Frugal Living 

First Beg, Then Borrow, Then Buy

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When we needed to replace the tile floor in our master bathroom, we went to Home Depot to buy all the necessary supplies. The hardest part about replacing a tile floor is cutting the tiles! You can buy an inexpensive tool that you can use to score and snap tile, but I found that it failed miserably (I wasted half a dozen tiles). That’s why they invented the wet ceramic tile saw!

The solution? I had to get my hands on one to cut about a dozen tiles. While all the other tools for the job were relatively cheap, ceramic tile saws run upwards of $500 on eBay, a handsome sum if you’re just looking to do a small job. That’s why I try to borrow tools if I can avoid buying them. If I have to buy them, I try to buy used rather than new. If all else fails, then I buy them new from the store.

Why Borrow?

First, there’s the obvious reason of money savings. I can borrow a ceramic tile saw for the price of lunch (or the blade, depending on how badly I wear down the saw) which is a fraction of the price of the saw. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a tool when I can borrow it and spend just a few dollars? If I throw in a blade to replace the one I wore down, both of us win. My friend gets a brand new blade and I get a tool on the cheap.

That gets to the second reason, storage. I only have so much room and if I add a tool I’ll only use on specialized projects, I’m going to be stuck with a lot of tools I’ll only use a handful of times. As I mentioned earlier, I’m lucky to have friends who took on large home improvement projects before I did so I can take advantage of their tools. If you don’t or your friends are jerks, you’ll have to buy them used or new.

Buy Used, Then New

Too often we rush to the store and buy something new, when we could just as easily borrow it from a friend. Think about my second reason for wanting to borrow tools whenever possible, storage. You’re on the other side of the equation now, you’re trying to find people who are sick and tired of storing that ceramic tile saw they bought five years ago and only used once..

Where to buy used tools: You can always try your local Craigslist or eBay but your local paper’s classified section is probably easiest (second only to your local Craigslist). I’d avoid buying expensive tools from individuals through the internet because you’ll want to inspect it before you buy it and they’re usually very heavy anyway.

If you can’t buy it used or you need it right now (because it’s the fourth time you went to Home Depot or Lowes!), buying new is the next best thing. I recommend scouring the internet for coupons. My friend Fred keeps a pretty updated list of Sears coupons, if you have one of those stores nearby.

Applies To Everything

Tools are the easiest example but this rule applies to almost everything else in your house. Try to borrow before you buy and buy used when you can. You’ll end up with less clutter in the house and a heavier wallet.

What sorts of things do you try to borrow first before you buy? And what things will you never borrow?

{ 27 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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27 Responses to “First Beg, Then Borrow, Then Buy”

  1. We did a tile project a few years ago in our kitchen. I looked at buying a tile saw from Lowes but they wanted a $100 for the cheapest one. I then looked at renting one and they wanted $55 for the day. I ended up buying one on eBay for $47 and that included shipping. It was brand new and came with a blade. Over the years, I have loaned out the wet table saw to 5 friends and family members that were working on tile projects. It is probably time to replace the blade but it has definitely served us well.

  2. Soccer9040 says:

    Borrowing tools has always worked well for us. No need to actually own the tool, but you just need to be friends with enough tool guys to know where to get everything you need.

    • Chris says:

      I agree that is is usually not worth it to buy tools unless you plan to use them often but there are a lot of tools that almost everyone should have. I own a lot of special purpose tools because it cost the same to rent. I have them for future use, but I may never use them again, while they take up space in the garage.

  3. zapeta says:

    I always try to borrow something that I won’t frequently use first if possible. My parents have accumulated a ton of stuff over the years so most of the time they have what I need to borrow if something comes up. Besides the frugality, I just hate having a bunch of stuff around the house that I never use.

  4. I would say the order is:
    1.) try to borrow from a friend for free
    2.) try to pick up for free on craigslist
    3.) rent from a store
    4.) buy used
    5.) buy new

    My neighbor is a tool-a-holic, and has pretty much everything esp. power tools. I have some decent stuff, but hardly any power tools. Good neighbor to have 🙂

    Just remember don’t treat the folks who you borrow you stuff from like Homer Simpson treats Ned Flanders or it will be the 1st and last time you get to borrow something.

    • jsbrendog says:

      renting. good one. when i was in college we rented a few tools from lowe’s when we needed them. that is def a good option to slide in between borrow and buy

  5. MichaelM says:

    I like having tools…if I had the money and space, I would have a awesome workshop.

    Some tools though aren’t worth the space or money they’d use up, like a wet tile saw you will use only once or twice during the time you own your home.

  6. Mark says:

    Another good trick is to find someone else who is thinking about doing a similar project and split the cost of the tool. My group of friends and I have done this several times, even with a wet saw. Works out well and the whole ‘family’ of friends now has access to a wet saw if they need it down the road. A few bucks, some home made lasagna or a good case of beer usually goes a long way when borrowing any tool. Just dont be that guy that is always borrowing and never having anything to borrow…

  7. CK says:

    Great post I just bought a used nail gun on eBay which I plan to resell after I’m done with my project.

  8. Ryan says:

    1. Borrow from friends or family
    2. Renting (if cheaper than buying used)
    Also note that sometimes private contractors will rent tools if they have worked with you in the past (we borrowed some tools for ripping up a floor from the guy that laid the new tile for us on the cheap)
    3. Buying used (I agree craigslist and the paper are best, I avoid ebay and such)
    4. Buy new (this may cause some to flame me but whatever, I always ask about the return policy on tools that I am using for small projects. I have bought and returned a nail gun, rock bar, torque wrench, belt sander, shower head, Christmas lights and shop vac. Some of these I found online for cheaper but couldn’t wait for shipping so I bought from Home Depot and returned after the other product arrived. Costco and Sam’s club have a great return policy. Hate me if you’d like.)

    • On using and returning: I heard this is a big issue for jewelery stores. People come in and buy something fancy – e.g. a diamond necklace – on a Friday, wear to a wedding, party etc and then return it for a full refund on Monday. Makes a lot of retailer very unhappy. No wonder some of them use restocking fees to protect them from abuse.

  9. tbork84 says:

    Borrowing is by far the best solution. Nearly everyone has some friends who either love to purchase things like this for themselves or have otherwise obtained said devices and would be happy to share for the small price of a dinner or something similar. Great post and reminder.

  10. Great tips, Jim! I’ve used these ideas and saved a lot of money by not buying stuff I won’t use very much. And like you said, it cuts down on storage needs as well.

  11. Shirley says:

    Lending and borrowing is great among friends and family. If I have to ask for the tool back, or receive it back in a less clean condition than it was lent, don’t bother to ask again.

  12. I’m the crazy person who buys all this stuff, or at least I used to before I became a nomad. You get a reputation quickly for being the person who has all the tools. People always come a knocking. Sometimes it got so bad I thought about making little cards, like you see in library books. If you’re a borrower, don’t take advantage!

    I’ll also put in my vote for renting high-end low-use tools.

  13. lostAnnfound says:

    Rent some of the bigger items. We have rented floor sander, drywall lifter (what a back saver that is), rototiller, a power auger, and a Bobcat. The rototiller was rented over a weekend and shared between three families & we all split the cost.

    • CK says:

      I split an aerator with my neighbors. I always ask around before I rent anything to see if anyone else would like to use the equipment and split the fee of course.

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      My family soes this with a Rug Doctor too.

  14. Izalot says:

    I’m a big fan of renting tools. Buying a tool then returning after use of the project is just…wrong. Reminds me of people who buy a product that breaks, buys another product and returns the broken one. Bad karma for you!

  15. ziglet19 says:

    My husband and I were just having a “discussion” about this very thing. He really wants to buy a wet tile saw for re-doing the tile in the bathroom. I can’t see any justification for buying one for a one or two time use. I have been asking around to see if anyone has one, but I hadn’t thought to try ebay. I will give it a try!

  16. Carla says:

    I rarely borrow anything from anyone (out of shame maybe?) but I always try to get used as much as possible. Handmade, organic, new is usually the last resort.

  17. Sarah in Alaska says:

    You can also borrow or rent camping equipment and party supplies.

    I’m leerly of lending or borrowing camping equipment though because I’ve had things come back broken (without an offer of repair or replacement). I’d rather rent or buy.

  18. BrianC says:

    I have no problem buying new if it’s something I’ll get a lot of use out of, but I really try to limit this with expensive items. I just think of all my friends with one-function kitchen appliances that they never use 😉

  19. Chipr says:

    Lowes & homedepot rent tools. Almost any tools you need. I’ve been renting tolls for years & the prices have been always reasonable

  20. Josh says:

    My friends and I generally loan each other any automotive or home repair items. It makes sense, we even found that it works for video games and movies too! 🙂

  21. My wife and I like to buy used and refurbish to make things look new. We live in a Ranch Style home and have a traditional style. Here is a great example of a project she did when we needed a new dresser, and it only cost around $60.

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