I’ve had an expensive week. The dishwasher broke and then a drain got blocked, meaning I had to call out a repair man twice. At £100 a time.
The worst thing was that it only took the plumber about three minutes to fix our drain. Then he met my eyes and cheerfully said: “That’ll be £106.80 with VAT.” Literally three minutes work; no wonder he sounded happy.
Anyway, both these repairs were unnecessary. The dishwasher had broken because the previous owners hadn’t scraped their plates and the blades were clogged with rice. The drain wouldn’t have been blocked if I had been a bit stricter about pouring down a shot of drain unblocker once in a while.
So I’ve been thinking about the small everyday actions that are so easy to skip but so essential. To keep myself motivated, I’ve decided to look at how much skipping them can cost…
Cleaning plates for the dishwasher
If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher then you’ll know how tempting it is to treat it like a magic box and simply chuck plates in there after a cursory scrape.
But the spray arms are filled with tiny holes to ensure the water rinses round efficiently, and food particles can block these, particularly small bits like rice, peas and beans. Before long you have to wash up your plates as they come out of the machine, which defeats the object somewhat.
The appliance repair man who fixed ours was able to detach and clean our spray arms. However, he warned that it’s often impossible to rinse all the food stuff out of them, meaning you have to pay for brand new blades.
According to Which?, new spray arms can cost up to £50 but fitting them can be a DIY job rather than one for a professional. It has a good guide to repairing dishwashers safely. So to add insult to financial injury, if we’d only checked online before calling in a repair man, we could have done it ourselves!
Rinsing the drains regularly
The most important element of keeping your drains clear - and so avoiding expensive visits from plumbers - is to only pour and flush appropriate things down sinks and toilets.
As a student, I remember seeing flatmates chucking cotton buds, kitchen roll and even a severed dreadlock down the toilet. Most adults know that this is a recipe for disaster, but it might be worth reminding your kids.
However, even the most careful household will have an occasional block. You can buy sink and drain unblocker for around a fiver from most supermarkets, and you can simply pour a small maintenance amount down your drains and plugholes now and again to keep things clear.
That’s a lot cheaper and easier than calling out a plumber, especially if disaster strikes at the weekend or late at night.
Caring carefully for clothes
I do the washing and ironing in our house (it’s a fair exchange of labour – my husband does DIY), and I’ve learned that the quickest methods are never the cheapest.
Without some basic care during washing, you’ll end up with scratchy clothes that wear out more quickly and need replacing more regularly.
It’s not just about separating colours; you can cut down on wear and tear by fastening zips and poppers. If you carefully hang items up as soon as they’re washed rather than leave them to sit in the machine then they’ll last longer and need less ironing.
Most importantly, avoid letting dirty clothes get scuffed around on the bedroom floor; put them in a basket until you’re ready to wash them.
Being fanatical about stuff like this saves us money on new clothes and means my toddler’s outfits are in good shape for the next baby.
Looking after your lawn
Having done no more than mow our grass since we moved in last summer, we realised that it had become nothing but moss with the occasional dandelion.
It’s now quite tempting to call out a company that offers ‘lawn servicing’ to put it right but that can be an expensive option. Fliers through our door offer regular grass treatments at £25 a time – four times a year and that’s nearly as much as a plumber for three minutes.
So I’ve been looking into ways I can keep our lawn green and healthy without paying over the odds.
There’s plenty of advice online, so this year I plan to put down grass seed in the spring and then again in the autumn. Grass seed is relatively cheap at a couple of pounds for a box. I’m also full of good intentions to rip out invasive dandelions by hand and rake up the moss, as many of the ‘no effort’ chemical treatments are expensive and don’t get great reviews online.
It’s a small amount of work spread throughout a year, but if it saves £100 or more then it’s easily worth it.
What small chores save you the most money? Share your tips with other readers using the comments below.