The Ultimate $85 Tool Kit for New Homeowners

In April, we offered a list of the best tools for your home toolkit. But for homeowners on a tight budget, the minimum $125 price tag for those items might have been a bit off-putting.

Buying a prepackaged tool kit is a tempting idea. At some hardware stores, you can purchase a 42-piece collection that claims to contain all you need for jobs around your home or office for under $20. By contrast, filling a tool box on your own may seem time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.

A Took Kit Can Be Inexpensive

There’s some tools to scrimp on and some to splurge on, but it’s always a great idea to have the right tools for the job.

But tool experts say prepackaged sets can lead to wasted money and unnecessary tools. The pieces are often poorly made and won’t last. While it’s OK to buy some things on a budget, quality is a very important consideration when it comes to DIY home repairs. Look for durable materials and recognizable brands. Don’t be afraid to ask a sales associate if you’re unsure.

Here’s how to get everything you need for less than $85.


You don’t have to break the bank to buy good quality tools. But these items are worth investing a little more now to save money in the long run. A well-made and well-cared for wrench, hammer and handsaw will be reliable for years to come. (All prices are approximate.)

  • Tool box or bag: Look for one made of durable plastic or canvas that is deep enough for your larger tools and has compartments suitable for smaller pieces. A box with a flat lid is ideal for stacking. $9.
  • Hammer: A good hammer has to have some weight behind it. Most people will feel comfortable with one between 16 and 20 oz. $20.
  • Handsaw: Find one that’s lightweight with a comfortable grip and a blade about 12 inches long. This will be manageable even in the least-steady hands. $20.
  • Adjustable wrench:  A 10- or 14-inch model will give you plenty to grip. $13.

Total for these items: $62


Quality is a little less important when it comes to tools you’ll naturally use relatively gently. Before you buy, check consumer reviews and make sure pieces don’t feel flimsy.

  • Needle-nose pliers: $4
  • Multi-bit screwdriver: Make sure it has at least four different heads (1/4 and 3/8-inch flat heads and No. 1 and No. 2 Phillips head drivers) and is easy to assemble. $7
  • Level: $3
  • Measuring tape: A device that measures at least 20 feet should be suitable in most homes. $3
  • Utility knife: Make sure to get one with replaceable blades. This will be more cost efficient in the long-run. $2
  • Safety glasses: Find a pair that fits comfortably and doesn’t slide around while you’re working. $3

Total for these items: $22

Grand total: $84


After you’ve built your ultimate tool kit, you may want to start supplementing it whenever additional funds are available. You may even already have some of these items – masking and duct tape, an LED flashlight and various batteries – at home. Keep them in or near your toolbox so they’re handy when a project arises.

Other suggested purchases: a bucket, stepladder, electrical ladder, carpenter’s square, pry bar and wire cutter.

Savvy shopping

If you’re looking for even greater savings, keep these two tips in mind when shopping tools now and in the future.

  • Veterans and active duty military members get a 10% discount at national hardware chains including Home Depot and Lowe’s. Research the hardware retailer you plan to visit and take whatever identification you need to qualify.
  • The best time to buy tools – especially pricier items, like power tools – is in June, right before Father’s Day, and December, right before Christmas.


Photo courtesy L Marie