Our furnace stopped working last week. It’s starting to be winter in Minnesota. I found myself in a pickle. Do I pay a contractor $500 to fix it? Or do I try to fix it myself for a fraction of the cost? This is the story of how I handled this potentially expensive situation:
I believe one of my greatest secret-weapons to saving money and creating wealth has been my Do-It-Yourself attitude towards life. I talk a lot about philosophy on this blog, but turning your life into a do-it-yourself project, is one of the best ways to save some money and change your future. (Keep reading to see pictures of some DIY project successes below.)
I grew up in a family where my dad was always working on projects and trying to teach me skills that I didn’t have. He’d say, “In life, it’s easier to fix problems when the solution costs $10, rather than wait for the issue to become a $1,000 problem.”
He had a point. But since I didn’t pay any bills, or own any houses or cars, I just thought his projects were boring. I didn’t think I had a “handy” bone in my body, so I just listened and became afraid of these projects. I took this fear of do-it-yourself projects into my adult life. I remember when my wife and I were looking to buy our first home three years ago, and I told her: “I don’t want a house that’s too much of a fixer-upper, as I’m not that good at fixing things.”
It turns out, my fear of do-it-yourself projects was a lie. I made the mistake of believing the lie. This is what I mean.
In 2013 when we bought our first house, I learned that a home is really just a giant machine. Like a machine, a home is filled with hundreds of individual parts that make it work. Over time, some of the parts will wear out and break and have to be fixed. When the first part in my house broke, I found myself stuck between two decisions I hated making: I was either going to have to fix the problem myself, or I was going to have to call a professional and pay crazy money to have them fix it.
Since I hate spending money on things that don’t improve the quality of my life or happiness, (like home maintenance) I decided I was going to try to fix the problem myself. So I googled the problem, and I watched some Youtube videos to learn how to fix the problem. I educated myself first, and then learned new skills to fix the problem. I learned that do-it-yourself projects aren’t something I needed to be afraid of. In fact, learning how to become a do-it-yourself-master is one of the best ways to save money; re-invest the money you saved; and begin your journey to wealth.
My DIY attitude was tested this last week when we got back home from our road trip to Texas. As I turned our furnace on, I heard a nasty squealing, grinding sound coming from my furnace. Not good, I thought.
Now that I am an adult, and pay my own bills in life, there’s a few thoughts I hate when they enter my brain. Here’s a short list of them below:
“Why is my car driving funny?”
“Where is that water leaking from?”
“Why Is my furnace making that horrible sound?”
Why do I cringe at these thoughts? Because they’re usually expensive to solve!!!!!!!
So as I walked into my laundry room to investigate my rumbling, squealing furnace, I thought oh crap. Furnaces aren’t easy to fix, and paying a professional HVAC contractor is going to put a big dent into my emergency fund. (And I’ve been so proud because we’ve just recently saved up 6 months of cash for emergencies after depleting our emergency fund to buy our first investment property last May.)
I got out my drill, and I faced my furnace with a determined look. I did not want to pay $500 for a professional to fix it. I have succeeded in several DIY projects in the past, but this one made me extra nervous because a furnace is a complicated maze of gas-lines (plumbing work) and electricity-lines (electrical work) that make it a complex machine to work on. It was an intimidating moment as I faced it.
I remember some great advice my father told me that helped me stay calm. He’d say: “It’s smart to do a little investigating and troubleshooting on your own when something breaks or stops working, so you can become educated about the issue you’re dealing with. Being totally at the mercy of a contractor, and his billable hours, is not a good place to be. Sometimes, you may even get lucky and find a solution on your own.”
That was the mentality I embraced as I took the screws off. I turned on a flashlight and looked around inside the furnace.
I watched and listened closely to discover where the squealing sounds were coming from. Within a few seconds, I could tell the noises were coming from a black, circular motor right in front of me.
My next thought was: “So what’s that motor? And what does it do?”
At that point, I got out my computer, and I googled the exact part number I saw in my furnace manual. The part number said: Inducer Fan Part #14338.
I learned that it’s very common for the bearings to go out in these small inducer-fan motors. When the bearings fail, the motor produces a squealing sound. That is what I was hearing. The online articles said it’s a very common and easy problem to fix. You just unscrew the old fan; and screw a new fan into place.
I found a replacement fan for sale on Amazon for $105. I read the reviews from people who had bought the fan before me. All the reviews were positive, and reviewers all said it was a super easy project any average DIY’er could pull off.
Cool, I thought. I suddenly wasn’t feeling so helpless, and afraid. Maybe I’d just gotten lucky and found a solution myself.
I ordered the part that night, and our furnace totally quit working 2 days later. Luckily the new fan arrived that morning. With no heat in the house, I crossed my fingers and hoped the new fan would solve all our furnace problems.
I first turned off the power to my furnace at the breaker box, and I turned the safety switch off on the furnace to make sure I wouldn’t get electrocuted. I removed the old inducer-fan by unscrewing 4 bolts, and I put the new fan in. Just like the reviews said, it was a very easy project that didn’t take more than 15 minutes. I plugged the fan wires into the furnace and I turned the furnace back on.
Both my wife and I waited apprehensively to see if it worked, and were ecstatic when our furnace turned back on. The problem I was expecting to cost $500 for a professional HVAC contractor to solve, was fixed for $100. (After fixing my furnace, I did place a carbon monoxide detector next to it for a few days just to make sure it was safe. DIY projects can save you money, but what’s $400 worth when you’re dead?! Always be safe.)
The logic and math is simple: One way to become wealthy is by finding $100 do-it-yourself solutions, to $500 problems, and then re-investing the money you save over and over again. On average, money invested in an index-fund will double every 9 years. So if I invest that $400, I didn’t just save myself $400. I actually just made my future 65 year-old-self around $3,500. (I can see my future 65 year old self just raising a pretty-colored cocktail to me from an exotic beach somewhere right now. Be that human being!!!!!!!!)
Embrace the do-it-yourself attitude. You can do it. Save yourself some cash, and then invest the money you save. Let a DIY attitude become your secret weapon to creating wealth. It has worked well for me. Here’s a couple of other projects I’ve completed on my own:
This fall, I noticed the chimney on our rental house was crumbling from all the freezing and thawing concrete we experience in Minnesota. So I read up on how to fix it, and I bought some hydraulic cement and a flexible chimney cap membrane, and I did it in one day. A professional quoted me $500 for the job. I did it for $100. That’s how I got another $400 chunk of money invested.
Also, earlier this fall, we had a water-heater check-valve fail, and our water heater flooded our basement. It warped all of the previous wood flooring as you can see in the below picture.
Again, I didn’t want to pay $1000 of my hard earned money to someone else to fix it, so I watched a couple of videos on Youtube on how to fix laminate floors. It didn’t look that hard, so I bought $170 worth of new vinyl flooring (that is water-proof in case our basement floods again) at Menard’s, and I did it myself in one day. My DIY attitude helped me save money, feel good about myself, and I learned a new skill along the way! What could be better???? Embrace the DIY attitude to create wealth.
In conclusion, I write a lot of philosophical stuff about wealth creation on this blog. But this one is a tangible step I want to encourage you to take. One of my biggest secret weapons to creating wealth is simply doing projects on my own, and learning a new skill as I go. The more skills I have, the better prepared I will be to master life.
I wrote this article to hopefully inspire you that you can do this too. It’s not that hard. I mean look at me: Three years ago, I was afraid of buying my first house because I didn’t know how to fix stuff. And now, I’m fixing furnaces, chimneys, and flooring all by myself and getting better as I go. I’m buying investment properties and renovating them myself, and having a great time as I build the journey toward my dreams. Turning your dreams into reality ultimately is what being wealthy is all about.
If I can do it, you can too. When a problem strikes, simply take the same steps as my father taught me:
- Investigate the problem.
- Educate yourself.
- Troubleshoot solutions.
- Apply what you’ve learned.
- And if you’re successful, invest the remaining money you saved with your do-it-yourself attitude into investments you enjoy the most.
If you apply this process over and over again to the assets you obtain in life, your DIY attitude will also become a secret weapon to create wealth.
Got any projects you’ve successfully done on your own? Feel free to share and brag about them in the comments below?