What is OK to cheap out on?


I have a feeling everyone is going to have a different answer to this based on their particular focus, but I’m still curious to know where folks here have cut corners to save money and it really hasn’t been a problem. So, in everyone’s opinion when is getting cheap ok?

For example, I’ve gotten cheap on power supplies, and basic hand tools. I use Harbor Freight - (or Menards) “free” screw driver sets for my bench. My power supplies are also either USB, old AC adapters I have laying around or low-end $35 variable bench supplies. From what I can tell, going cheap here hasn’t been a problem. Hand tools, if I need to exert force on a piece of electronics that might strip or bend my drivers, I should be using my craftsman set from my garage, and what the HECK am I doing?! :slight_smile: Power supplies, I just don’t do work that can’t tolerate noise or fluctuation in voltage or whatever. I’m pretty much a 3.3v, 5v, or 12v guy. That’s it. Couple hundred milliamps, etc. So I think I’m ok there.

Where I try to stay in better quality gear is with soldering irons, scopes, and meters when I can. Aside from the “free” Harbor Freight meters I try to use good stuff.

What say we all? I’m curious to know what different areas of focus do to that cheap-o-delux vs. high quality shift.



Honestly for most things, I’m a cheapskate, as are many people in the hardware industry that I know. I don’t cheap out on soldering or test equipment, unless you count buying just what I need (ie. a 3.5 digit DMM suits most of my needs fine).

I usually cheap out especially hard on things like indicator LEDs and other jellybean components. Also connectors, if I can.


I think you made a good point there by saying, “buying just what I need”. That may have answered the entire question there. LOL. I listen to The AmpHour enough to know why you need a 3.5 digit display I think.

I’m a low/no skill hobbyiest with no real application. I wonder where the quality test gear lands when a person is into robots and motors, interacting with the physical world, IoT (sorry) or hardware interacting with APIs. What would be important to those folks?


I think you are on the right track. I don’t look at it as being cheap but more about starting simple with the resources you have at hand for the task you want to get done. I have a collection of power adapters I still use. Only after a while did I get a lab supply - not the most expensive but what I was prepared to pay for the specs that I thought would suit for the types of projects I evisaged I would be working on.

Basically I have purchased gear driven by the need to help with a project I am working on. So maybe as you work on your projects, you will understand better the specs of the equipment that will help you - i.e. the specs contribute to the cost.