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Be a Savvy Bargain-Hunter When Buying a Major Appliance

Kimberly Griffiths -- Save yourself at least 10%-80% on appliances by planning your purchase -- this could equate up to $1,000 or more a year in savings.

When shopping for major appliances consider researching your options before walking into your local appliance store. Whether you're in the market for a computer, refrigerator, washer/dryer, or a vacuum, the process for comparison shopping is the same. Save yourself at least 10%-80% on appliances by planning your purchase -- this could equate up to $1,000 or more a year in savings.

To save money on any appliance you are going to purchase, answer the following questions:

-- What features do you want?
-- When do you really need to have the appliance?
-- Will you consider buying a second-hand unit?
-- What price range are you willing to pay?

My objective is to walk you through my recent purchase for a refrigerator so that you can use the cost-saving tactics when you purchase your next major appliance.

What features do you want?

There are so many different varieties of refrigerators that it can be difficult to choose what you want. From least to most expensive there are top-freezers, bottom-freezers, side-by-sides, as well as cabinet-depth and built-in models.

It was helpful to search online to read the customer reviews of appliances at www.eopinions.com and the Consumer Reports Review, www.consumerreports.org. You can find the latest Consumer Reports at your local library for free.

Interesting Fact: According to a Consumer Reports article, Frigidaire, General Electric, Kenmore, and Whirlpool account for 75% of top-freezer sales!

Even though the top-freezer models are much more space efficient and generally less expensive, and the bottom-freezer refrigerators are all the rage, I decided I wanted a stainless steel side-by-side model with a filtered water and ice dispenser. As long as the unit was a major brand with at least a one year manufacturer warranty, it didn't really matter to me who made it. I don't particularly need the spill-proof, slide-out glass shelves, and temperature controlled compartments, but if a mid-priced refrigerator came with it, I would welcome it.

To become familiar with what the features are of appliances, you can do begin your research at some of the national appliance stores:

-- www.BestBuy.com
-- www.Sears.com
-- www.HomeDepot.com
-- www.Lowes.com

When do you really need to have the appliance?

Depending on your financial situation, you may wish to hold out another year with your existing appliance if you can. Visit the Repair Clinic, www.repairclinic.com, which offers help in identifying how to repair your existing appliance.

If you are replacing an older model refrigerator, you may save money in electric bills with a new more efficient model. The best time to replace an old appliance is when it is still working! Hopefully you will have time to research this major purchase so that you can be sure you get the best price. Fortunately, I knew I had a couple weeks to plan for the refrigerator purchase and its delivery.

Will you consider buying a second-hand unit?

As frugal as I am, there are some appliances that I just want to buy new -- a refrigerator is one of them. If a friend, neighbor, or colleague was moving and luck would work in my favor that they were selling a newer model, I would have seriously considered buying it. However, I wasn't interested in looking for a second-hand unit from someone I didn't know.

If you really are tight on money and need the appliance now, some of the national rental centers in your town may sell used appliances.

What price range are you willing to pay?

Here are the price ranges of what you can expect to pay for the different types of models:

-- Top-Freezer: $350 - $2,000
-- Bottom-Freezer:$650 - $2,000
-- Side-by-Side: $800 - $2,600
-- Cabinet Depth: $1,500 - $3,000
-- Built-In: $4,000 - $6,000

Don't forget to measure the space that you have for a refrigerator in your kitchen before buying the new appliance. This may help you eliminate a lot of your choices depending on the size space you have.

For the features I wanted, I knew that my hope of paying $700 was going to be unlikely. I was astounded to find out that "mainstream" refrigerators can cost upwards of $3,000 with the average retail cost settling around the $1,400 mark.

I decided I was willing to pay up to $1,000, but any more would not be within my budget. I just don't need all the bells and whistles that come with these high-end units. I figure the more gadgets it has, the more likely something will break down. I want it to be functional and a good investment.

Buying last year's car model can be a tremendous bargaining tactic, and buying last year's appliances can save you a bundle too. Shops are looking to move merchandise, especially when the new models are coming into the marketplace. Research the competition in your neighborhood versus buying the appliance online. Sears Outlets are cashing in on selling appliances that have been discontinued, refurbished, or damaged, but unfortunately, my city doesn't have such an outlet.

Although the choices are more limited at these types of outlets, the appliances are discounted between 15%-50% off the retail price.

Be a savvy bargain-hunter and inquire at your local appliance store if they have a scratch and dent section of their store. If you don't mind a little cosmetic blemish on your appliance, you could save some money. The scratch and dent section I uncovered had appliances reduced at 10% off the retail price.

I wasn't impressed with the price reduction so I began looking at their sale items. Although getting the appliance on sale is good, I wanted to find a new refrigerator at a much deeper discount. I scoured the appliance stores for one-of-a-kind 2005 floor models that they were trying to unload since the 2006 versions were filling the showrooms.

As luck would have it, I found one; exactly what I was looking for, a stainless steel side-by-side unit with a filtered water and ice dispenser. The retail price was $1,200, and I was able to negotiate it with a locally-owned appliance store for $881.95 with free delivery -- there are definite advantages to working with a locally-owned appliance store!

I was assured by the sales associate that if I found the same unit advertised by one of their competitors within the next 30 days, they would refund me 110% of the difference. He was convinced that I wouldn't be able to find one but I did continue to look! After you make the purchase, be cognizant that the appliance store you bought it from doesn't put the item on sale. If they do, make sure that the store will reimburse you the difference.

Buying extended warranties is always a challenge for me. Of course I don't want to have any problems in five years, but I also think that paying the appliance store $99 for this insurance is a waste of my money.

This topic is very controversial. Do what you feel most comfortable with, but be sure to submit the manufacturer's warranty information right away since this doesn't cost you any additional money.

Remember to apply these cost saving strategies to any appliance purchase you make. By searching for the best price on these items, you can spend your money on getting out of debt or begin saving for a rainy day.

One Paycheck at a Time Inc. is the leading source for sensible debt reduction solutions. Its products include the One Paycheck at a Time paperback (ISBN: 1591133327), as well as an ebook format, and the eTools program. The author of the book and president of the company, Kimberly A. Griffiths, has been through the vicious cycle of debt herself and has made it her personal goal to share her experience to help others. More information can be found about the company and its products at www.1PaycheckataTime.com.

© 2006 Kimberly A. Griffiths

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