Based on what he read, Singleton determined that the freezer's fan was probably broken, and he ordered a replacement part from the manufacturer. Once it arrived, Singleton removed the access panel and swapped out the freezer's fan, a 10-minute repair that solved the problem.
"If we'd actually called somebody to come and fix it and they had charged a couple hundred dollars to look at it plus $150 for the part, it may have been cheaper to just get a new freezer," Singleton says.
It also saved them the hassle of removing and disposing of the old freezer.
Total cost: $150 fan
Savings: $100-$150 diagnostic fee and labor
Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5
3. Repairing a washer and dryer
Terri Jay of Washoe Valley, Nev., couldn't afford to replace her broken washer and dryer, and hiring someone to fix them would have stretched her limited budget. Jay decided to try the DIY approach and stopped by a local parts store for advice.
Based on her description, the salesman determined that the water in the washing machine wouldn't rise to the appropriate level because of a broken fill switch. Additionally, a faulty thermostat was the reason her clothes were still wet when she pulled them from the dryer.
Both are easy repairs. The salesman talked Jay through the process of removing the access panel on each machine and locating and replacing the parts. A couple of turns of a screwdriver later, Jay had both machines in working order again.
Total cost: $30 fill switch and $15 thermostat
Savings: $80-$100 diagnostic fee and labor for each repair
Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5
4. Replacing a faucet
Anastasia Wylie loathed the kitchen faucet in her New York apartment. It was ugly. It leaked. And its hot and cold lines were reversed. Fed up with fiddling with it, Wylie bought a new faucet and called her roommate to let him know they'd be installing a faucet after he got home from work.
Too excited about her purchase to sit around, Wylie cleaned out the area underneath the sink, unpacked the new faucet and laid everything out on the counter.
Still restless, she turned off the water supply, unscrewed the nuts and hoses holding the faucet in place and pulled it out of the sink. Once done, she read the installation instructions and decided to see how far she could get without her roommate's help.
"By the time my roommate got home, I'd installed the faucet, cleaned up the old one and washed a load of dishes," Wylie says. "I one-stepped myself through the project. It was amazing how simple it was once I got past being afraid of doing it."
Keep in mind, however, that old or poor-quality plumbing leading into the faucet can make the process much more labor-intensive, so check the plumbing out before you begin.
Total cost: $45 faucet
Savings: Guilt (and a $75 handyman fee)
Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5 with intact plumbing