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Fix What's Broken - For Less

"You can't get anything repaired anymore."

That's a common complaint many of my fellow cheapskates and I have when it comes to the disposable society in which we now live. Unlike back in our grandparent's day, nowadays when your "what-do-you-call-it" breaks, you just go buy a new one, since nobody repairs "what-do-you-call-its" anymore. What a waste of resources - and money!

See also: Should you repair or replace? 

Well, a small but growing movement of so-called "fixer collectives" is hoping to reverse that trend, making it possible for folks to once again repair rather than replace items when they need fixing. The all-volunteer concept is to connect people with an interest - and perhaps a little experience - in fixing stuff, with people who have items in need of repair and a desire to learn new repair skills of their own.

Since the movement started a few years ago, fixer collectives have sprung up in several metropolitan areas across the country, including New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Detroit and elsewhere. You can find listings of fixer collectives on and Google Groups "Fixit forum", as well as information on how to start a fixer collective in your area. Often times, free fix-it services and clinics are also offered at so-called "free markets."

According to an article on the website, fix-it enthusiasts gather once a month at the fixer collective in New York City, "cracking open shorted-out coffee makers, darning holey socks, and teaching each other how to solder." Many collectives offer free workshops for teaching basic repair skills and you can also download various repair manuals from their websites. The broader mission of fixer collectives is to live lighter on the planet and its environment, and as I always say, whenever you're saving resources, you're usually saving money, too.

Of course having the right tools is important if you're going to tackle repair projects on your own, and tools can be expensive.  Fortunately "tool libraries" are also becoming increasingly common across the country, enabling folks to borrow for free the tools they need to get the job done right. The national nonprofit organization The Center for the New American Dream is spearheading an effort to start tool libraries across the country.

Between fixer collectives and tool libraries, with any luck my "what-do-you-call-it" will be doing "whatever-it-does" for many years to come, and I'll be saving money because of it.

Photo credit: L. Marie via Flickr.

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