Finance Tip: Repair Before You Replace

Repair before you replace

Today I want to talk the benefits of when you repair something yourself. And about what to do before you head out to the store, or open up your browser to go shopping online, to replace something that needs fixing—first try to repair before you replace.

Listen To The Podcast Here

But first I’m going to start with a story

I once hired a stylist to come to my house, go through my closet, and help me figure out what clothes looked good together. And more importantly, looked good on me, and then identify any holes in my wardrobe. It was super helpful, because I don’t naturally excel in the style department, and style was VERY important in my family growing up. So it felt nice to have someone objective helping me out.

The only thing that rang false to me was when we were looking at my long-sleeve t-shirts—one navy, one black, that are great for wearing under things. That’s when the stylist said, “Oh, this one has a hole in it. It needs to go.”

First of all, I could barely see the danged hole

I mean, I get what she’s saying, it doesn’t send a great message about how well you take care of yourself to wear clothes that have holes or stains. But this hole was so tiny, and way up high in the back. Also, it was a great shirt. It fit perfectly. And it was for wearing under things. I went along with her in the moment and put it in the “to go” pile. But after she left I got out my needle and thread and sewing it up. I didn’t do a particularly artful job as my sewing is passable—it gets the job done, but it’s certainly not artful. But guess what? Three years later and I’ve still got, and still wear, that T-shirt. I still love it. 

And that’s what today’s tip is all about: repair before you replace

You don’t need mad skills to repair

I love using those iron-patches on the knees of my kids’ pants. I mean, it really could not be simpler to use those. Of course there are some things that are really beyond my scope. For example, the one year we bough my son a nice new coat instead of giving him a hand me down or buying one at a thrift shop, he caught his sleeve on a sticker bush the very next day and tore a hole that feathers promptly started flying out of. 

I asked my mother-in-law to fix that one because she is a crack seamstress and quilter. She stitched it right up, but you’d never know it now by looking at it — believe me, if I had sewn it, that sleeve would have a Frankenstein scar of stitches on it. 

Something else I mended recently was an air mattress that had a slow leak. It was kind of a pain, I admit. We had to spread it out on the back porch and my husband read—or, probably, now that I’m thinking about it, watched a YouTube video, as YouTube is a treasure trove of how-to information—that in order to find the leak you should put a thin layer of soapy water over it and then a bubble will form where the air is leaking out. Pretty genius, right?

Anyway, we found the leak and then I used a patching kit I got at the bike shop on our main retail strip here on the east side of Providence and patched that sucker up. And it works! So, sometimes to pays to repair before you replace.

Your repair efforts won’t always be a success.

I tried the same patching technique with a plastic inflatable pool that, alas, started sagging again later the very same day that I repaired it. But hey, at least I tried. It helped me feel at least a tiny bit better about putting that huge wad of plastic in the trash. 

Mending something instead of throwing it out and replacing it takes exponentially fewer resources than buying a whole new thing. The old thing doesn’t have to take up space in the landfill. It also saves you money because you don’t have to go out and buy the new thing. These benefits are pretty clear. 

But there’s something else good that happens that’s really important, too.

And that is that when you repair something that needs fixing, you put extra love into it. Now when I look at Teddy’s winter coat, I don’t just see the logo of the company that made it or the color of the coat, I see my mother-in-law carefully stitching it back together. It makes that coat more meaningful. 

There’s a Japanese custom called kintsugi, or “golden repair” where they use a lacquer that’s been dusted with gold to repair broken pottery. It leaves these gorgeous golden seams running throughout the bowl, and it shows the beauty and the strength of mended things. So just keep that in mind—you don’t need to hide your repairs. You can even make them a new addition to the overall look, and maybe use contrasting thread. I think it sends a lovely message about accepting ourselves and others as we are, with our scars. 

Practice “Repair Before Your Replace” In Your Own Life

So this weekend, when you rummage through your stuff in search of something you need, if that things is in need of mending, I hope that hearing this podcast will help inspire you to do your best to repair it instead of chucking it and heading out on an errand to replace it. I think you’ll love how gratifying it is to make something usable again.


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