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Best Inexpensive Cordless Handheld Vacuum

To say that I have had a love/hate relationship with handheld vacuums for many years would be to put it mildly. I love the idea of a handheld cordless vacuum that is charged up and always ready to make a quick pick-up—in fact, that’s pretty much on my list of life’s necessities.

But I hate when the thing runs for only a few minutes before it needs to be recharged and has such weak suction it really doesn’t do a very good job of picking anything up. It’s enough to make me want to pull my hair out!

I’m sure it’s been 30 years or longer since I got my first handheld Dustbuster. It would hold a charge for maybe two minutes if all the stars were properly aligned and I held it in just the right position. And the thing completely failed after only a short time—refusing to hold any charge at all.

Best Headphones for Every Budget and Kids, Too

Several readers have asked recently about the best inexpensive headphones and earbuds both for themselves and their kiddos—and today seems like a great day to respond.

Generally these are the best values, price points and styles of headphones for adults and kids, too:

Best inexpensive wired headphones. Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds are smartphone compatible with integrated microphone and remote for Apple (iPhone* / iPod / iPad), Android and Blackberry Audio devices. Tonally balanced audio with crisp highs and deep low notes. Wider frequency response for musicians and fuller listening enjoyment . Lively sound quality for recorded audio. Comes with small, medium and large earpads to ensure a perfect fit for adults and children. Your choice of several beautiful colors. About $13.

Best mid-level wired headphones. 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones have two balanced armatures and a separate dynamic driver to deliver an extremely accurate music-listening experience with unsurpassed dynamic power and clarity from deep bass to sizzling highs. The built in microphone and remote are Apple and Android compatible. About $99.

Best value for high quality wired, noise cancelling headphones. Bose QuietComfort 20 is the Cadillac of smartphone replacement earbuds. These are only for those with discriminating hearing and music appreciation to go along with it. Available in two models: one for Apple devices* and one for Samsung/Android devices. Features noise cancelling that reduces surrounding distractions, letting music stand out. Many other high-end features. About $250. 

Best Inexpensive Small Kitchen Appliances

Recently, I heard from EC reader Douglas who wrote, Would you please repeat your column that describes the best inexpensive small kitchen appliances? I want to replace my mixer and small food chopper. Thanks. Your column is great. I look forward to it every day.

After a few moments of non-productive searching, my confused self realized that while I’ve included a small kitchen appliance in a “best inexpensive” column from time to time, the column Douglas was looking for didn’t exist. Now it does. Thanks Douglas for that kick I needed and your nice comments, too.

1. FOOD PROCESSOR. The Hamilton Beach 8-Cup Food Processor is simple to use offering 2 speeds, a powerful 450-watt motor and large feed tube. Just the perfect size, too. About $22.

2. HAND MIXER. When selecting an electric mixer, consider carefully your specific need. If you use a mixer only occasionally for small jobs, my pick for best inexpensive is the KitchenAid KHM512ER 5-Speed Ultra Power Hand Mixer. About $38.

My Shopping Addiction Rehab Program

Shopping is my thing. I love the thrill of the hunt, that feeling of discovery and the joy of a bargain. I find it satisfying in ways I can’t fully describe. I want to experience the feeling as often as possible. Shopper’s high is no joke. It’s real, it’s palpable and it’s addictive.

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Shopping got me into a lot of trouble. In just 12 years I ran up more than $100,000 in consumer debt—most of it on credit cards. Eventually all of it came crashing down and nearly took me with it. Thankfully, that crisis became the catalyst to turn my life around.

It took 13 years to repay all of the debt. I learned a lot about myself in the process but mostly that the satisfaction I got from shopping was short lived. It was fake because it vanished in less time than it took me to get the stuff to the car. But that just set me up to do it again and again because the small bursts of  joy I got from shopping were worth the pain that always followed. Crazy I know, but absolutely true.

I could so easily go back to my old ways, and that’s scary. So, what keeps me on the straight and narrow? It’s you! You’re my shopping addiction rehab program. Paying off that monstrous debt and these past 25 years of writing, researching and communicating with you on a daily basis have become the best maintenance program I could hope for. And the best part? I get to use my shopping skills nearly every day, now in a constructive way.

A few days ago I got an email from Jeannine who asked simply, “What is the best inexpensive Bluetooth speaker?” Just like that, I flew into shopping mode—that thing I love to do because it brings me uncanny satisfaction. But here’s the deal: I’m not shopping for myself. I’m not spending my money or creating a bit of debt. I’m researching for Jeannine and that frees me from all of the personal negative stuff. I get to experience the joys of shopping that I love so much without any of the remorse or regret, guilt or shame. That’s authentic, lasting satisfaction. I love my job.

Stuff Grandparents Need

As people age, certain activities of normal day-to-day life can become challenging, not that I know anything about this from personal experience or anything. I’ve only heard, got it?

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Take ordinary floor cleaning for example, known to many as “mopping.” Or how about your basic can opening. Both can become challenging for grandparents and other seniors, so I’ve been told.

I’m pretty excited to let you know about some solutions to these and other similar dilemmas and when I say solutions, I’m also referring to gift ideas. Do not assume that your grandparents would be anything but overjoyed  with any of the following.

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To Shred or Not to Shred?

Can someone legally dig through your trash looking for tasty credit card receipts, account numbers, or even your Social Security number? In the decision California vs. Greenwood, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the “expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public… is unreasonable.”

In other words, when you throw something in your trash and then drag that container to the street for pickup, it is available to anyone willing to overlook the disgusting smells and textures of your trash can or dumpster.

Think that doesn’t happen? Well, think again. It has, it does and sadly, it will continue.

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WHY SHRED

In 2015, more than 13 million people fell victim to identity theft felonies in the U.S.

Identity fraud is a serious issue as this band of thieves have stollen $112 billion in the past six years. That equals $35,600 stolen per minute, or enough to pay for four years of college every four minutes.

Some of these victims could have prevented this from happening by simply shredding their uniquely identifying documents.

If you do not know how to effectively shred your most important documents, it’s time to learn. 

Our Best Inexpensive: A Review

Before I bring up the subject of my email inbox, I need to tell you again how much I love to hear from my readers! Every letter, note and message is affirmation that I’m not speaking to an empty room. I love your tips, stories, questions, corrections and even the occasional argument.

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Now about my inbox—it fills almost faster than I can read. So far I’ve managed to keep up with the reading part but responding personally to every message has become impossible. So I create file folders for varying subjects. When a folder gets full I know it’s time to address that subject in an upcoming post.

Today I’m cleaning out the folder labeled “Best Inexpensive?” where hundreds of messages land that go something like this:  “Please tell me again exactly which sewing machine (vacuum, carpet cleaner, spot remover and so on) that was you’ve picked as the best inexpensive option out there.”

So, for all of you who asked, here you go!

Best Inexpensive Instant Pot, Smart TV and Recipe for Vinyl Siding Cleaner, Too

Dear Mary: I have always valued your comments about various products and can honestly say that I have never been disappointed in anything I bought after reading your recommendations.

Have you done any research on the Instant Pot Multi-Functional pressure cookers? With Christmas around the corner I was thinking that might be a good gift. Thank you so much. Conni

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Dear Conni: Thank you for your kind words and your trust. That means the world to me.

Yes I am very familiar with Instant Pot, a single electric appliance that functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute/browning, yogurt maker, steamer and warmer—seven appliances in one! What makes Instant Pot so amazing is that is has a micro processor (think: computer) and comes with 14 built-in programs that offer adjustable cooking modes, up to 24 hours of delayed cooking and automatic keep warm for up to 10 hours, to name a few. Instant Pot has all of the features we wished our slow cookers and pressure cookers had.

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This appliance can turn out perfectly poached eggs in 2-3 minutes, baked potatoes in 12 minutes. I don’t want to get too dramatic here, but I really believe that Instant Pot has the power to change a home cook’s life.

I can’t say too many good things about Instant Pot and agree with you that an Instant Pot would make a wonderful gift for a very lucky foodie on your Christmas list.

While there are a number of different Instant Pot models, my pick for the best inexpensive option is Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi Functional Pressure Cooker 6 QT/1000W. It is sweet! About $120.