The "Don’t Own Stuff You Can’t Fix" Plan for Life

Fellow Riskologist,

A few weeks ago, I sat down in my driveway with a pile of tools, a YouTube video loaded up on my iPhone, and a little ambition. I was ready to take on the task of changing the bearings on my Subaru.

It was a bear of a task. One full day. Five bashed knuckles. Two trips to the machine shop. But when the dust settled, I emerged victorious. Total cost? $160. Quote from two separate mechanics? Over $800.

That’s $600 straight to the bank, and no waiting around on someone else’s schedule. Cha ching!

A Smart Riskologist knows that, to come out ahead in life, she has to 1) avoid things in her life that don’t add to her happiness and 2) be willing to step outside her comfort zone to grow.

But most people are not Smart Riskologists. Instead, they operate exactly the opposite! They buy all kinds of toys, thinking that, surely, this time they’ll be happy for a long time. They spend all their money on vacations trying to escape the life they’ve built instead of building a life they don’t want to escape from.

And, worst of all they, come to rely on all their toys as part of their daily life. When they break, they have to bust out the credit card to either buy a new one or pay a professional to fix it for them.

But does it have to be this way? Of course not. Read on to learn a better way.

Look around! What currently owns you?

Take just a second right now to inventory all the expensive things in your life that you own and rely on every day. It’s probably not that long. Here’s mine:

  • One-bedroom apartment
  • Apple Macbook Pro
  • This website
  • Apple iPhone
  • Subaru Outback

Now, ask yourself: Of the things on your list, how many could you either make or fix yourself if they broke.

The apartment is no problem, even though I rely on it more than anything else in my life. I’ve been doing minor electrical, plumbing, and carpentry work since I was a little kid. If something goes wrong, I’ve got it covered (even though I don’t have to because my landlord is responsible).

The Macbook and iPhone are covered. In fact, they both have broken several times, and I’ve always gotten them back online again within a day or so. A set of micro-screwdrivers, YouTube instructions, and Amazon 2-day shipping have always come through for me.

And I feel pretty confident that if my car  or this website breaks down, I’m equipped with a minimal but effective set of tools and knowledge to fix 90% of the potential problems that could cause it.

How do you stack up?

Are you able to fix the expensive things you rely on every day, or do you go through life constantly worried something important to you will break and you’ll have to spend all your time and money trying to find someone else to fix it for you?

If you’ve just realized you’re at great risk of the things you own causing you massive strife, here’s a quick prescription for how to fix your dire situation in three steps:

  1. Stop relying on things you can’t or won’t fix. If you can’t/won’t fix it and you can’t replace it, you probably can’t afford to own it. If you want to get ahead in life and you’re not willing to put in a little effort to learn how to maintain the expensive things you own, get rid of them and get out while you’re still ahead. This is the whole premise behind the minimalist movement: don’t let the things you own end up owning you. I’ve stirred the hornet’s nest before by poking fun at minimalism, but it’s a good rule to live by: If you can’t and don’t want to fix it, don’t own it in the first place. This is where 90% of you will stop reading. That’s okay! Here’s the final two steps for the remain 10%…
  2. Find the most likely failures, and get the tools necessary to fix them. Over time, I’ve built a small but extremely useful cache of tools I can use to fix the majority of problems that will ever come up with my car, computer, phone, clothes, etc. Identifying the problems is easy. For a car, start by Googling: “Common causes of car breakdowns.” Then, move onto searching for something like, “Common issues for a 2004 Subaru Outback.” If you buy carefully, you need very few tools to solve most of the problems you’ll ever face.
  3. Watch a few YouTube videos to build confidence. You’re not going to actually fix anything until it breaks, but you’ll feel much more equipped to do so if you’ve seen someone else do it successfully first. YouTube is a treasure trove of videos for repairing almost anything.

Yes, it’s going to take longer than a pro to fix. Yes, you’re going to get tired and frustrated. Yes, you’re even going to fail occasionally and add time and expense to your repair. All these things suck, but at the end of the day, you still come out ahead.

And, while you’re scraping your fingers and cursing operating systems and missing a night out with friends as you sit at home working on something you could have paid someone else to do, you’ll also be building something more valuable than any amount of money or time you save: a sense of self-reliance and independence.

Things that seemed expensive before are now cheap. Things that looked hard are now easy. The whole world is now at your fingertips.

When you have that, new opportunities and experiences arise in your life that have been there all along, but you’ve never noticed before. As a Smart Riskologist, you’ll now see them clearly.

How are you going to put this plan in action this week?

Yours in fixing things yourself,