Don Thorpe - N4DJT
First off a good starting point could be a 1/4 wave ground plane.. easy to make! Google "1/4 wave 2 meter ground plane" you'll see many plans most with step by step instructions and detailed parts list.
Secondly, lose the HT! Lot of new techs either buy or get handed a cheap Chinese HT, they a low quality and low output, I've rarely seen one that actually puts out the spec'd power of 5 w.. more like 2-3w.
There are many good used VHF/UHF radios out there, Ham-Fests are starting back up! I'd look for a older analog Japanese mobile radio (yaesu, kenwood, icom) in the 50 watt range and a GOOD power supply.
Once you have those two things sorted out, then look to upgrade the antenna further to a diamond or comet.
If you are not on a tight budget or got money to burn. then by all means go get ya an Icom IC-9700 and a Diamond X-700 on a Rohn 35ft push-up mast mounted to the side of your house. No need to climb and you'll get out great..lol