Making your home a better place doesn't take a lot of money, and you should never let a lack of supplies or tools intimidate you from trying a home improvement project. Remember, you can always rent or borrow any special tools you might need (a drywall jack, for example, is one of those things you probably don't need to own, but comes in really, really handy when the time is right).
That said, having the right tool for the job can be the difference between a professional-looking result and something that just looks shabby. Here's our guide to home improvement tools and equipment that will have you sighing with relief the next time you open your tool box:
Everyone should have a good set of screwdrivers: Stanley's known for quality - this set costs under $20
The Cooper Rechargeable Might-D-Light - $40 - folds flat (you can stick it up on a wall) and can work itself into any space to give you light where you need it (think: under the sink when the disposal clogs because you put a pound of edamame shells in there all at once. Oops).
I also like this Gorillatorch LED light with magnetic feet (although at $60 it's kind of spendy)!
A cordless drill will get used more than almost any tool in your house (I promise). A circular saw won't get you precision carpentry cuts, but you'll be surprised how much easier it makes life when you're ripping out the sub-floor of your 1920's bathroom. This Ryobi Starter Kit includes a Circular Saw, Cordless Dril, and tool bag - $89
The Bosch 12-volt Max Pocket Driver - not totally necessary (you can always use hand-power), but definitely nice to have in tight spaces or awkward reaches ($100).
Doing any demolition? A Sawzall is your friend. I've seen 'em cut through plaster, drywall, wood lathe strips, and galvanized pipe. Again, no refined cuts here, just the brute force approach to ripping something in half (or quarters, or eights, etc.) $100 from Amazon, includes carrying case.
A well-built utility knife is worth its weight in band-aids. Sure, you can get a crappy one from the checkout aisle and pay three dollars, but for ten bucks more, get one that won't fall apart and send a sharp razor flying through the air toward your unprotected eyes (oh, wait, you're wearing goggles, right?). $13 from Amazon.
Painter's pyramids - You've probably never heard of them before, but it's instantly obvious what they're good for ($6).
A good level: this one from Stanley costs $25, has end and side-bumpers for durability and to keep the thing from sliding around on you. Don't try to eyeball these things, folks, just learn to use your level.
Bench Cookies give you the freedom and ability to rout, sand, cut and carve without using clamps. Their high-friction rubber surfaces and durable cores, they prevent projects from slipping as you do your thing ($11). Plus, they're cookies!
Save your teeth! Use a wire-stripper! This automatic self-adjusting wire stripper with cutter works well in areas with little clearance, and can strip multiple wires at once ($17)
Got a handy man (or woman) in the family? They'll get some great inspiration for projects to put their tools to use on from a one-year subscription to Family Handyman magazine (just $20).
If you've never used a router, you're not alone (me either). But if you're into carpentry (like our editor, Chris), it's one of the most versatile tools you can own (at $200, you might want to go in with some friends on this one from Bosch).
With a few simple, quality tools, you can really get a long way. I think it's usually worth it to spend a little extra on better-made stuff now, keeping in mind you'll be able to keep these tools around for a long time. And if you're giving tools as a gift, you'll feel good that you're helping build up a friend or loved-one's tool-library for the long run.
So, what did I miss? Which tools, workshop gadgets, or home improvement supplies do you think really make a difference? Link 'em up in the comments...