There's a reason that Harbor Freight has somewhat of a cult following. It's like the dollar store for home improvement, chock full of handy yet oh-so-affordable things that you can't own too many of. It's always fun to walk around the store because you'll inevitably find something you need. Here are some of the best, most useful items they carry, all of which are under five dollars.
I own a large collection of carabiners. I have not gone rock climbing once in my life, but I do keep one on my dog's leash. It's so handy for holding a spare key, or hooking him up outside a store while I run in to grab a carton of eggs. This jumbo one is only two bucks and has padding, so it won't hurt your hand if you use it to carry heavy groceries.
The answer to roughly eight of every 10 questions in this world is this: a plastic storage bin. Use these handy catch-alls to keep food packets orderly in your pantry, random bits and pieces from getting lost in your home, and pretty much anything else organized. These particular ones sell for $3, but there are tons of different sizes and shapes available.
Drawer liners make life better. Their intended use here is for tool boxes, but regular people can use them inside junk drawers, on the bottom of kitchen cabinets and the bathroom vanity, or glove compartments—anything to keep all the bits and pieces in place and not slipping and rolling around everywhere. Like other liners, they also protect the surface underneath from getting dirty or damaged. A 16" x 22" one is only $4 at Harbor Freight.
If you've every known the particular hell of trying to wrestle a sleeping bag back into its stuff sack, you know the joy of these elastic cords. They are particularly good at wrangling big things into submission and keeping them from taking up a lot of space. Use them to tamp down large down comforters before you store them over the summer, or keep your outdoor hose from uncoiling.
These hang-all hooks are good for the big stuff. If you're short on floor space, mount one of these on the wall and take your storage vertical. These will help keep big bulky stuff out of the way, yet still easily accessible: your bicycle, a ladder, or some extra folding chairs for guests. Not too bad for under two dollars.
How many times have you tried to wedge your hand down into a narrow vase to try to clean it? These nylon brushes are great for getting into small areas where regular tools can't reach. Use them to finally clean out the straw in your plastic water bottle, your dryer vent, and any other hard-to-reach nook and cranny. You get nine pieces for only $5.
You can never own too many basic clips. Keep snack bags closed, or some paperwork secured together. And if the clip itself wasn't good enough, these also come equipped with magnets, so you can mount them for memos. There are plastic ones, but I kinda like these more old-school bulldog style ones.
We all look for ways to generate less waste, and especially things like one-use paper towels. Keep some of these microfiber towels handy and use them instead for daily cleaning, then throw them in the washer. Since they are lint-free, they work well for dusting off your television, or wiping glasses clean. A set of four is only four dollars to begin with, but rumor has it that Harbor Freight often gives them with away free with purchase.
I'm not sure I'll ever get done talking about all the ways you can use these magnetic strips. These simple yet useful organizers are good for so much more than just knives. Use them to keep bobby pins and tweezers in the bathroom, metal bits and hardware in the basement, craft supplies in the workroom, metal cars in your kids' bedrooms, and cooking utensils in the kitchen. All for five bucks.
These little foam protectors make moving heavy furniture easier, but they are good for lots of other things as well. You can cut them to size then stick them on the back of art frames to keep them from shifting on your walls, or stick some on the bottom of coasters so they don't scratch your table. At Harbor Freight they are only $3.99 for a pack of eight and you get two different sizes in the package.
I own a couple of small funnels and I use them to pour bulk foods into storage canisters and to regularly refill the clear bottle of dishwashing liquid I keep by my sink. I've even used them to pour gin into a small flask to take with me on the road.
We've talked about using cheap paintbrushes for messy one-off jobs—like stripping finish from furniture—in the past, but they are also handy to keep around for cleaning. Use a small one to brush out a coffee grinder, or to dust your keyboard and other electronics. A basic one-inch brush is only $1.
We recently wrote an ode to zip ties, and all the myriad uses for this cheap, humble item, so I'll throw them into the mix here. Keep a pack of these in a drawer and pull one out whenever you need it (which will be more often than you think). The longer the better with zip ties, because you can always cut off the excess. Harbor Freight sells them in sizes up to 24 inches but 11-inch ones should do the trick for most household needs.
In the age of iPhones, which have flashlights built directly into devices, it's hard to justify buying another regular one. But I own a headlamp, and I'll give you an embarrassing visual about how I use it. In addition to the occasional camping trip and all, it's also my hands-free way to see into my dog Grim's ears when I clean them. When mine goes, I might just pick up a replacement for $3 at Harbor Freight instead of spending more elsewhere.