Get Recession Ready: Learn the 4th R, Repair
Now that things are tight, it is time to start making the things we own last longer rather than simply throwing them out and replacing them. It is not as easy as it used to be; things used to be designed to be repaired, you could dismantle them relatively easily and they were made in this country so it was easier to get parts. Things were also a bit more solid before everything started getting made out of plastic. (for an idea of how irons are made in China today, watch this introductory sequence to Edward Burtynsky's film Manufactured Landcapes
But it isn't impossible, and there are a lot of online resources that Handyman Dave didn't have. The Red Ferret shows us a few:
Start off with the Discovery Networks' own How Stuff Works for well laid-out instructions on how to repair a range of small (and larger) appliances, from toasters to hair dryers. It covers the most basic points and is a great place to learn. They separate appliances into groups like heating, motor and combination, and suggest that if you can do one, you can do them all.
RepairFaq.org, properly titled "Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Small Household Appliances and Power Tools" looks like the web in 1996 but the information is au courant. Like How Stuff Works, it starts at the very beginning, even asking the question "What is inside an appliance?" and gets more technical, a lot more technical, from there.
Once you have these under your belt, there are blogs like Fixitnow.com (the Samurai appliance Repair Man) with more technical articles like "How to Test the Defrost System in a GE Arctica or Profile Refrigerator"
Give it a try, you haven't lost anything if you can't fix it. And even if you can't, don't throw it out yet. I recently dismantled a coffee grinder and was upset to find that a cheap plastic part had broken. On a whim I checked to see where I could find a repair depot (not expecting to find it) and found that I actually could get service, just a few blocks from my home. It cost $36 to fix a $50 coffee grinder, but it kept it out of the dump and helped keep a neighborhood appliance shop alive.