There are few things that will irk a thrifty person more than wasting money on something stupid, and that's why I vividly recall the cherry pit incident.

It happened about a dozen years ago at my family's first house. The dishwasher had stopped draining, and my efforts to repair it had been futile, although I read through the owner's manual and took apart and checked every part I could get my hands on.

Finally, I gave up and called a repair service, which charged me about $100 to come out to my house, where the repair guy removed -- you guessed it -- a cherry pit, which was stuck in the drain line hidden below the machine.

Yaarrgh.

Fast-forward to last week. A strange piece of plastic was found sitting in the bottom of the dishwasher at my house, and the machine would no longer clean any dishes on the top rack.

This time, no repair service for me. With the wealth of resources now available online, I was able to repair the machine myself and save the $100 or so that a repair service might have charged.

It took just a few minutes to find the schematic parts diagram for the dishwasher online -- such diagrams are rarely included in modern owner's manuals -- and I easily identified the mystery part and figured out how to put it back where it belonged. Had the part been broken, I could have ordered a new one for less than $30.

Home improvements and appliance repairs can be quite expensive if you have to hire someone to do the work, which makes do-it-yourself repairs a great way to potentially save some money. And the information you can find online makes such projects easier than ever.

Here are some real examples from my own experience:

--The dishwasher. In the case of the mystery part, I found the parts diagram for my dishwasher at appliancepartspros.com, where you can search for information using the model number of your appliance. The website also sells parts.

--The clothes dryer. When my

clothes dryer wouldn't work, some searching online helped me figure out that the little sensor switch that tells the machine the door is closed had broken (the dryer won't run if it thinks the door is open). I found a replacement part for a few bucks, and a YouTube video posted by repairclinic.com showed me how to install it.

--The garage door. When my garage door opener stopped working correctly, it was easy to tell once the cover was off the machinery that the main gears had become stripped over time. I was pleased to learn I could locate and order new parts online, quite inexpensively.

--A new floor. When my wife and I decided to replace the carpet in our son's bedroom with a laminate floor, I found a good tutorial on how to install the flooring myself in Lowe's online video library at lowes.com (look under "help center").

Now, not everyone is handy around the house, and with some projects -- plumbing probably tops my list -- there's always the potential to make things worse rather than better. Having once put my foot through the dining room ceiling while replacing an upstairs floor, I'll be the first to say: always consider safety first, and know your limitations.

But in many cases, you can save lots of money by fixing things yourself, and the worst that will happen if you're unsuccessful is you'll waste some time before giving up and calling a repair person.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552. For more money-saving tips, go to postandcourier.com/personal_finance.