Let me confess that I love and collect tools. I’ve had a relationship with tools since I was a child. It probably stems from my father being an avid do it yourselfer. I can remember dozens of projects that I helped my father with. Working on cars, plumbing repairs, concrete work, seemingly there was nothing that we wouldn’t tackle and take on at least once. So naturally, as with all things, I’ve carried the Do It Yourself flag to a new extreme in our family History! I’ve torn out bathrooms and kitchens and replaced them top to bottom. I went nuts (so my wife would say) in our yard and dug in a pond with a running stream and a waterfall. The list is pretty extensive. But one key factor in being a dedicated DIY nut is that you need the TOOLS to do your projects right!
That is my self justification for wanting tools, please don’t try to convince me that it’s misplaced or self-serving. My wife has tried and hasn’t succeeded. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! Actually, saving money through DIY is a driver in why I do many projects myself. Having the right tools to do them correctly is equally important. Renting the tool is certainly an option but if you know that you’ll be doing projects in the future that the tool would make easier to complete, then in my mind, it makes sense to buy it. Some tools are really mandatory to rent, when I needed a small excavator for the pond project, I rented one. I can’t begin to imagine what life would have been like for me at home if I had bought an excavator home, “Hey Honey, Check out what I just bought…”, may have been my last words.
How I buy my tools
Over time is the best answer I can give you. I’ll pick up a few few tools here and there as I need them, or as old tools wear out. I’ll usually only do this if they are on sale or I can get a good coupon to save on them. With some tools I’ll go second hand and usually find one on Craigslist for a lot less than buying a new one, even with a discount. A new project is usually another “event” that will lead to the acquisition of a new tool or two. Is it economically justifiable? I believe so, especially when it involves a project.
Projects and Tools
When I kick off a large project I will create a budget for it. One component of the budget will be specialty tools that may be needed to get the project done right. For example, when I renovated our kitchen three years ago, we decided that we would go with a granite tile countertop. I have some experience with tile so wasn’t intimidated to take that on. There were two tools that would be required to get the counter installed to a professional level. A commercial grade tile saw and a kit to polish the edges of the granite. Being budget minded I looked for good deals and got them. I picked up a good quality tile saw at Harbor Freight (at a heavily discounted price) and a polishing kit online. I spent less than $250 on both of them. Compared to an overall budget of $10,000 , that wasn’t a bad investment. This is especially true when you consider that the cost of having the kitchen completely done by a professional would have run over $18,000
As a result, every time I take on a project I add a few more tools to my collection. This leads me to my second confession. I have a two car garage loaded with tools. Woodworking, welding, electronics, automotive tools, my garage is absolutely loaded with tools. Can I get a car in there? Are you kidding? Garages aren’t made for cars, they’re made for tools! .
In case you’re wondering, I’m not a complete tool nut. I will periodically take a hard look at my tools and sell some; I recently sold the tile saw (after using it for a few more tile projects) and got back a bit less than what I paid for it.
So why is an article on tools in a personal finance blog? Because they cost money and can be major temptation in impulse buying. Lately I’ve been pretty good about warding off impulse buys on tools. The last one one was for a rechargeable 18v drill. My set of Ryobis’ are getting old and the batteries are getting to the point where they will have to be replaced soon. I started looking around and found that the Rigid brand of 18v tools offered a lifetime service agreement, and that covered the batteries as well! replacement Lithium Ion batteries run from $75 to $125, so having a lifetime service agreement on the batteries is a pretty good deal. The thought of getting a new set of 18v drill with Lithium Ion batteries that had a lifetime replacement service agreement for about $200 was tempting beyond description.
I had one small problem though, I had other 18v tools that used the Ryobi batteries. I really don’t want two different types of batteries to have to worry about and besides, the original potential problem of having to replace the batteries soon wouldn’t be resolved. So I did what any tool junkie would do. I looked at the complete set of Home Depot 18V tools. So now I was looking at a $600 expenditure instead of $200. No problem, I just printed up a competitor’s 20% off coupon and that would knock $120 off the new tools.
Do I Buy those Tools or Not?
I printed that coupon and put it on my desk. One thing I’ve forced myself to do with any major purchase is to sit on it for a few days. While a few days passed I asked myself a few questions. Did I really need that set or just want it? How bad were my old batteries, were they going to give out tomorrow or would they potentially last more than I expected? The shopper in me wasn’t too happy with the answers I was giving myself. I didn’t really need to buy them. The ones I have are adequate to the tasks I demand of them and they’ll probably last for a bit longer. Ultimately, I didn’t NEED these tools, I WANTED them. Eventually, I threw the coupon away and pushed the ever tempting though out of my mind . I consider that a major success in my battle against “Impulse buying”.
You may be wondering if I’ll actually ever buy those 18V, bright and shiny tools from Home Depot. The answer is that yes, ultimately I will. But it will be when I have absolutely worn the Ryobi set past the point of no return, when Home Depot has dropped the price to somewhere near a reasonable level and when there’s an aggressive coupon, either from the HD or a competitor available.
I’d be interested in hearing from those in the personal finance community what your buying or collecting weaknesses are. Obviously tools are one of my key temptations. Do you have hobbies that are inherently expensive or require expensive gear? How do you fund them and more importantly, have you found ways to save on what it would normally cost you to participate in those hobbies?
The Pawn Shop Debacle - Mr Money Mustache