One of the minor annoyances of adult life is the day-to-day chores that we all have to do. When you have kids at home those chores seem to grow exponentially. Doing laundry for two isn’t so bad, but doing laundry for six people means 5 sets of sheets, dozens of towels, and don’t even get me started on the socks.
In our house things get used to death, literally. We don’t believe in replacing something unless it’s served us usefully until an often untimely death. The exception is when we purchase something that is ‘cheap’ and isn’t performing in a way that makes life easier. While we try to avoid this trap (research, research, and more research is your friend) it happens on occasion.
In the last few months we lost two of the most important appliances in our house and needed to replace them quickly. Both purchases taught me a thing or two about what to do when you’re in a ‘must buy’ situation.
Money Saving Tips for Buying Appliances
While doing my daily wash (I run about 20 loads a week), our washing machine just stopped working mid-cycle. No spinning, and a weird error message were displayed. Since it was just out of warranty at 14 months old, I opted to call a local repair company because their prices are cheaper for repairs. The repairman spent some time looking over the machine, and told me it was likely the computer in the washer was fried. Since we didn’t have the machine on a grounded outlet (our older house didn’t have them-oops) it was likely a power surge had caused the damage. To repair it would cost close to $500, and he recommended we didn’t even bother. We started looking at washers while I lugged laundry to a (filthy, icky) laundromat to the tune of $45 just to wash and dry our clothes.
In older homes the washer and dryer position is ‘backwards’ from how most homes are built today. With a top loader this isn’t an issue, but I prefer a front loader for several reasons, and wouldn’t you know only one company makes a washer with a door that can be switched from one side to the other. We got an estimate on switching the washer and dryer position, and after nearly choking on that number, we opted to get the one and only washer that would fit our space.
It’s an Electrolux front loader with tons of bells and whistles in terms of the cycles and it even has a steam clean option. We’ve had the machine for several months now and I still adore it. It gets things clean, doesn’t need a ton of water or detergent to do so, and is super quick. It gets bonus points for being pretty and sleek too.
It also occasionally provides entertainment to the kids. 😉
In our old school kitchen we inherited the original cooktop when we bought out house. 40-year-old electric coil cooktops aren’t exactly cutting edge, but thankfully we had a free solution at hand. My parents had a glass cooktop with a slight crack/ding in the corner that had been removed from their house before it sold and replaced with a new one. Since it was still safe and usable we installed it when we moved into our house. For 4 years it served us well, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the color (white-which is hard to clean) and it didn’t work perfectly.
Unfortunately while my parents were visiting my mom noticed a huge crack in the middle of the cooktop. We looked up info about repairing it online, but found it was a lost cause. Once the glass is cracked it’s typically more expensive to repair than to replace so off to Lowe’s we went. Fortunately it was around the Black Friday weekend so we were able to score the exact low-end cooktop we wanted at $100 off.
The Frigidaire cooktop we purchased is pretty bare bones, but when your kitchen is as desperate for demo as ours is (yes, that’s faux butcher block) it’s just what we needed. The bonus? The black cooktop is much easier to keep clean (or hide stains), and it heats more evenly than the old cooktop we inherited ever did.
When our water heater stopped working we called our heating and plumbing company. They came out and made a recommendation and I took a few minutes to do some research and discuss alternatives. Without spending a small fortune to change our system to tankless the best and most affordable option in the short-term and long-term was to replace our gas hot water heater with a newer model. The savings have been dramatic, and while the install cost was pricey it was something we didn’t have time or knowledge to DIY so we happily paid to make sure it was installed properly and quickly.
We have known we needed a new fridge since we moved in. It would need to replace the vintage 1990’s fridge we inherited when we moved into our house. It was not only an energy sucking appliance, but it wasn’t very big and don’t get me started on the almond color. I only got serious about replacing it when I noticed a crack in the back of the fridge. Clearly it was time for it to go.
I knew I wanted a top fridge/bottom freezer but as we investigated options it became clear that we would either need to go single door or get a fridge that was triple the cost due to the narrow space we have for it with our current kitchen layout.
I found the model I wanted which came highly rated, and opted to not spend the extra $200 on stainless steel. We chose black since we prefer it to white appliances which feel very dated to me (though they are making a comeback).
I price compared online and found that if I bought the same fridge I was looking at from multiple retailers from Sears I would save over $150 by signing up for ShopYourWay Rewards (it’s free and you earn points towards future purchases).
We’ve owned our Whirpool for several months and while I love it, I was somewhat disappointed in the fact that the model does not include trim for the area between the fridge and freezer. I plan to fix it with a black sharpie, but if I had it to do over again I would take a look in store before I bought and maybe purchased the white color instead.
5 Tips for Buying Appliances
1. Set your budget: What you thought this wouldn’t be first? 😉 Know your top dollar budget number for this purchase. That way if you can save on your purchase you may choose to spend a bit more on a model with more features, or bank the rest for another future purchase.
2. Know your Market It may seem counter-intuitive to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ but knowing your housing market is key. Even if you don’t plan to sell soon, it’s a good idea to keep in mind what homebuyers are looking for in your area. For instance, if you live in a modest suburban neighborhood adding a Viking range to the tune of $10,000 would be overkill. When possible consider stainless steel appliances (especially ones with a no-smudge finish) since they are popular and great for resale.
3. Do your homework: It should go without saying, but do not go into the appliance store without a little research under your belt.
Key items to research are:
- brand reliability
- sales or upcoming promotion
Tip: Consumer Reports offers monthly signups and can be a great resource for detailed product info.
4. Take a test run: Before you buy head to several stores and talk to the sale associates in the appliance department. Yes they are trying to make a sale (they typically work on commission after all), but they may share information you hadn’t considered like the case with our backwards laundry room setup. This will also give you the chance to get a ‘vibe’ for the salespeople in the store. In some cases that may determine where you spend your money (especially if the pricepoints are identical).
Tip: Leave the kids at home if you can. Bring a pad and paper, tape measure, and a camera or your smartphone to take photos, notes, and even measurements.
5. Go back to the drawing board: Now that you have your choices narrowed down based on price range, features, your market, and other factors– go back to the drawing board. Take a final look at the options that are available to you, and double-check all your ‘homework’ before you go to make your purchase.
Now that you’re ready to purchase consider these tips to help you stretch your dollar even further.
5 Tips to Stretch your Appliance Dollar
1. Store credit cards: I know they seem like a bad idea, but for responsible credit users they can be a boon. Many offer 10% off and other perks that make it worth using a store card.
2. Buy on credit: Again it may seem irresponsible, but using your credit card can afford you an extended warranty without having to pay for one. Call your credit card company for details on how the protect your purchases.
3. Warranties: Speaking of extended warranties, just don’t do it. For the most part extended warranties cover very little for the cost, and often aren’t worth the cost.
4. Know the return policy: If you have an issue with your purchase you want to be sure you can return it. If you buy a floor sample, or scratch and dent appliance be prepared that it’s likely a ‘final sale,’ meaning no returns.
5. Register: Finally, make sure you register your new purchases with the brand. Yes it’s a means of tracking what you buy, but it’s helpful if you ever have an issue down the road.
We purchased both our appliances for less than listed on the websites I linked to, and at Lowe’s despite much shopping around and debating.
Do you have any advice on buying appliances? Do you wait until appliances die, or purchase them when they are on their last legs?