It's Saturday morning. A week's worth of towels and the kids' school clothes are piled up and it's time to refresh the bed linens. You've filled the washing machine with the first load of laundry but nothing happens when you push the start button. Panic and frustration set in after a few minutes of tinkering around with no success. You consider your options -- replace it or repair it? The answer would be obvious if it were something smaller and less pricey, like a toaster. But with a little research, introspection and basic math you can reach a sound decision.

As with other investments, asking yourself a few questions about your budget, values and personality can help you decide whether to call it a day and go appliance shopping -- or not. Your first step is to find out what's gone wrong with your washer and how much it would cost to fix. Then there's the issue of dealing with the hassle and stress of the matter.

If your appliance is still under warranty, you may not have to shell out any cash. Unfortunately, if your washer is out of warranty, it's all on you. You may find an appliance repair company willing to diagnose the problem by phone, though. Other technicians charge a fee just for coming out and diagnosing the problem, but they may deduct that cost from the total price of the repair job. Be prepared to pay extra for same-day, weekend or after-hours appointments.

One popular take goes like this: If fixing the appliance costs 50 percent or more of the original purchase price then you should replace it [source: Consumer Reports]. Other folks have a lower threshold and recommend getting rid of a major appliance if repair costs are at least 40 percent of what you paid when you bought the machine [source: Elliot].