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First Beg, Then Borrow, Then Buy

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 [3] or eBay [4] 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 [5], 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?