amazon. It has two sizes each of Phillips head and flat-blade screwdriver bits, and 1/4″ and 3/8″ bolt drivers. I’ve disassembled and reassembled my dishwasher with this one tool.

And if you want to get fancy, buy yourself a magnetic flashlight. Taken together they’ll save you from constantly having to rummage through your toolbox, or if you lack one, buying redundant tools you may not need.

That’s it. Hopefully these videos will motivate you to step outside your comfort zone and therefore save yourself big bucks. But always remember three things:

  • Wear safety glasses.
  • Turn off the electricity.
  • Don’t do your own wiring.
  • Gas goes BOOM!

While we’re on it: My family considers Amazon Prime to be an invaluable DIY, frugality, and cost-cutting tool.

In 2016 I estimate that our family saved AT LEAST several hundred bucks through our Amazon Prime membership. Three reasons:

  • I do as much of our appliance repair as I can. With Prime I can have competitively-priced parts at my door in two days. This saves us days if not weeks of hand-washing dishes, trips to the laundromat (and the corresponding $$$), as well as service call price-gouging.
  • Prime Video helped us cut the cable and keeps us out of movie theaters. In the past year we’ve watched Downtown Abbey, Thunderbirds are Go, Sneaky Pete, The Good Wife, Deadwood, and others. Many many many hours of entertainment for $99 a year–cheaper than Hulu and Netflix.
  • I read one free Prime-eligible Kindle book each month. There are hundreds of thousands to choose from.

So do yourself a favor. I STRONGLY encourage you to try a free thirty-day trial by clicking here or on this banner:

Which home repair jobs did you once consider to be beyond your ability, but turned out to be well within it? Please leave your comments below.

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit or email

6 thoughts

  1. A roof. I am sure some will disagree. But, I paid one guy who had done roofing in the past to supervise, and was able to save thousands by replacing my own roof. It’s been 3 years and we are still dry!

    Oven thermostat and temperature sensor.

    I will now try anything once, if it’s possible!

    1. >I will now try anything once, if it’s possible!

      Cool! But a reminder to anyone reading this: twelve-volt wiring is one thing, but please don’t work on anything that could kill you…especially high-voltage writing and gas lines.

  2. *I replaced a leaking pump on my clothes washer. Piece of cake. – $40
    *Just did some very basic wiring on my AC unit this weekend to install a new smart thermostat. (Nothing dangerous) – Just the cost of the thermostat and not having to pay an electrician to wire it up.
    *Replaced a broken door handle on my wife’s car. – $30 for the handle, $12 for paint
    *I plan to replace the mode door actuator on my car at some point in the not too distant future. – $30

    I did try to fix an oven that would not come on. Replaced the thermostat and the heating element. Turned out to be a bad solenoid in the electronics that I did not have the tools or experience to diagnose. Unfortunately cost me about $100 for the parts that I replaced and $350 to get the oven repair guy to do it. Not everything is as DIY as we would like.

  3. I’m building my own house for cash. Cost to hire it out tens of thousands. Savings by doing it yourself tens of thousands.

      1. Some experience in some aspects of building but learning as I go on others. youtube is great. I like to think I have a PHD in googling and a doctorate from youtube. 😉 It’s like the movie the matrix when they download info into your brain.”I know ju jit su”

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