Good (including tapestry or yarn) needles, yarn, tape measure, and scissors are the only truly necessary pieces of equipment you need to have in order to knit. But if you look around, you'll see thousands of different knitting-related items that many people like to have. Needle holders, stitch markers, gauge measurers, yarn guides (for your fingers), and the list goes on and on. All this can add up to hundreds of dollars if you don't watch out. I'm on a budget, so I can't afford all the fancy stuff.
I had some acrylic yarn from years back when I used to do loom knitting. When I first started regular knitting, I bought a 70, yes 70!!, piece DPN set. I had no idea what to do with them to keep them organized. So I thought about it... and I figured it out. I took two contrasting yarns, and knit a 8x20" rectangle. It was stockinette except for the top and bottom, which I did in reverse stockinette. It helps to keep the needles in there. I then put all of my DPNs in order onto it by inserting them into the loops. Each size alternated the colors, so I could easily pull out each "set" if I needed to. Starting from the largest needle size, I rolled the thing up as tightly as I could. Then, I secured two loops of yarn on the outside, which I then wrapped around the entire bundle. Voila, super inexpensive needle holder! It takes up very little space, holds everything pretty securely, and has held up really well even though I go into it all the time.
Stitch markers can be expensive. Why spend $3-20 on a few that you might misplace when you can easily make something just as functional for nearly free? You know those "locking" stitch markers? I use safety pins. Regular round stitch markers? I use scraps of yarn. I have a cup full of yarn scraps that I've dedicated to the purpose of using at stitch markers. If I lose one, it's no big deal. And if it gets too beat up, I don't feel bad about throwing it away.
You don't really need a retractable tape measure. It's a frivolous thing to have, considering that you could just as easily go to your local craft store and pick up a regular (non-retractable) tape measure with its own little case for less than a dollar. It works exactly the same. It's not that hard to rewind a tape measure. It's really not!
Why waste money on a chart tracker when a simple pen and paper would do just as well?
Two things that I recommend budgeting for are a yarn swift and winder. If you're like me, you like hand-dyed/handpainted yarns. Most of said yarns come in hanks, not center-pull balls. I don't currently have a swift nor do I have a winder, but after 6 months of knitting, I can tell that I need to save for one of each. It drives me nuts spending over half an hour winding one 100g hank of fingering yarn. And if I have multiple hanks? Forget about it. Sometimes I have to hire Brit to help me wind. I have a swift and winder on my birthday/Christmas wish list. If someone doesn't get one for me, I'll defintiely be investing in one myself.
If you've got the money for it, Joann.com has a large yarn swift for only $49.19! It's for a limited time only, though, so you better hurry.
What cheap/free methods do you use to keep knitting within a reasonable budget? I'm all about new ideas!