Saving Major Money on Major Purchases: Our 8 No-Fail Frugal Steps (Dishwasher Edition)

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by Robin

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We had no plans on writing a post about buying a new dishwasher.  But our dishwasher thought it was time.  Whenever we need to replace some appliance or household thing-a-ma-jig we use our tried and true Frugal Shopping Steps.  You can thank our old dishwasher for prompting us to share.

Our Frugal Shopping Steps:

1) Can it be fixed?

We opened her up and poked around a bit.  There was nothing completely obvious like a wire lose or anything.  That was the end of our skills.  Would it be worth bringing in a pro?

We did some research into the average lifespan of a dishwasher.  We found lots of opinions, with ranges of 5 to 10 years.  I liked this source from ehow best:  How to Determine the Lifespan of a Dishwasher.  Here's a quote:

"Determine how often you plan to use it. If you run it 3 times a day, then plan on it only lasting for about 3 years. If you run it once a week, then it might last 12 years. It should have a life span of three uses per week for 10 years."  

If this estimate is correct, the typical dishwasher has 1,560 runs in her.  We typically run ours daily.  So our 8-year-old has had approximately 2,912 runs.  I like that calculation, it makes me resent her breakdown less.  She gave us twice what we could expect of her.  (OK, enough talking about the dishwasher like a person).

Our conclusion:  Not worth repairing.  A repair could cost as much as a new one.

2)  Can you do without?

I wish we could say yes; it would be so frugal of us.  I know lots of people manage without one.  But I am pretty sure that we would cook less if we had to contend with a counter full of dishes afterwards.  Cooking less means more frozen meals, take-out and meals away from home.

Also, Energy Star dishwashers are easier on the energy bills than handwashing (not unlike a shower is more energy efficient than a bath).  Taking their numbers at face value, the cost of a dishwasher is basically a breakeven proposition.

But, basically this photo summarizes our true feelings about life without a dishwasher:

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Our conclusion:  The savings we get from cooking at home would outweigh the cost to replace our dishwasher pretty darn quick (for example, if we spend $20 a week in convenience food, because of the pile of dishes, we'd spend $1040 extra in the first year alone).

3)  What are your "non-negotiables" as far as features?

  • Energy Star
  • Tall tub (to fit lots in so we can run it less often)
  • Nylon coated racks (they don't rust as quickly - our last one never did)
  • White (to match our other appliances.  Not the most stylish, but classic and it would cost us a lot more to change everything just to be trendy.)

4)   Do your research

What's a good replacement?  This can be a tough one to answer.  But, just like the unbiased beauty product review site I use, we use a review site for household stuff.  Good ol'Consumer Reports.

There is a fee to use the site, but you can also find your local library carries printed issues and a membership where patrons can use the Consumer Reports site for free.  (Ours does, we just enter their Research Tools page, enter our library card number and we can access the Consumer Reports review site and much more.  Be sure to explore your library's site, it's worth it.)

Our conclusion:  We narrowed it down to a few reasonable replacement models with a regular price of between $500 and $600.  It won't be flashy, but it will clean our dishes for us.  Ultimately, that's all it needs to do.

5)  Can you find one used?

Usually we explore the online classifieds to see if we can find what we're after used.  Our favourite by far is kijiji.  We haven't had much luck with craigslist (but it seems like it's the go-to site for bargain hunters in the U.S.).

You may have a workplace buy-and-sell that's worth checking out.  Ed's school board has one, and we've had great luck there over the years.  My theory is that people are less inclined to try and pull one over on a colleague than a stranger, so I feel most confident of the stuff listed here.

Our conclusion: Given the number of things that could go wrong with a dishwasher, we weren't willing to risk buying one someone was getting rid of.  Sometimes there are things listed that are "new in the box", but we weren't lucky enough to find one of those this time.

6) Find the best price online

Flipp is the app we like to start with.  Such a great place to find deals.  (For the first draft of this post in 2012 we used Deal Genius and before that Wishabi - neither exist anymore!)  Google Shopping is supposed to be good, too, but we haven't had the same success.

Our conclusion: Our search found Sears had a model that was rated well for $150 off.  We could replace our dishwasher at $399 (plus tax).

7)  Visit some brick-and-mortar stores to compare.  Can you find a floor model or scratch and dent?

Armed with our online research, we like to visit at least one brick-and-mortar store.  (You remember those?  They have doors and people and terrible music inside them?  Very mid-century modern.)

We called ahead to the Brick to see if they had any scratch and dent models.  They implied they did, but then when we got there this wasn't really the case.  The old Bait-and-Switch.  We walked out and resolved not to return, but before we left we compared their prices with the one we had in mind on sale at Sears.  They had nothing to offer us.

Our conclusion:  We drove to Sears with the hopes we could buy the floor model for less.  It wasn't to be, so we ordered the sale model and left satisfied.

8) Do as much as you can yourself

By doing as much yourself you can you can save money.  Dishwashers are surprisingly light so we could pick it up ourselves (saving a $65 delivery fee).  We also dropped the old one off a local scrap metal dealer, which saved us the $20 charge that Sears would have tacked on.

Ed installed it himself.  (Sometimes we forget that we blog.  We should have gotten some action shots.  You would have been moderately impressed.)  It was tricky but much easier to replace an existing dishwasher than when we installed it the very first time.  No serious electrical or plumbing involved, so we didn't need to involve my dad (but his installation rates are very good: usually a meal or two and some time to play with his grandkids).

The new machine works vastly better than our old one.  Ed has declared that even I could load it and things would come out clean.  (That's high praise because Ed is very particular about how the dishwasher is loaded.  He's has said to me in the past, "If I ever leave you, it's because of how you load the dishwasher."  Harsh, huh?

***Ed's Note:  On the contrary, I would find it refreshing to know that my spouse got such joy from a good dishwasher loading that they would excuse me from having to ever do that job.  And really, has porridge ever washed cleanly off something on the top rack?***  But this new dishwasher should keep our marriage intact a little while longer. )

Do you have tricks and tips for getting good deals on appliances?  Please!  Share them below in the comments.

Keep reading here for more of our Saving Money Tips!

1 comment

  1. Every time I buy something now, I look for sales or clearances for that particular item online and in stores... I look for going out of business sales... There have been more than a few times I’ve been unbelievably lucky or knew God was watching out for me and my kids (older single mom here)... There are some actual appliance places online that have free shipping and some great sales going on through the year... Mattresses are usually on sale at the beginning of the year or major holidays- I had to break down last year and buy a new mattress and got a free adjustable frame).. There have been years where I’ve done without until days like Black Friday... I also forgot to mention how the stores have sales on certain things through the year like the grocery stores sell meat, etc., cheaper on certain days of the week when they get more in... I make a plan to go every Wednesday to buy meat because they mark meat down and these mark downs are not advertised! You have to watch... I know this sounds crazy, but I also always have my eyes peered for roadside finds... People move out and the owners put their things out by the road for the trash... I have found everything from lamps to an awesome trundle bed (frame only, beware of bugs- check everything, then store outside under cover for a bit and clean, clean, clean!!!) that’s held up for a few years so far... I’ve found an entertainment center and china cabinet to building materials... We have a yearly city clean up and we drive all over and have found all sorts of things- I first went to find landscaping materials, but the kids got into it and we came back with three loads! Our main rule is never get anything you will break or throw away in three months, only things that have an actual purpose... I do not like clutter, however, I have allowed books... bookshelves, fencing, windows, wood and even appliances that we can fix and either give away or sell...


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