I really want to buy a new vacuum cleaner. I bought my first vacuum cleaner shortly before I got married back in 2009. It was by far the cheapest vacuum cleaner that I could find. It was on sale, and it was only $50, so for someone that decided that they needed to clean their carpets for the first time right out of college, it was pretty much the only choice.
There's been quite a few problems with the cleaner, which shouldn't be surprising considering the low price. When we turn the thing on, the whole house shakes with the noise of the powerful motor. Even worse, the designer thought it would be a good idea to have an exhaust blow air directly in front of the vacuum, meaning that any dirt or dust on a smooth surface will simply be pushed away from the vacuum instead of being sucked up.
It has, however, continued to work, and I can't bring myself to spend a couple hundred dollars on a more effective cleaner. It is not as if I vacuum every day, and while it takes a little longer and my ears ring, the floors still get clean so I can't complain too much. Unless, of course, the vacuum cleaner stops working.
This is a common dilemma for a lot of frugal people. They continue to use the same functional machinery, even if the face of frustration and disappointment. There's always something better to spend your money on, and even though there is a tempting draw towards the new and shiny, the job still gets done with the old and boring. When something important or expensive breaks, is your first instinct to fix or replace?
Extend Usage with Proper Maintenance
The first time the vacuum cleaner broke, it wasn't really broke, it just needed proper maintenance to last longer. The filter, which apparently should be replaced every 6 months, was about 2 years old, so the vacuum cleaner's ability to suck up dust was severely compromised. I priced it out, and it ended up being that a new filter cost about $30 – which was about 2/3 of the cost of the original cleaner.
It almost felt like this was the classic razor situation, where the razor itself costs very little, but the blades cost just as much, if not more, than the handle itself. However, it was far less expensive than replacing the vacuum cleaner, so we bought one and stuck it in, and it continued to last for another year.
Small Repairs Can Be Cheaper Than Replacements
Just the other night, however, the vacuum cleaner gave up the ghost. It was simply not picking anything up any longer. We decided to do a little dissection of the vacuum mechanics to see if we could determine what the problem was. Two small screws later, we took off the front panel, saw that the belt was broken and that the brush was clogged by hair. So we removed the hair and decided we would look into how much replacing the belt would cost. Well, it was $5, so that means that the vacuum cleaner will live to deafen me for a little while longer.
One day, however, it will break beyond repair and we will replace it. Until then, I scour consumer reports and the sale section of the Dyson website, mostly just to make sure my bargain bin vacuum feels threatened enough to keep from blowing up in my face.
Generally speaking, if fixing an appliance or tool in your home costs just as much as replacing it, you should probably replace the device. If you're going to fix it, be sure that you're saving money up front. There's no point in sinking money into something that will continue to fail in the short term. That's simply throwing money away. However, don't allow your first response to something breaking be to assume that you cannot fix it for very little.
I thought for sure my vacuum cleaner would need more repairs than $5 at the store and 5 minutes of my time, yet it continues to live and breathe. Explore your options, consider the costs, and then make an informed decision.
What is driving you nuts in your home that you'd love to replace?