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>a 3-inch blade is pretty small compared to other knives, except for the ones the children can use.
that's not really accurate. it's pretty much the most common size for a folding knife actually; in many states a folding knife with a blade over 3" can be considered a concealed weapon. plus, big knives are harder/heavier to carry and have no real use for the 'extra' length to justify the annoyance of carrying it. most adults who carry knives around with them (there are legit reasons) would have one of around this size.
the official BSA knife is 2.75". so is the one i have on my desk right now, which I'm sure many thousands of adults carry around.
I picked up an Ontario Rat Model 2 recently and have been pretty impressed by it. It's pretty thin, clip is black so it goes well with black dress pants and seems pretty well built. I had a Cyro and liked it too but it's gone missing at the moment. The Rat is lighter too. Amazon appears to have no stock themselves at the moment so a 3rd party has come in and jacked up the price. I got mine for about $26 [link]
re: thumbstuds. That is where I give cold steel a nod, they make theirs removable, so when putting on a clamp style sharpener you can remove them so they do not get in the way.
But I agree with all this. Honestly, as well a great EDC blade for a low price in your budget that will serve you well, is an Ontario Rat II. They can be had for about $30 - $40 and are amazing budget blades. They are not assisted, but the deployment with the thumbstud are amazing. Well worth a try to purchase one.
Someone on /r/knifeclub suggested this ontario rat 2 and I use that most often if I'm outside. I also have some cheapo walmart sheffield folders on my kitchen counter that I use even more often, for opening boxes and general inside tasks. I don't carry a knife on me because they aren't allowed at work...so I just have them laying around and grab whatever one is closest
I've had problems with the torsion bar of the cryo snapping after about a month. For that price/size I think the ontario rat 2 is a better buy, but of course that all depends on your preference.
Well let's not be rash.
If you really can only afford one, it has to hold up. Maybe the fixed blade is already assumed, and it's just a question of comfortable discrete carry.
You could modify a sheath to be an inside-the-waistband, deep-carry type. So long as it was comfortable and safe you'd have it all.
If that won't work than a tough cheap folder is what you want. Maybe an ontario rat?