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In an ideal world, we all want to tackle our projects using the best tools available. There are brands in each tool category that have built a reputation of quality and dependability among professional users. These are the brands we want to own.
In reality, our desire to own the best goes against a limited budget, regardless if it’s our personal budget or the company allowance.
Since the tool wish list is usually long, the purchase decision comes down to finding a comfortable balance between perceived quality and price. Many product options are available between these two reference points. Most often, our decision falls somewhere in between choosing the most expensive option that might not fit the budget, and the cheapest one, which is probably going to cost time and money in the end.
Assessing a tool’s quality is specific to each category. Opinions on what makes a top quality tool often differ from person to person. You will have to narrow down your trusted brands based on your personal experience, application requirements, and overall satisfaction with using and owning the tool.
Although judging quality is subjective, there are some common denominators:
Here are some strategies that will allow you to stretch your tool budget and fill your toolbox with quality tools.
Wait for a sale - most tool brands put their products on sale at different times. Once you decide on the tool you would like to purchase, it is just a matter of waiting for the opportunity to buy it when it is on sale. Major shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Father's Day, Christmas, and Boxing days are good opportunities to acquire the tool you've always wanted.
It’s a good idea to subscribe to the brand’s newsletter, to be the first to be notified when the next sales promotion takes place. There are also apps and alerts you can set on various devices that will inform you of the lowest price for the tool you want.
Join the brand’s loyalty program - brands love loyal customers, and employ creative strategies to encourage repeat purchases. A loyalty program (or “club” as some brands call it) does just that, by offering incentives to repeat customers. These incentives include awarding points for purchases, which in turn can be redeemed for discounts, money-off coupons, and other exclusive and limited time offers. With the product performance being similar among competing brands, an aggressive loyalty program might tip the balance one way or another, and help you save on your favourite tool brand.
Being brand loyal is also beneficial from a practical perspective: you become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the brand thus knowing what to look for and what to avoid, and deal with a single company for warranty and service.
Plan ahead - tools are typically a long-term investment; for this reason you should avoid impulse buys at all costs. Planning your next purchase carefully will most certainly save you money. Firstly, it will give you time to do proper research, and learn the features you should be looking for, and things to avoid. In addition, each broad line tool manufacturer has its strengths and weaknesses, meaning your favourite tool brand might not be the best option for that particular tool.
Once you narrow down your options, planning allows you to wait for a better price on that particular tool. Shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day offer good savings opportunities. You can also check specific retailer’s sales events such as Prime day (Amazon), Tool Events (Home Depot and Lowe's) and brand specific initiatives.
Take advantage of an introductory offer or a product bundle - as noted above, customer retention is an important strategy for many tools brands. Having new customers try the brand is also crucial. For this reason, tool brands have programs in place to attract those who need an extra incentive to purchase. One such method is to offer an initial discount (percentage or money off) for an initial purchase. Anther commonly used product tactic is to offer lost leaders (product offered at a lower, introductory pricing), or product bundles, at prices lower than the sum of individual tools included in the kit. The downside of purchasing a bundle is that you might end up with some tools you don’t really need, so you have to assess your options carefully.
Check out the perks offered by professional associations in your field - if you belong to a regulated trade, professional association, or union, option worth exploring. Various trade associations have negotiated deals with tool manufacturers for exclusive member rewards.
The benefits are mutual: the tool brand benefits from exposure to a targeted audience and the members get more value for their membership. Finally, the association is able to put forward a more attractive package to attract new members, and retain the existing ones. Of course, you should not join an association just for the discounts, but if you are already a member why not make the most of your membership?
Think about Your Tool Usage - another strategy to save money is to avoid buying tools you don’t really need. We all have tools we use daily, and the ones that are almost in pristine condition. While you are planning the next purchase, ask yourself some questions about the tool you are planning to buy:
How often are you going to use the tool?
Can the same task be accomplished with tools you already have?
Is it most cost effective to rent the tool than purchasing it upfront?
Depending on your answers, you might be able to save your money or re-allocate your budget to purchasing tools you really need.
You will probably find yourself using a combination of these strategies to ensure your toolbox is filled with quality tools that reflect your work. With a little bit of planning and research you don’t have to compromise on your next tool purchase.