Do not throw broken stuff – and money – away! Spend a few bucks on some basic tools that will save you hundreds of dollars each year.

Which tools do you need in your fix-it toolbox? I recommend these basics:

* A good quality 8- or 16-ounce curved-claw hammer for installing and removing nails
* An adjustable wrench (6, 8, or 10 inches long) for tightening and loosening bolts
* A set of screwdrivers or a combination screwdriver with assorted tips (standard and Phillips) for tightening and loosing screws
* Adjustable pliers (6, 8, 10, or 12 inches long) for holding or turning things
* A basic multimeter for testing electrical voltage, current, and resistance.

That's about it. For less than $ 25 – including the cost of a small toolbox or tool apron to hold everything – you can have the basic tools you need to fix hundreds of things in your household. Buy at least medium quality. A $ 3.00 hammer is hardly worth three bucks. A $ 10.00 hammer may last you many years. Beside, you'll probably save the cost of the tools on your first repair – and you get to keep the tools!

You also can expand your budget to upgrade any of the basic tools covered here. For example, you can invest a couple dollars more to get a better set of screwdrivers or even a power screwdriver with assorted tips. If you want to add on to this basic toolbox to make tasks easier – or to make even more repairs – you can get these:

* Hand or power drill with assorted bits for drilling holes in wood, metal, or plastic
* Wire stripper for cutting and removing the outer wrapper (insulation) from around wires
* Retractable-blade utility knife for cutting softer materials such as plastics
* Measuring tape for measuring the height, width, or depth of various materials
* Hand, hack, or power saw for cutting wood, plastic, or metal (depending on the blade used)
* Set of wrenches (open- and closed-end) with standard (inches) and metric (millimeter) sizes for bolts and nuts
* Socket wrench set with standard (US) and metric sizes using 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2-inch ratchet drives for bolts and nuts
* Allen wrench set for tightening and loosing Allen-head screws and bolts
* Files are useful for removing excess metal, plastic, and wood.

In addition to common screws and screwdrivers, you may occasionally run in to spanner and Torx fasteners. Both are designed to resist tampering. A spanner bit has a notch in the middle (sometimes found on coffee makers). Torx fasteners have six points. Torx tamper-resistant screws have a post in the center that makes it even more difficult to open (found on some microwaves). If you need to get past one of these fasteners, you can purchase these special tools at larger hardware stores or auto parts centers.

A basic tool kit for painting projects will include these items:

* Paint brushes or paint pads for applying paint and other finishes to smaller surfaces (better brushes will cost more, but will last a lot longer and spread paint more easily and evenly)
* Paint roller (frame and cover) and tray for applying paint and other finishes to larger surfaces (a better quality roller cover will last for years and apply paint more easily and evenly)
* Cartridge gun for applying caulking and other sealers
* Scrapers and sandpaper for removing paint and other finishes from wood, metal, or plastic
* A-frame ladder or sturdy stepstool for reaching higher locations

One of the keys to quick repairs is having a convenient place to work. Tools, standard parts, and good lighting are all together in one place. And it's a place where you can leave things spread out if needed without complaints or losing parts. Like where?

You can begin by setting up a corner of the dining room or a spare room as your fix-it shop. Parts and tools can be in a small tool chest or even a cardboard box. Nothing fancy, just efficient. Or you can use a small desk in an extra room or in your garage. A card table can be purchased for less than the cost of a repair and will give you working surface plus storage for tools and parts. Someday you may have a fix-it bench in the garage (as I do), or even a separate shop, with all the tools you've purchased with the money you've saved by fixing things yourself.