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Basic Tools: How to Equip Yourself to Save Money

Updated on January 7, 2016
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Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.

The right tool for the job?
The right tool for the job? | Source

Basic Tools for Home Projects

Basic tools can be a good investment. If you have essential tools, you can do your own repairs and home improvement projects and save $50 to $100 per hour or more. Here's how to equip yourself with the right set of hand tools and power tools to tackle many projects for under $100.


Essential Hand Tools

We'll start with a list of essential hand tools. This is the place to start building your collection of tools and will allow you to get started on small projects. Then we will cover some specialty tools for small electrical and plumbing projects. Essential small power tools start at around $30 and can help you take on bigger projects. None of the items on this list are very expensive, and you can accumulate these tools gradually as you take on more projects yourself.

Rough cost is provided for reference, but like most things, you could spend more to get higher quality. The rough cost is for entry level tools.

Home Improvement Book

This is the most valuable tool in my collection. I have used an old (1990’s vintage) home improvement book by Bob Vila for years. It covers how to use hand tools, power tools, and do a range of home improvement projects. The good ones have nice photographs that are very helpful. You can find these at the home improvement store of book store. This is the place to start. $20

Basic Hand Tools- Level 1

The hand tools in this group are basics- you likely have these already. These are needed to handle basic repairs and maintenance.

  • Screwdriver-Phillips $3
  • Screwdriver- standard $3
  • Small screwdeiver set $5
  • Pliers $5
  • Hammer $5
  • Crescent wrench $5
  • Measuring tape $3
  • Box Cutter $3


Screwdriver options
Screwdriver options | Source

Basic Hand Tools- Level 2

This represents essential hand tools to take on a higher level of project complexity.

Since this group includes sharp things like saws, we'll include some safety equipment as well. Safety equipment is a good value- the cost of replacing an eye or finger is enormous compared to the cost of safety goggles or gloves.

This group includes a level and stud finder- useful for hanging objects on your walls. If you are sawing something, you'll probably want to sand it. Shims are generally handy for leveling and can be used to apply mortar and other messy materials. The wrenches and ratchets will expand your ability to disassemble (and hopefully reassemble) items during repairs.

  • Ratchet driver and socket set $20
  • Wrench set $15
  • Hand Saw $15
  • Hacksaw $10
  • Level $10
  • Stud finder $15
  • Shims $3
  • Sandpaper $5
  • Pipe Wrench $10


Safety Equipment

  • Safety Goggles $5
  • Ear plugs $5
  • Gloves $5
  • Dust Masks $5


Spackling- works better than white toothpaste for patching walls!
Spackling- works better than white toothpaste for patching walls! | Source

Painting and Weatherproofing

Here are the basics for simple painting and weather proofing projects.. You can add more gear like rollers and drop cloths as you get into larger painting projects. Wall Spackle in on this list- filling small holes in drywall is a very common task. A few years ago in college, we used white toothpaste to fill small holes in the wall so we wouldn't loose our rental deposit! Now I know how to this right using spackling, a putty knife, and sandpaper.

  • Paint brushes $6
  • Paint can opener- free
  • Paint stir sticks- free
  • White primer, water base $12
  • Drywall Spackling $3
  • Putty Knife $5
  • Caulk Gun $10
  • Caulk $2
  • Fiber Glass Insulation scrap- $5

Scraps of wood behind the saw at a large home improvement store.  You could probably get these for cheap or even free!
Scraps of wood behind the saw at a large home improvement store. You could probably get these for cheap or even free! | Source

Supplies and Hardware

It sure is handy to have everything you need on hand to handle a project. I remember how proud I felt a few years ago the first time I was able to handle a pop-up project with tools and materials I had at home- no need to run to the hardware store. Big home improvement stores have assorted boxes of hardware that are handy. You can also find small scraps of wood that are handy for small projects. The photo shows a pile of scrap wood behind the saw at a large home improvement- scraps like this can be purchased very inexpensively.

Teflon tape is handy for the adapters on garden hoses to stop water leaks, and also useful for almost any plumbing project. WD-40 is great for lubrication if you need to get a rusty hardware item loose, or to stop squeaks and friction on moving parts.

  • Teflon Tape $2
  • Wood glue $3
  • Assorted Screws $5
  • Assorted Nails $5
  • Assorted Washers $5
  • Wood Scraps $10
  • WD-40 $4

Drill Options- I prefer corded rather than powerless, I mean cordless
Drill Options- I prefer corded rather than powerless, I mean cordless | Source

Small Power Tools

Here are a few small power tools that are not very expensive, but can save a lot of manual labor and allow you to take on larger projects. For example, a drill is great for driving a lot of screws if you are building a deck. I would recommend starting with corded power tools rather than the more expensive cordless variety. Corded tools are cheap and always work well. It's really frustrating to be halfway through a task and have your cordless drill battery go dead. Time to wait a few hours while the battery recharges...

  • Drill (corded) $35
  • Drill bit set $10
  • Circular saw (corded) $35
  • Skill saw (corded) $35


Medium Power Tools

When your circular saw and skill saw aren't getting it done, it may be time for some bigger toys. A table saw is good for long, straight cuts. Instead of moving the saw over the item, the table saw is stationary and you slide the wood through the saw to cut it. A cut-off saw makes quick work of cutting trim or even 2x4 boards to length. And if you're doing a lot of sawing, you'll have a lot of sawdust. A shop vac is really handy for cleaning up big messes.

  • Table saw $150
  • Cut-off saw $80
  • Shop vac $40


Penny Pinching Tips for Tools

  • Obtain basic tools to start building your ability to complete your own repairs and maintenance to save money
  • Tools can be a good investment- essential tools are usually a lot less expensive than the cost of labor to hire someone else to do a project- and you get to keep the tools when you're done
  • Start with less expensive corded power tools to see how much you will actually use them before moving up to expensive battery powered cordless tools

© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher

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