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Essential tools that cost under $20 to start the new year off right

You'll wonder how you ever managed without a non-contact voltage tester, battery tester, magnetic grabber and more.

Dave Johnson
2 min read
$17 at Amazon
Tacklife Non-Contact Voltage Tester: $16.95
This tool is a literal lifesaver
$17 at Amazon
Black and Decker Cordless Screwdriver: $17.46
Often a full-size electric drill just won't fit
$6 at Amazon
WeePro Battery Tester: $5.94
Still use alkaline batteries? Now you know how much life they still have.
$10 at Amazon
Enbar Magnetic Claw Grabber: $9.98
It snakes almost anywhere to pick up lost batteries, screws, and other detritus.

I know that this article might say more about me than about you. After all, when I was growing up, my dad was a heavy-equipment mechanic and owned a garage full of tools -- there was no job too large or small he wasn't fully prepared to do, either under the car or around the house. None of that rubbed off on me though, and for much of my adult life my personal tool collection was scattershot. I had what I thought were the essentials, but in the last few years, I've collected a few inexpensive gadgets and tools that have proven to be absolutely indispensable. I can't believe I went so long without some of these items. Scan the list and see if there's anything here you don't have in your own tool drawer. 

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments what inexpensive household tool I neglected to include and I'll add it to the list. 

A non-contact voltage tester can tell you if a circuit is live without making physical contact. This pen-style tester from Tacklife has a probe to insert in outlets and can sense the current in a wire through the insulation. It's essential whether you're rewiring a light receptible or just installing a smart doorbell. 

For a very long time, I thought that having a full-size electric drill was enough, since it could accommodate screwdriver bits. But often it was too big or clumsy for the space I was working in. This Black and Decker model has a three-position pivoting handle to help you fit it anywhere, and the battery holds a charge for up to 18 months at a time, which is handy because you probably don't need it that often. 

There are few essential household tools that cost less than a better tester like this one from WeePro, but it pays for itself many times over. This tester can evaluate almost any kind of battery in your home, including AAA, AAA, C, D, 9v and button cells. It doesn't reuqire a battery of its own -- it draws power from the battery it's testing. 

We've all been there -- you drop a screw and it rolls into a virtually inaccessible spot behind the desk. Armed with a claw or magnet, though, nothing dropped is every out of reach. This tool has both -- a four-pronged claw and a powerful magnet that can lift up to three pounds. The flexible shaft can reach 24 inches and it even includes an LED light to illuminate dark spaces. 

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