Here at ToolGuyd, we often focus on the latest and greatest tools, because most new tools are pro-grade or higher-end enthusiast tools. Even for reviews or my own personal exposure, I tend to keep the scope focused on mid-range tools, and sometimes even higher-end brands.
There are lots of reasons for buying the best tools you can justify. There are also lots of reasons you might want or need to adhere to a slim budget.
I have purchased cheap (aka entry price point) tools before, and deeply regretted it, but I have also had some very good experiences with inexpensive tools or brands. So, here’s a quick discussion of 3 types of tools where I bought an inexpensive tool and had zero regrets.
Rubber mallets are pretty basic tools. You have a shaped rubber head, and a wooden handle. You use it to persuade things to move.
My rubber mallet is Craftsman-branded, likely a rebranded Vaughan. I bought it at Sears, and because there was a price mistake, they took an extra $5 off the price.
I had wished I could buy an Estwing white rummer mallet, but there was a big price difference. Even now, there’s a Stanley black rubber mallet for $4 and change on Amazon, and the Estwing is currently ~$18 with Prime shipping. The astute observer might point out that I linked to a 16oz Stanley and 18oz Estwing, and that the 18oz Stanley is $7 and change.
If you don’t have a rubber mallet, an inexpensive one will handle your malletting needs just fine, at least most of the time.
Now, I have a couple of different types of rubber mallets and dead blow hammers, but my Craftsman is still frequently called upon.
It took me the longest time to part with my Stanley pliers. I bought a 3pc set around 2003 or 2004. I don’t remember what I needed them for, but I remember driving around and buying the set at a Sears Hardware store. It wasn’t the set shown above, but one really similar.
You can see it in the middle of this photo of long nose pliers.
Read Also: Let’s Talk About Long Nose Pliers
There’s a different Stanley slip-joint plier, but it didn’t see as much use.
I got away with using entry-level pliers for quite some time. After that, I bought Craftsman pliers on sale. Then Craftsman Professional pliers. Then Channellock. Knipex followed, when on sale at Amazon, and then NWS.
Would you rather have 3 different kinds of pliers for $10-15, or just 1 style of pliers but built to higher quality? You can have a very good selection of pliers and cutters for the price of a single Knipex or NWS tool.
I don’t regret most the pliers I upgraded to. But I also don’t ever regret buying my beginner’s set of Stanley pliers.
I gave one away a few years ago, as part of a housewarming gift to someone. The others? I don’t know, but I can tell you that I gave the last one away recently, donating it to the local high school as part of a larger tool donation drop-off.
There are reasons for spending more on better pliers, but I never once regretted buying my Stanleys.
That purchase was also my first exposure to tool set pricing. Buy 1 tool for $7, or 3 for $15? Maybe it was 1 for $6 and 3 for $10? It was something like that. I remember walking the aisle trying to make the decision. Buy the set, or just the 1 tool I had really went to the store to buy. I had done the same mental (and sometimes literal) pacing at Sears, Home Depot, and Lowes stores for the next few years.
I bought a couple of inexpensive pliers and tools after that. Bolt cutters, for instance. I needed to cut wire shelving, and couldn’t justify the $60 needed for HK Porter. The Home Depot Workforce bolt cutters worked quite well, and I didn’t regret having $45 extra in my wallet.
3M Safety Gear
I didn’t always use reusable face masks, and I still don’t always use them. When it comes to disposable respirators, I really like the ones with exhaust vents, because they slow down how foggy my safety goggles can get. I also like flat-folded disposable respirators that are easier to store or pack.
But when I had a slimmer budget, I needed respirators, and went with 3M’s most basic design (8200). You can save quite a bit of money that way, while still being protected.
You can buy a 20-pack of 3M N95-rated disposable respirators for just under $10 at Zoro. Amazon’s price is $14.55 for 20. The ones I like (9211+) are 10 for $18 and change at Amazon, or close to $20 at Zoro. Zoro often has coupons, such as a 20% off healthcare code they’re running right now.
So, 20 for $10, or 10 for $20? The basic design disposable respirators come down to 50 cents each. The ones I like are ~$1.60 to $1.83 each, depending on where you’d order from. (Wow, that’s a big difference!)
If you’re willing to forego the Cool Flow valve and better comfort, you can save quite a bit for basic respirators that carry the same N95 filtration rating.
There are basic safety glasses and safety googles, too.
With safety gear, one is more likely to wear something if it’s comfortable and unobtrusive. When going with a brand like 3M, I trust their safety ratings and quality. So even if I go with their cheaper gear, I know I might be sacrificing on features, but not on quality or protection.