CONSUMER REPORTS: Save coin by doing it yourself
CONSUMER REPORTS: Save coin by doing it yourselfBy the Editors of Consumer Reports - 11/2/2008 - originalIs it really necessary to pay $95 an hour every time a drain gets clogged or $150 to have someone hook up a TV? Does installing software require a $129 visit from a computer technician? The editors of Consumer Reports Money Adviser say that it might be a good idea to learn how to handle tasks like these without calling in a professional.
According to CRMA, there are more resources than ever, many of them online, to help people do anything, whether it's grooming the dog or changing the car's air filter. Not only can it save money; it also provides the satisfaction that comes from doing the job. And if someone decides to call in an expert, knowing how a job is done can make for a smarter consumer.
WHERE TO LOOK
-- Take a course. Community centers, colleges, libraries and other local organizations offer adult-education courses free or at low cost.
-- Check out a manual. Sometime it's possible to learn how to fix a product by reading the instructions that came with it. For example, a vehicle's owner's manual probably explains how to check the oil and other fluids and replace fuses. Manufacturers often prepare repair and maintenance manuals for specific models. And there are many aftermarket publications, some of which are at the library.
-- Try a Web search. Consumer Reports Money Adviser's editors typed "replacing a faucet" into Google and found many useful resources, including the Web site of the home-improvement retailer Lowe's (www.lowes.com). Also try searching with and without the words "do it yourself."
-- Search YouTube. Videos will show whether the proposed task is simple enough for you to do.
-- Use forums. Participants can be very knowledgeable and helpful. Pros are often eager to give advice. And if someone gives bad advice, someone else will probably come along to correct the error, especially on popular groups. Find forums on do-it-yourself and specialty Web sites devoted to the subjects being researched, such as automobiles, computers or home improvement.
CAN YOU DO IT?
Using online sources may require registering with an e-mail address, especially for participating in user forums. It's generally best to use a disposable e-mail address like a free one from Google (www.mail.google.com) because the address will probably get a lot of solicitations. And many online do-it-yourself sites are supported by advertising, so be prepared for the marketing pitches.
Gather as many do-it-yourself resources as possible for each project, and compare steps, photos, illustrations and other details. Users should review the procedures to determine whether the project matches their experience, time and patience. Finally, be sure to have the right tools, and check out safety precautions, especially if working around electricity or machinery.
Anyone who reaches a roadblock in the project can ask for advice on a forum. But people shouldn't be shy about turning to a pro if they find themselves in over their head.
WHERE TO FIND HOW-TO HELP ONLINE
Here are just a few of the many online do-it-yourself resources:
-- DoItYourself.com (www.doityourself.com). Articles and videos on a wide range of subjects. Professionals moderate user forums.
-- DIY Network (www.diynetwork.com). How-to articles and message boards on home and craft projects.
-- MonkeySee (www.monkeysee.com). Expert and user videos covering many subjects.
-- eHow. Short user-rated videos on how to do just about everything.
-- This Old House (www.thisoldhouse.com). Articles, newsletters, videos and discussion boards on home-improvement projects.
-- AutoZone (www.autozone.com). The Repair Info link includes auto-repair guides for specific vehicles.
-- Microsoft newsgroups (www.microsoft.com/communities/newsgroups/default.mspx). Get help for PC problems through Microsoft-related Usenet newsgroups.
Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.
Copyright 2008, Consumers Union, Inc.