Best Inexpensive™ Heated Mattress Pad

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know something called a heated mattress pad even existed. Makes sense since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. It was shocking.

Scocked women look at a bill

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night and use a Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom, but that wasn’t altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

That’s when I set out to find a way we could both enjoy a warm and cozy sleeping environment without paying a fortune to achieve it. We tried going the electric blanket route. We got this Biddeford model with dual controls. That sounded like a great idea until we used it for a few nights. While the cords and wires are advertised to be flexible, we could still feel them and they felt stiff and bulky. Another problem is the dual controls require separate outlets. But worse—even at the lowest setting, it felt to me that I was trapped under a layer of heat and it didn’t feel good.

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Best Inexpensive™ Electric Toothbrush, Folding Knife, Smart Speaker and Extreme Hand Lotion

One of the best things I’ve done in a long time is to invite my readers to send in their requests for my Best Inexpensive picks. I’m not sure why I love it so much, but I think it may have something to do with satisfying my inner shopper without actually shopping.

At any rate, today I’m excited to reveal my Best Inexpensive picks for four completely unrelated, but frequently requested items.

ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH. I’ve gone to the same dentist for so many years, I’m sure he’d be embarrassed if I told you here. Know how much I trust and depend on Richard Oliver, DDS., La Palma, Calif.? I now live 1,100 miles away, but he’s still my dentist and I still show up for regular cleaning and check-ups. Dr. Oliver believes so strongly in the effectiveness of a good electric toothbrush, he gives his patients a new brush head for their particular model, every visit. However, my pick for the Best Inexpensive electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000.

Here’s why: It’s a great tool, works like a champ and gets awesome reveiws. Oral-B Pro 1000 has a built-in timer so I know I have to keep going at it until it gives me an alert that I’m done—but also a pulse every 30 seconds so I know when to switch areas. The replacement toothbrush heads for this brush are inexpensive, which is a big deal. This brush holds a charge for many days, making it  ideal for travel. The manufacturer claims this Pro 100 removes 300% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush.

FOLDING KNIFE. Having all sons and one husband, I’m know how much many men enjoy and depend on a decent pocket knife. In my family, I’ve joined those ranks. I love having a good, dependable cutting tool in my handbag. And I know the heartache of losing my favorite, well-used and always sharp knife. That’s when it’s good to know I carry the best that is also inexpensive. My pick for Best Inexpensive pocket knife: Columbia River Knife and Tool with Plain Edge.

Here’s why: It is the perfect size and shape. Once folded, it locks in place for safety. The blade is high-quality stainless steel and razor-sharp . For the money, this is a super bargain. Read more

Best Inexpensive: Towels, Mattress Pad, Down Comforter

In my lifetime, I have spent way too much in an attempt to furnish bedrooms and baths with high quality towels and bedding. What I have discovered through a lot of trial and error is that the price does not always guarantee great results.

Today I want to tell you about my picks for the Best Inexpensive bath towels, mattress pads and down (the real deal) comforters.

TOWELS. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when it comes to towels, my husband and I are both very picky. They can’t be too thin, but not too thick either. Towels need to be highly absorbent, 100% cotton. We’re not into bath sheets, preferring our bath towels to be somewhere around 30” x 56.” They need to be soft but not too soft, so as not to give an invigorating rub down following a hot shower.

I want towels that launder well—able to handle hot wash, vinegar rinse and a high-temperature dry with wool dryer balls. We stick with all white linens, so our towels need to be able to handle an occasional bit of chlorine bleach.

My pick for Best Inexpensive bath towels is Land’s End 100% Rare Supima Combed Cotton towels, hand towels, and washcloths. These are amazing towels. They do not shrink, launder beautifully and look gorgeous hanging in the bathroom. These towels come singly or in sets and in a choice of 15 colors, including white.

Lands’ End Rare Supima Combed Cotton 6-piece Towel Set (2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 2 washcloths)
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Best Inexpensive: Hair Conditioners

Considering the huge reader response whenever I mention that the most inexpensive shampoos can actually be good for your hair, but not so for hair conditioners—a follow up post is in order.

Store shelves of hair products

Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems.

Conditioners fall into four general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve: moisturizers, reconstructors, acidifiers and detanglers.

Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with my industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair!

While the specific products I am about to mention to you are available readily in supermarkets and drug stores, the prices quoted are for Amazon, at the time of writing.

MOISTURIZERS are concentrated with humectants, which are compounds that attract moisture into the hair and hold it there. If your hair is dry, brittle and limp, you should consider a moisturizing conditioner like Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal DreamCare Conditioner Read more

Best Inexpensive™ Computer Printers

With so many technologies and capabilities available, choosing a printer isn’t easy. And don’t assume you’ll find the perfect printer anytime soon. No matter the cost, printers get paper jams. They run out of ink/toner. Network connectivity can be challenging. That’s just the nature of printers. I don’t know why, but it’s important to understand and accept.

Now that I’ve lowered your over all expectations, let me give you the good news: There are some great affordable printers out there, depending of course on exactly what you need a printer to do. Here are my top three picks for your consideration:

Best Inexpensive Black and White Laser Printer. The Brother HL-L2395DW is a great choice for people who need to print, scan, or copy term papers, tax forms, concert tickets and other black and white documents from home, home office or dorm room. This printer handles automatic two-sided printing; it’s pretty speedy too, at 32 pages per minute, with a cost-per-page of about 2.3 cents which includes wear and tear on the drum.

This Brother model is quite easy to set up and will be a reliable addition to your home’s computer network. Expect this printer to work well with any current laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet including Chromebooks.

The paper tray holds 250 sheets of paper and the printer itself has a draft or “save more” setting that allows you to conserve toner when the document you print does not require professional quality. But when that is needed, this printer outputs sharp, professional black and white pages at up to 2400 x 600 dpi resolution.
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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!

Angry lady pulling hair

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.

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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.

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.

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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 an 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! Read more