20 unusual ways to save money: Repair, don't repurchase

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Once upon a time, America's economic landscape was dotted with repair stores. Whether one needed to adjust a television or re-sole a pair of shoes, there was probably a local professional who specialized in fixing the offending item. Unfortunately, however, as cheaply-priced (and cheaply-made) goods flooded the economy, the prevailing ethos began to shift. Suddenly, it was more economically viable to replace one's torn coat or broken VCR, rather than trying to make the offending item last a few more years. However, the slowing economy has added a new "R" to the mantra of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"; nowadays, intelligent consumers repair.

A few years ago, I got on a furniture-making jag. Tired of having to choose between cheaply mass-produced and outrageously expensive items, I decided to learn how build my own furnishings. Although I am still proud of my "coffee table of death" and my "entertainment center of doom" (my decorating ethos tended toward "Goth Bordello"), I soon discovered that the real savings lay in refinishing old, well-worn pieces of furniture. In fact, for only a couple of hundred dollars, my wife and I were able to decorate our house with a collection of items that were attractive, sturdy, and fun.

One reason that I was able to do this is the fact that people often tend to throw away or sell off items once they have gotten a little run down. Luckily, however, there are numerous electricians, cleaners, carpenters, cobblers, and other experts who are just waiting to help you save money (and misery) by repairing your favorite items. For example, the prices at Resole.com start at around $15 for heel replacements and top out in the $80 range for some boots. In most cases, a full resoling seems to be in the $50-$60 range. Compared to $100 or more for a new pair of shoes, it's a great deal. For that matter, it's entirely likely that a shoe repair store in your area charges even less.

From coats to dresses, rugs to lamps, it's amazing how many items can easily be fixed. If you're handy, you might look into doing repairs yourself; if not, try searching the internet or your local yellow pages. Not only will you save money, you will also save yourself the misery of trying to find a suitable replacement for your favorite piece of clothing or home decor!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Right now, he's trying to decide whether or not to rewire a lamp. Perhaps there are times when it is best to hire a professional.
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