STOP! Don’t hit that “BUY NOW” button until you give this some serious thought!
Woodworking as a hobby can be very expensive, believe me I know! Unless you have unlimited financial resources, you need to exercise some major control over your buying impulses.
This Blog Post is intended for the hobby woodworker and not at all for the woodworking professional, cabinet builder, contractor or anyone who makes their living using the tools that the rest of us lust over. I am only addressing those who do woodworking for fun and mostly make things for themselves and their family, even though they might aspire to take it to a higher level later.
The woodworking world bombards you with constant messaging to buy, buy, buy! It is everywhere and impossible to ignore - magazine ads, ads run before you can watch a ”How To” Youtube video, tools used by your favorite woodworking content creator, emails by the hundreds telling you about special promotions at Rockler, Lee Valley, Woodcraft and Amazon. Heck, you can order it today and maybe be opening the Amazon Prime package with your new tool tomorrow! But if your credit card bill was due tomorrow, could you pay100% of what you owe?
Unless you were lucky enough to inherit a bunch of money from your old spinster Aunt Betty, who you somehow convinced that you were a deserving beneficiary of her fortune, you need to be very, very careful about answering the siren's song of tool purchasing seduction. Ending up with substantial credit card debt and overall financial problems can ruin your life. Financial problems lead to more divorces than infidelity (I just made that up - I have no idea if it is true, but it sounds good). Having that Jet 22 inch drum sander in the garage does you no damn good if the bank takes your garage along with the rest of the house in foreclosure or if your spouse’s divorce attorney is smart enough to know they can raise a lot of cash by selling your toys.
So, what do you do to keep these tool buying, destructive urges of your hobby under control? What do you do? They say wisdom comes with age and Lord knows I have a lot of age, so let me see if I might impart some basic wisdom. Heck, you already know what I am about to tell you is true, but you have been trying to ignore it until you buy “just one more tool toy“ that you have convinced yourself you absolutely must have or your woodworking will grind to a halt somehow.
Get realistic, Sparky! Use your intelligence. It is an easy formula..... are you ready to the secret? Are you? Here it is: "What goes out the door in spending MUST NOT EXCEED what comes in the door in earnings (salary, self-employment income, disability income, whatever)!. It is as simple as that. Does that mean you cannot spend money on you passionate hobby? Not in the least, just means you need to be sure you are allocating some of your income to save for emergencies, save for retirement, save for periods when you might be laid off or too ill to work, save for those dang car repairs you were not anticipating. If you are doing that, then, yes, go ahead and allocate a certain amount each month to the tool acquisition fund.
Do not buy your tools on credit - only buy based on how much you have salted away for that purpose. Want more tools and you are not able to save enough to pay for them in cash vs credit? Then decide how important it is to you and look at your other spending and find ways to free up more money. Do you smoke? How much does that cost? Do you eat out a lot? Has the Starbucks marketing department convinced you that you deserve an $8.75 double expresso vanilla caramel frappuccino three times a week? Do you always have to buy the latest iPhone model even though the old one works perfectly fine? Does your ego drive you to want to drive the latest model car or truck even though they are built in a way to easily go 200,000 miles or more?
You would be amazed how much money you could find in your budget for tools and your rainy day fund, if you would only exercise some reasonable control over the rest of your spending! No, really! Think about it. Now do that again, but this time put down your phone and focus and actually think about all the ways you squander money that could go to better tools.
Found some money? Now think about how to spend it wisely. Do you really need a brand new space grabbing Powermatic 1610086K Model 60HH 8-inch 2 Horsepower 1-Phase Jointer with Helical Cutterheads for $2,500 plus another $210 for the mobile base. Well, hell yes, you want it, but do you NEED IT? Is there a cheaper and more emotionally satisfying way to make board flat? Have you learned how to use a #7 Jointer Bench Plane which you could buy new for $115 to $450 depending upon the brand? In other words, you could add one of these to your tools for the price of the mobile cart of the power Jointer. You are a hobby woodworker, aren't you? So why don't you see how far you can take your skills with hand tools. Just something to think about. Now excuse me for a minute while I surf Amazon looking for my next big power tool designed for the professionals and which is totally overkill for my small workshop and my meager furniture projects.
Still have to have your power tools, then become an expert at shopping for them in the used marketplace of Craig's List and eBay. See something for sale on Craig's List but you have not quite saved up the money in your tool kitty yet, but you think you absolutely must jump at the opportunity because it will never come up again? WRONG! Everything you can possibly want will show up again and in the fairly near future. Keep saving and only buy when you have the cash on hand - who knows, you might decide you really want something else instead given just a few days away from the BUY NOW buttton.
Please don't let your tool addiction ruin your financial life. Make intelligent, thought out, non-impulsive buying purchases of tools suited for you current woodworking skills. When you graduate to being a professional furniture builder who is so in demand that you can't keep up with your orders, then you can buy the big boy tools. Until then, hone your skills with some cheap stuff.