When you’re a new homeowner, you don’t have a ton of money after you close on the home, but you also often need to do some improvements on your house. If you’ve never lived in a house before, like me, you might not have had a ton of tools to work with. When on a budget, it’s important to get an idea of when to splurge on tools and when to save.
I’ve written before about what tools you should have in your first tool box, what the best saws are for a new homeowner and what the essential yard tools are, but didn’t talk too much about which ones to buy and when. It can be a daunting thing to look at a $350 saw or a $150 drill or a $500 lawnmower, but do you need those? Often times, no, but here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding when to splurge on tools and when to save.
- How often are you going to use it? – If the answer is “I’m going to use it all the time,” then you probably want to spend a little more money. I love the drill I have. The first drill I had had low torque, couldn’t drill deep into things and the battery died all the time. It was cheap and chinsy and a waste of money. The 20 volt Porter Cable drill I have now is awesome. It’s powerful, the battery is great, and I never have any problems. I literally use my drill almost every single day for one thing or another, so this is where I wanted to spend some money.
- How unique is this tool? – This question is in line with the first one because if the answer is that the tool is very unique, you likely aren’t going to use it that often, and if you aren’t going to use it that often, it might be better to spend less or borrow. For instance, I borrowed my neighbor’s brad nailer and air compression unit when we hung crown molding. At the time, the cheapest nail gun I could find was on sale for $199. I didn’t really want to spend an extra $200 on our crown molding project for that tool when I didn’t think I’d have much use for it after. I also borrowed another neighbor’s electric pole saw to cut down a limb on one of our trees. I’m not going to need to cut down that many limbs, so why spend a couple hundred bucks when my friendly neighbor offered me his?
- What scale do you need this tool? – I asked myself this question when I was shopping for a miter saw. I use my miter saw all the time, but I had never used one before and didn’t know how much I’d need it. One thing I did know was that they ranged in price from $150-500 and I didn’t need some massive piece of equipment in my small garage. I ended up going with a 7 1/4 inch blade miter saw that I thought would fit my needs. I splurged a bit and got one with a miter and bevel and a slide, but I saved by getting a smaller blade and one that didn’t have extendable arms for leveling. I decided I didn’t need that big of a scale of tool, so I opted for one that better suited my needs.
- How long is this going to last? – Know that if you buy a cheaper tool, it will likely not last as long. The price reflects the quality. If you need something now, but don’t have the ability to fund a big purchase, consider buying a lower quality version and save up for a while to buy the next one. This question also applies to hand-me-downs. I got a bunch of yard tools when my dad moved, including his lawn mower. It’s so old that I used it when I was a kid to mow the grass. But it works. It has no problems, it’s just not fancy. I’m going to take care of this mower for as long as it will last, and then I’ll buy a new one.
Think you need a tool and don’t want to pay full price? We have found that pawn shops actually have a great tool selection at a bargain price. Some big box tool stores like Lowes or Home Depot also offer daily or weekly tool rental for large items.
Every tool purchase is going to be a big one. You don’t always need to splurge for the best and brightest tool on the shelf, but you also don’t want to necessarily get the crappy cheap one either. Know your budget, know what you’re going to use it for and how often and make the decision that is best for you. If you are debating something, please feel free to drop a comment below and I’m happy to give my opinion on your next purchase!