Harbor Freight and Craigslist are great if you develop your purchasing strategy before you shop

I’m obviously very new to home improvement,  DIY, etc so I’ve been on a mission to find affordable tools. I’m never quite sure how many times I’ll need them, or if it’s even exactly the right tool for the job.  And this is exactly why I love shopping at Harbor Freight and Craigslist. I know I run the risk of getting subpar tools or even an all out dud from these outlets, but when I go into these purchases I do it with a specific strategy that gives me the confidence in knowing I won’t get too burnt.

Here are my basic rules:

1.) I don’t buy anything over $100 from Harbor Freight. If a tool runs over $100 I try to find good deals on well respected/reviewed tool brands on Craigslist.

2.) I need to get at least 40-50% off a Lowes/Home Depot/Amazon price before I’ll consider buying at Harbor Freight.

3.) If I can buy a tool on Craigslist or Harbor Freight for roughly the same price (+/- 10%) as renting,  I’ll strongly consider the purchase.

4.) I prefer purchasing off Craigslist if I don’t have a pressing time constraint. If you can afford to be patient on Craigslist, you can get GREAT deals. Put in aggressively low offers since you don’t mind missing a few postings. Wait around until you find someone in a desperate need to sell (ex: moving, needs more space, just purchased the next greatest version, etc.)

5.) I’ll try almost anything from Harbor Freight if it’s less than $10 and I need that thing.

6.) I’ll attempt buying a regularly expensive priced but broken tool on Craigslist if there are a variety (or preferably  a lot of similar) fixes showing online for that exact problem…and I have the necessary tools to do the fix. For example, I bought a gas weed eater that “ran great, but had trouble starting up,” for $5 because it was a common problem for that brand and I found a ton of fixes on YouTube. (Oddly enough, I purchased it and it started up fine, and has continued to work well for at least this past summer.)

7.) If there is a chance that I may only use a particular tool 2-3 times a year and for non-demanding jobs I view this as a near necessary Harbor Freight/Craigslist purchase territory.

8.) If hiring someone costs in the thousands and yet the key/necessary tool costs less than $100 at Harbor Freight/Craigslist (and it’s not electrical — cause I’m a bit sketched out by electrical) I’m rolling the dice on Harbor Freight/Craigslist purchase and D-I-M’ing.

Obviously everyone will have their own opinion on these criteria and their own financial thresholds,  but for those of you that are like me and newer to home ownership and Do-it-youselfership, consider adding a few of these criteria to your list to lessen the stress of your next Harbor Freight/Craigslist purchase.

***Additional note: I’m horrible at cutting coupons, but every time you enter a Harbor Freight Tool Store you should be getting at least 20% off. They have, what seems like, a perpetual 20% coupon in every coupon book they send (do actually sign up for this when they ask you at the register). They also commonly offer free things with the purchase of any amount. Often these free items are actually useful — wrenches, batteries, etc.