Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools

Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools

Welcome to Brighter Home Projects! In this series, we explore DIY home renovation, repair, and a variety of related projects by taking to heart this simple idea: you are capable of more than you realize. Each installment focuses on home improvement projects, information, and advice aimed growing both your skill set and your self-confidence.

Saving money is one of the primary motivations for folks who start down the DIY path, but striking a balance between cost and benefit can be a tricky skill to master. Figuring out when to spend, when to save, and where to find hidden value is a matter of personal preference, but if my experience can help you save a little frustration, I’m happy to share a few tips. Today, let’s focus on tools.

When to Spend

Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools
Buying the right tool for your DIY project means researching what you need and getting the right tool for your long-term needs.

While the cost-benefit relationship isn’t necessarily linear, when you buy cheap tools, you get what you pay for. I learned this lesson the hard way. While less-expensive consumer tool brands and discount tool stores look attractive to a cash-strapped project planner, especially when tool longevity isn’t a goal, having a tool fail at a critical point in a project (and yes, that’s when it always happens) will leave you in a bind.

For hand tools, I personally prefer Home Depot’s Husky brand. They offer a lifetime guarantee, as in if the tip of your flat head screw driver breaks, simply bring it to the store and they will replace it!

For power tools, I trust are Milwaukee (my top pick), Dewalt, Makita, and Bosch. After years of struggling with under-powered saws and drills, I recently saved up and started buying the best-in-line Milwaukee M18 tools, and they are worth every penny!

And I specifically left Snap-On off this list, as that brand is far too expensive for the average DIY’er.

When to Save

Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools
Bargain shopping – even for tools – is an art form.

Not everything that glitters is gold, and even if it is, sometimes you just don’t need it. Even if they aren’t where I buy most of my tools, discount stores such as Harbor Freight offer a lot of value for items you don’t need to be the best.

Personally, this means saving money on items like hook and pick sets, magnetic part dishes, magnetic wrist bands, disposable nitrile gloves, and work gloves at Harbor Freight. These little gems don’t need to be high quality in order to be effective for your average project. By saving money on less critical needs, you free up cash for the more important items.

Where to Find Hidden Value

While they are worth their weight in gold, owning the best tools often comes with a steep price tag. While collecting good, reliable tools should be your goal, sometimes you need the right tools for the job at a price that doesn’t eat a hole in your wallet.

Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools
You can buy tools online, but you need to do your homework first.

Your first option is to hit Craigslist. While used tools may seem risky, you can often find good deals on name brand tools with the right features at a good price. My advice for used tool purchases is to bring test material with you (e.g. a piece of hard wood for testing a circular saw) so you can make sure the functionality matches what the seller claims.

Pawn shops are also an option, but they usually won’t let you test the equipment, and the prices at stores in my neck of the woods have been a bit steep recently.

Another option, especially if you only need a tool for a specific job, is to rent tools from the big box stores. Home Depot and Lowe’s offer a large variety of tools to rent for much less than full retail, including power tools to much heavier equipment. This is especially useful for items such as airless sprayers and breakers that are large, expensive, and will be used very rarely.

Brighter Home Projects: When to Spend and When to Save on Tools
If you want to keep your friends, you need to take special care when borrowing tools.

Lastly (and it really should be your last resort), you can very politely ask a friend to borrow a tool. If your friend is so kind as to lend you a tool, make sure to treat it like a prized family treasure. Not only should you return it in better condition than you received it, I recommend returning it with a little something extra; i.e. a few boxes of nails if you borrow a nail gun. If you borrow a tool and you take my advice, you’re more likely to be able to borrow a tool again from your friend in the future.

What tips do you have for maximizing your savings and value when it comes to purchasing tools to create your brighter home? Share with us in the comments!

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