My family has learned firsthand that it’s easy to pile up new tools for every DIY project that comes along—starting a new project comes with a Christmas morning feeling, and it’s easy to get carried away at the hardware store. When you’re on a budget, though, you can get most jobs done in a pinch with a few basic tools. This is the kit you can’t go without if you want to keep your home well-maintained and save money on repair bills.
DIY Tools Every Frugal Family Needs
Invest in your home and save on repairs with a simple toolkit. This is the kit you can’t go without if you want to keep your home well-maintained and save money on repair bills.
A pack of replaceable blades are also a good investment, because you’ll tear through them. Having a knife that you can afford to beat up without worrying about dulling is essential for any job involving insulation, woodworking, or painting.
Just about any assembly job is made easier with a good drill. Don’t go cheap on this one—bargain-bin drills tend to have weak motors and cheap bits that will chew up your screws, and you’ll just have to buy a new bit set after a couple projects anyway.
Duct and Electrical Tape
There’s a kernel of truth in all the jokes about fixing everything with duct tape—you really will use it all the time, sometimes even on your ducts (wacky, right?) Invest in the toughest you can find—if you’re using duct tape, you want it to last.
Needle Nose Pliers
In particular, you want a pair with a wire cutter. Needle nose pliers are good for any job involving wiring and tight spaces, or delicate metal jobs like homemade jewelry.
Locking pliers allow you to clamp down on sheet metal or PVC quicker and easier than an actual vise. They’re essential for jobs where you need to get rough with a stubborn part without sending it flying.
Crescent (Adjustable) Wrench
Having one of these babies around is way more convenient than a wrench set, especially under a car or behind electric heaters—fumbling through a dozen different wrenches for the exact size you need is beyond obnoxious.
A decent socket wrench can save loads of time and effort versus a traditional wrench set, especially if you’re doing a job that involves a lot of nuts and bolts.
Any project involving paint, light fixtures, ceiling fans, gutters, or even Christmas lights will necessitate a decent aluminum ladder.
Screwdrivers (Philips and Flathead)
This one’s a no-brainer, but you should have one flathead and at least two or three sizes of Philips head screwdrivers. The Philips head allows you to apply more torque than a flathead screw, and they’ve replaced flatheads for most projects—but for jobs where you want the screws visible, flatheads are easier on the eyes.
A basic 1-lb. hammer is all you’ll need for most projects—it has enough heft to drive most nails and do smaller demolition jobs without being a pain to lug around. For extra credit, grab a smaller trim hammer to drive finishing nails and other delicate tasks.
Stick with a standard 25’ measuring tape, and you’ll never have to lug a sofa up three flights of stairs only to discover it won’t fit in your front door (speaking from experience). You’ll need it to plan just about every job or appliance purchase.
All I need to say about this is, you can definitely tell the projects that were done with a level from those that were not. They’re cheap, they take seconds to use, and they can make all the difference in the world for your project.
Katie White is a writer and handywoman from DIY Mother who is passionate about self-reliance and conservation. She takes pride in making her home a more sustainable and comfortable place for her husband and two kids. She lives in Dallas.
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