I have a little toilet quiz for you... Do you know what this is?
Almost $300 worth of our budget in the past year. My husband sort of smacked me over the head with that fact earlier this week. I was thrilled that the check we wrote to the plumber on Monday was only $155, then he reminded me that this is the second time in the past year that we've paid over $125 to have it fixed. The first time it was making a funny bubbling sound and the plumber said there wasn't any thing he noticed, but went ahead and replaced the handle anyway because it wasn't working ideally.
This time the toilet was actually leaking. We made an attempt to fix it ourselves this weekend, but as the problem (and water on the floor) grew we finally decided to hand it over to the professionals. The plumber was coming out to look at our sink any way, so we figured it was best to let them handle it. It turns out that this particular toilet takes a special gasket between the tank and the bowl, so the part we used wasn't sufficient.
All this raises a good question: When is it worth repairing an item, and when should it just be replaced? We could have had a very nice toilet for far less than that. I went to the Home Depot website and found this high efficiency toilet for less than what we have paid in the past 12 months in repairs. Ouch! That hurts!
Three questions to ask when trying to decide whether to repair or replace some thing (around the house, or even bigger... like your car)
1. Do we really need the item? Is it possible to do without the item for a period of time or possibly eliminate it all together?
2. Which is greater, the cost of the repair or the cost of the replacement?
3. Is there safety or environmental issues to consider in the replacement - i.e. is an update necessary?
One of the things I consider is the value of keeping unwanted items out of landfills. In this case, however, I have to wonder if the water we would have saved with a high efficiency toilet would have offset the negative landfill impact. Unfortunately, once the plumber comes to the house you are pretty much stuck with that cost so we couldn't have taken that option this time. Next time we think we need a plumber, I have a feeling we'll be going to the home improvement store instead.
A positive note in all of this: Since we're debt free, we have been putting money in to a home improvement sinking fund so this was NOT a budget buster for us. Even without our sinking fund, our emergency fund would have more than covered this. This is why Dave says that an emergency fund helps make you "Murphy proof". Even a leaking toilet is just an inconvenience and not a huge emergency when you have an emergency fund in place!
I'd encourage all of you to think ahead. Think of the things around your house that could need to be repaired or replaced soon - appliances, car, lawn equipment. If you have flexibility to start a sinking fund for these items start now. Even if you don't have a sinking fund, thinking ahead about items - whether you would replace them or repair them - will prevent you from making a rash decision and wasting your money.