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How to Buy Carpet—What You Need to Know to Make the Perfect Decision

It’s not something you buy every day. But when it’s time to buy carpet, you’ll want to know your stuff. Make a bad decision and you’ll pay dearly for a long time, and I am not talking just about the money. You’ll pay a significant price in dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Carpet

First, decide the style of carpet and type of fiber you want, determined by where it will be installed, and how much money you have to spend.

Visit several retail carpet stores that will let you take carpet samples home for a few days. Walk on them, view them in a different light. Set a heavy piece of furniture on them to see if the fibers will “rebound” once removed.

No matter how much pressure the sales staff pours on, remember you are not obligated to purchase from any store even if you checked out samples from them.

Common buying mistakes

Not understanding weight

Don’t assume that weight determines quality,  that a carpet with a higher face weight is better than a carpet with a lower one. It is an easy mistake to make because it makes sense to equate weight with quality, but when it comes to carpet and quality, there are many other factors you should consider.

It’s important to do your own homework because many salespeople are just not well informed or maybe too indifferent to explain this properly to customers. It is easier to tell someone that 50 oz. carpet is better than a 40 oz. carpet than it is to explain all of the other considerations.

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Best Inexpensive™ Laptop Computers for 2020

If you or someone you love will be heading to college soon, a laptop will be absolutely essential. Nowadays, a student’s computer is just as important as his or her student ID. But where to start?

College is expensive enough so it’s important to shop smart. But not to worry. I  have done the hard part figuring out our picks for Best Inexpensive™ laptops for students—and others—looking for the best quality at the best value.

First, determine what your student will need in a laptop. Not sure? Here’s a quick list of what I believe the typical college student needs in a computer:

  • Write papers
  • Access the Internet
  • Email
  • Store photos and music
  • Stream Netflix, YouTube, movies, and videos
  • Zoom and Skype with friends and family

Both of my picks below—one Chromebook and one Windows-based—are best for college and graduate students, but they’ll work for those in high school, too. And you can expect these laptops to last at least five years, which in most cases will take a student through an entire college or grad school experience.

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How to Clean Cookie Sheet Pans So They Look New!

They come in sizes big and small, rimmed or without sides. We use them to bake just about anything, but mostly cookies. And they can get super grungy with layers of baked- and burnt-on grease resulting in ugly stains and residue build-up.

 

A close up of a dirty pan

Does anything here look familiar to you? If so, I have good news. Your cookie sheets can be cleaned and restored, even back to the way they looked when new.

What follows is a relatively quick and easy way to get rid of baked-on grease, stubborn food residue, and even rust on any type of cookie and baking sheets—aluminized steel, aluminum, and non-stick—and then to clean and maintain to keep them sparkling clean.

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Best Inexpensive Cast Iron Skillet and How to Love It

The venerable cast iron skillet is making a big comeback among home cooks. Our grandmothers would be so proud! And why not? The best quality cast iron skillet is super cheap compared to its pricey stainless and non-stick competitors, cast iron lasts forever and face it—it’s cool to cook in cast iron.

A plate of food on a table, with Steak

I must have been all of 10-years old the day I decided to surprise my mother by cleaning her old black cast iron skillet. It embarrassed me that over the years it had become so gross. Naively, I assumed that she’d burned too many Sunday roasts in it and that’s why it was never shiny with a copper bottom—like the rest of our pots and pans.

I started with household cleanser and steel wool. I scrubbed on a single spot for what seemed like hours. I couldn’t break through that burned-on “crust” to save my soul. Finally, I just gave up.

What I wouldn’t realize until years later was that I was working on a fine piece of cast iron—a skillet I’m sure I managed to un-do years of coveted “seasoning” that makes a cast iron skillet virtually nonstick.

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Best Inexpensive Bath Towels—Invest in Luxury, Save Money

When asked to describe the perfect bath towel most people would include the words soft, thick, and thirsty. Cotton Incorporated, a trade association of cotton wholesalers, agrees and goes on to say that the perfect towel is a luxurious towel that can also stand up to constant use and laundering for at least a decade. 

A close up of a basket

The secret to buying the perfect towel is in understanding fibers, loops, and dyes because unlike bed sheets, towels don’t come with easy measures like thread counts.

Cotton

A towel’s main duty is to blot up water. One hundred percent cotton does the best job because cotton naturally attracts water. Synthetic fibers like polyester repel water, making a cotton-polyester blend less absorbent and to be avoided. 

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This is the Easiest Way to Cut High Winter Heating Bills

Until several years ago, I didn’t know something existed called a heated mattress pad. It makes sense I suppose 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. Trust me—high heating bills can be shocking.

A woman holding a book

Lower the temp

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night, then using this Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom. That worked relatively well, but that wasn’t altogether successful. Let’s just say that my husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or ten.

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Just in Time for Thanksgiving—Best Inexpensive Kitchen Tools

If today’s topic seems a bit premature because Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, let me remind you of the first time you hosted Thanksgiving dinner. I know that I was a wreck, and for two reasons: time and cooking tools.

I didn’t allow enough time to plan ahead, let alone properly prepare the meal once the day arrived. And I sure didn’t have the right equipment.

Dinner and Chef

 

Thankfully, there’s still enough time to plan, time to prepare, and time to make sure we’re properly equipped to make this Thanksgiving a day of calm, joy, and gratitude. But only if we start now!

I’ve done Thanksgiving Dinner enough times now to know that there are a few pieces of equipment that are absolutely necessary to make sure the process goes smoothly and the dinner is a huge success. The challenge, though, is making sure we’re not loading up on unitaskers—tools we use only one day a year. We want to make sure that items we buy for the kitchen can be used all year long.

Here are our picks for Best Inexpensive Thanksgiving cooking tools that will make your day easier, tools I’m certain you’ll be reaching for throughout the year.

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Best Inexpensive Steam Irons

I just asked Siri*, “How do most people relax?” She rattled off a list of activities including, “nosh on chocolate,” “rub your feet over a golf ball,” “count backward,” “meditate” and “drip cold water on your wrists.”

Siri completely missed my favorite way to relax. I iron (not to be confused with I pump iron, which I do not).

No really. There’s something soothing and instantly gratifying about a good steam iron with a heft of heat and steam gliding back and forth over wrinkled fabric.

Steam and Heat

That’s why I was excited to get another request, this time from Marianne, “I need a new iron. I’ve searched the Internet trying to find the best steam iron for the best price and all I get is terribly confused! Any suggestions?”

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Ask Me Anything: Silicone Storage, Kitchen Gadget, JCPenney Sheets, Dehumidifier, and More

Today’s the day I reach into the inbox and pull out some of your questions and only because I want you to feel free to ask me anything!

A close up of a logo

Dear Mary … I’ve got a question!

 

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll down to read all.

Enjoy!

Contents

1. My silicone food storage bags stink

2. Got a shrimp deveiner?

3. JCP best sheets

4. Looking for home air purifier

5. Help! Overpowering humidity

 

Q1: How can I remove food odors from my reusable silicone food storage bags?

Dear Mary: I stored some left-over smoked salmon in one of my new reusable silicone storage bags. After I’d used up the salmon, I washed the bag as usual in my dishwasher. It still smelled of salmon. I got out my trusty Nok-Out. I soaked the bag in that for a few hours. Still smelled of salmon. Help! Sue

Dear Sue: There’s something that might not have gone right. Tell me exactly how you did it. Did you spray the inside? Pour some Nok-Out in the bag? Did you dunk it in a bowl of Nok-Out? And what did you do at the end of “a few hours?”

There’s a specific way to do this,  and I’m just trying to figure out where things might have gone wrong to help you get it right. xo m
b
Dear Mary: I first sprayed the bag inside and out. When that didn’t do it, I immersed the bag in Nok-Out, weighted it down and left it for about 2 hours. Didn’t do it.Thanks for checking for me. I’m at my wit’s end. Have pretty much gone from disposable zipper bags to these. Sue

Dear Sue: I’m pretty sure I know the problem. Once every bit of the surface has been doused well with Nok-Out, it must be allowed to “oxidize.” This happens when Nok-Out meets air and is allowed to dry fully—no rinsing.

So let’s do it again. Completely spray or submerge the bag in Nok-Out, but do not rinse it. Do not rinse it! Lift it out and prop it open on something; upside down, maybe like the sink faucet. It must be allowed to fully air dry. Don’t be surprised when it gives off a “stinky swimming pool” odor. That’s the oxidation in process. Nok-Out will eliminate the stink by neutralizing it, not covering it up. I understand why this is so important. Reusable isn’t if it creates a stinky problem! xo m
Dear Mary: I did as you directed: I submerged the bag in Nok-Out, then let it air dry (keeping it open). No more salmon smell! Thanks for your help. I can now feel comfortable in using my silicone bags for potentially smelly contents knowing there’s a way to get rid of the odor. Sue
v

Q2: I need a shrimp gadget

Dear Mary: What is the best kitchen gadget to remove the shrimp vein? Winora

Dear Winora: I use either a wood skewer or sharp knife, whichever is most handy, to remove that vein that runs right along the back.
To do this: Insert the tip of the skewer crossways and under the vein about ½-inch down from the head of the shrimp and pull the skewer tip up towards you. This will lift up the vein and you can pull off the vein with the skewer or with your hand. If the vein is broken, then insert again a bit lower towards the tail.
There is a specific inexpensive tool you might want to consider if you prepare a lot of shrimp. This Shrimp Deveiner Knife works well to devein and peel shrimp in one step, simultaneously. It makes cleaning and peeling quick and easy.
v

Q3: JCPenney bedsheets

Dear Mary: Would you repeat your recommendation for Best Inexpensive Sheets. I believe they are 100% cotton from JCPenney. Thank you! Sharon
Dear Sharon: Liz Claiborne 400tc Sateen Sheet Set is my pick for the Best Inexpensive luxury, 100% cotton bedsheets. These sheets have a velvety, soft hand, which helps to make them wrinkle-resistant provided you do not overdry. They are smooth, luxurious; not noisy, rough or any other negative thing on my list of cannot-tolerates.
These bedsheets launder beautifully in hot water and come out of the dryer nearly wrinkle-free. I usually touch them up with the iron, but honestly, I may stop doing that. The fitted sheet in this set has deep pockets without being baggy. These are the kind of sheets I  remember from my childhood. Available in a variety of colors and sizes.

One set in Cal King is list priced at $140. But wait. The JCPenney site regularly offers discount coupons (I’ve been watching this like a hawk and there’s always a coupon), plus these specific sheets are frequently on sale. With my first online order, I didn’t have to search or inquire. At checkout, I simply clicked on “Coupons” which was right next to the checkout button. Immediately, the price dropped to $56.

I have checked many times since to see how that discount holds up and have yet to find a time that I would have had to pay full price. I can’t represent the exact discount you’ll get, but know that these sheets are frequently on sale and discount coupons and codes are readily available.

Q4: Looking for home air purifier

Dear Mary: I am truly grateful for all your suggestions and research you do! They all have helped my family run much smoother. I’m looking for a good home air purifier. Do you have any thoughts you can share? Cheryl   P.S. We LOVE our new Hoover Linx Cordless Stick Vac.

Dear Cheryl: All things considered—up-front cost, maintenance, and cost to operate—I don’t think you can beat the Coway Mighty Home Air Purifier (AP1512HH), my pick for Best Inexpensive Air Purifier. Rated for spaces up to 360 sq. ft., this unit is compact, attractive, and super quiet. And did I mention efficient? Very efficient with its True HEPA filter, deodorization filter, and Vital Ion. Also has a pollution sensor that communicates indoor air quality in real-time. Available in black or white at Walmart and Amazon.

Q5: Extreme interior humidity

Dear Mary: I am puzzled by an ongoing, distressing problem since I moved into a fourth-floor condo. I find that mildew is growing everywhere! On my wood dining table, on cast iron pans, inside cabinets. I am distressed about where I’ll find it next. I use a 50/50 vinegar solution to wipe it off. I keep ceiling fans going and the thermostat at 77 degrees. Windows and doors always closed. I hang Damp Rid in closets. That is getting expensive. Annette

Dear Annette: I must admit to being anything but an expert on living in humid areas, but can help you figure out how to tackle this problem. I live in Colorado where we enjoy very dry conditions—the other extreme to your high humidity. You have my empathy, for sure. I cannot imagine what you are going through.

If I were you I would first consult with the management of your condo association. If this is considered normal—meaning that all of your neighbors are experiencing the same thing—find out how they are dealing with it. Or you may discover that your problem is unique, and related to something that needs to be remedied and quick!

If you discover this is just the way it is in Florida in a fourth-floor condo, I recommend that you research and consider getting a dehumidifier for your home. This is an appliance that actually removes moisture from the air and sends it down the drain. There are many options so you want to find one that meets your specific needs.

Some of the most common indicators that you may need a dehumidifier are wet stains on walls and ceilings, stuffy feeling in a room, rotting wood, condensation on windows, musty smells and allergies. If the air in your home is too moist, it will encourage the growth of bacteria and mold, which are common allergens and not good for your health.

You can read a previous post about room dehumidifiers here, which includes my Best Inexpensive picks. I believe one of them will be just right for your home, should you discover this will be the best remedy.

Hope that helps!

Got a question you’d like me to answer in a future post? You can ask me anything here. Thanks!


In case you missed yesterday:

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There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here


9 Surprising Things You Can Clean with a Clothes Steamer

A compact clothes steamer is handy for removing wrinkles and stale odors from fabric, but is that all? Just another single-purpose tool that sits on a shelf gathering dust? Don’t be so sure! I’ve been amazed to discover all the ways to use an ordinary clothes steamer to steam clean, sanitize, renew, and refresh all around the house.

 

A person wearing a blue dress standing in front of a curtain

Basics

Before we get started, let’s go over a few steam clean basics.

  • Always use distilled water in a steamer. The minerals in tap water can cause it to clog up and can also leave behind traces of minerals.
  • Never use steam on silk or other delicate fabrics. Always test first in an inconspicuous place for color-bleeding or spotting.
  • Do not use steam on freshly painted surfaces, vintage surfaces, waxed or polished wood or musical instruments.

Loosen carpet stains

A blast of steam can loosen a tough carpet stain that’s been difficult to remove. Hold the steamer a few inches away from the spot for at least 30 seconds, then blot it with a clean white cloth. Repeat until nothing more is transferred to the cloth. If you still see evidence of the spot, it should respond more effectively to a good stain remover like Spot Shot. Just make sure you follow the instructions on the label, which may require rinsing once the stain is gone.

Remove labels and stickers

A blast or two from your trusty clothes steamer can soften and melt the adhesive that keeps a stubborn label or sticker stuck so you can easily remove it. Be cautious if you’re dealing with an unpainted surface.

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Kitchen Drawer Makeover: Top 10 Essential Kitchen Tools

Whether you’re a newlywed, recent grad moving into your first apartment or perhaps one of the 25% of millennials that Forbes recently reported as living at home with mom and dad—surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind. I’d love to help you get started. Here’s the deal: There are a few basic essential kitchen tools you absolutely need—ten to be exact—without which you are not likely to use that kitchen for more than a place to pile takeout containers. We’re not talking about mountain of stuff—just ten basic essentials to get started.

 

A person preparing food in a kitchen, with Soup

1. Fire extinguisher

Kitchen toolskitchen toolsMy personal experience makes this an absolute requirement and first on the list. It was one of those lazy Saturdays. I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I set the greased skillet over high heat and ran out to the garage to say something to my husband. A neighbor wandered over and we started talking. It was the smoke alarm that caught my attention and sent me flying.

In those few moments that pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet. My kitchen was on fire! This First Alert fire extinguisher sitting on the counter saved the day. I am still surprised that I’d learned and reacted, almost intuitively, how to use the thing. Your kitchen must have a fire extinguisher that is fully charged.

 

MORE: Burn Down the House? I’ll P.A.S.S.

2. Knives and sharpener

kitchen tools

 

 

 

kitchen toolskitchen toolsYou need good knives. And I’m talking about knives that can be sharpened and you will keep sharp. That means they need to be handy and super easy to use. If you can find an exceptional set that comes with a block and shears, plus at least a chef, carving, and paring knives and perhaps even a bread knife like this 15-piece set—at that amazing price—that’s exactly what you need. kitchen tools

 

 

 

kitchen toolskitchen toolsYou also need a knife sharpener that you will actually use in your drawer of kitchen tools. This Block Sharpener is the one in my kitchen. It’s small, and fits easily in my utensil drawer. It’s so easy—foolproof—to use (watch tthe video. And boy does it work!

 

MORE: 5-Minute Artisan Bread: The Master Recipe, Tools, Resources

 

3. Pots and pans

kitchen toolskitchen tools

You can go broke on pots and pans or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set like this Tramontina 9-Piece  Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Set.

You want to make sure you have at least a skillet, a couple of sauce pans and a larger pot for soups and stock. This set comes with three interchangeable glass lids and a steamer basket.  Read more

Best Inexpensive Cordless Stick Vacuum

According to more than a few messages from you, my dear readers—and in the words of Ricky Ricardo—I’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do! Faithful readers will recall that over the past years, I’d received more requests for the best inexpensive cordless stick vacuum than all other such requests combined. I heard you loud and clear because I’d been hearing the same request from myself.

 

A man wearing a suit and tie, with Ricky Ricardo

 

Twice now, I’ve pointed you to my Best Inexpensive Cordless Stick Vacuum, and twice things have not gone exactly as hoped.

Today I have good news, but first the background:

I’d been looking for my ideal stick vacuum for so long, I’d just about come to the conclusion that my expectations were completely unreasonable—my perfect stick vacuum did not exist.

My ideal stick vacuum

For me, a stick vacuum is NOT a substitute for a good, powerful household vacuum that can pull dirt, dust, and debris from deep within the pile of a carpet. Just so you know, I am not looking to get rid of my beloved Sharky. Never! A stick vacuum has a different purpose altogether.

It’s a simple tool designed for quick pick-ups; to clean up spills in the kitchen, tracked in sand, dirt, pet hair, cat litter, dust, and loose debris when you don’t have the time or inclination to haul out a full-size vacuum cleaner for such a small task.

A good way to think of a stick vacuum is that it’s an electric broom, dust mop, and dustpan in one. It “sweeps” up and then vacuums away debris in a single pass without the need for the user to bend over or get down on the floor.

In my dreams

I’d almost given up, concluding that my ideal stick vac didn’t exist—that my list of must-haves was beyond reality—nothing more than a pipe dream.

  • Cordless and rechargeable with a runtime of at least 25 minutes
  • Able to stand up alone—who wants to lay the thing down to answer the door or take a call?
  • Lightweight so I can easily carry it up and down stairs in one hand while carrying a load in the other
  • An On/Off switch so I don’t have to continuously hold down a trigger during operation
  • Generous size dirt and debris cup that is easy to empty
  • The dirt cup, filters, and brush roll need to be washable because I like my appliances to be nice and clean
  • Quiet while in operation

I’ll admit that’s a lot of must-haves, but if I could ask for just one more feature, I would want it to be nice looking in a subtle way so that if I were to ever leave it out, it would add a little beauty to the place, not stand out like a sore thumb.

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This is the Best Car Trash Can Ever

Wouldn’t you think that if car manufacturers can perfect self-driving cars, they could also come up with a way to conquer the car trash problem?

A close up of a car

Photo Credit TheOnion.com

I’ve always thought that a built-in trash compactor would be great. Or even better, some kind of incinerator that sucks the accumulation of trash and garbage right out of the car and into a holding tank somewhere that magically converts it into purified drinking water. Or gasoline.

While waiting for that kind of invention to appear, I’ve tried plastic bags, plastic tubs, and every kind of frugal trick and tip you can imagine to handle the annoyance of car trash.

I’ve tested and tried. Some ideas are better than others, but nothing has ever proven 100% satisfactory. Until now.

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Here are the 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. Today seems like a great day to respond.

A young boy standing in front of a brick wall

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

Best inexpensive wired earbuds

Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbuds are smartphone compatible with integrated microphone and remote for Apple, Android, and Blackberry devices. Comes with small, medium and large earpads a perfect fit for adults and children. Your choice of several beautiful colors. Under $15.

Best mid-level wired headphones

1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones deliver an extremely accurate music-listening experience. For the discriminating listener as they delivery dynamic power and clarity. You’ll love the sizzling highs and deep lows. The built-in microphone and remote are Apple and Android compatible. Around $75.

Best value for high quality wired, noise canceling

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 canceling that reduces surrounding distractions, letting the music stand out. Many other high-end features. Under $250.

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How to Beef Up Home Security on the Cheap

As a kid growing up, I lived in a house with security that rivaled Fort Knox. Every exterior opening was fitted with an old-fashioned hook and eye latch, which my mother would latch from the inside each and every time someone left the house.

Door and Lock

As one who would leave from time to time, I can report that it wasn’t easy to get back in. I would have to knock and wait for her to come to the door to unlatch it, let me in, then she would re-latch the door behind me. While my mother’s security system was never breached, it made for an annoying way to grow up.

Thankfully, these days, there are much better ways to make our homes safe and secure that are also friendly to all who live therein.

While it’s impossible to put a price on the value of protecting your home and family, there are inexpensive yet highly effective ways to beef up security to create a strong defense against intruders.

A toothbrush in his mouth

Door Stopper

Very much like The Club that millions use to keep their cars secure, The Door Club secures any exterior door in your home so that it will resist more than two tons of force. That’s a lot of security for less than $30. This device is easy to install, a cinch to engage and offers tremendous peace of mind.

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Best Inexpensive Toaster, Eufy Customer Service, Stainless Steel Cleaner

There are times that the old adage that you get what you pay for doesn’t hold up. Sometimes, it’s the less expensive option that turns out to be best—better than its pricier competitors.

A group of people posing for the camera

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Best Inexpensive Toaster

Does anyone make a decent, simple, reliable pop-up toaster? I don’t need it to do anything but make evenly-toasted toast!

Toaster and Stainless steel

 

I was wondering the same thing. After a good deal of research, I narrowed the field to this Hamilton Beach Keep-Warm 2-Slice Toaster. I am so happy with it, it has become my new pick for Best Inexpensive. Here are the reasons I am such a fan:

The bread slots handle all thickness of things to be toated: Bagels, Texas toast, English Muffins, thin-sliced and regular sized bread.

When I press down on the handle, “clamps” gently move into place to hold the toast straight and upright. And when the toast is ready, I just lift up on the handle, which gives the toast a boost, making it easy to remove. Read more

Best Inexpensive Essential College Dorm Gear

It’s been a number of years since I moved into a college dorm room. My memories of college life are both vivid and precious.

For years, I’d been dreaming about how I would grow up and leave my childhood home and sheltered life to attend college in Los Angeles. I lived in the same dorm room from my first day as a freshman until I graduated four years later (Master’s University). And I loved it. Dorm life was everything I’d imagined and so much more.

 

A bunch of items that are on a table

Typically, dorm rooms are not spacious. I had a bed, desk, bookshelf, and chair along with a closet that had a built-in dresser and just enough room to hang a few clothes. My roommate had the same configuration on the other side of the room—a typical dorm room layout. Looking back now, I see that we could have done so much more with the tiny space we had to make it more comfortable and efficient.

If you or someone you love will be entering dorm life in a few weeks, I’ve put together a list of dorm room essentials—beyond the basics of a laptop, linens, toiletries, and clothes—that will definitely make the transition easier and college life a lot more enjoyable!

1. MINI FRIDGE. If allowed in your room, you’ll bless the day you arrived with a mini fridge large enough for soft drinks, water, healthy snacks and energizing food items. Something like this 2.7 compact dorm refrigerator will save the day when the cafeteria closes at 6 pm and you’re looking at 10 more hours of cramming for finals. Been there. If only I’d had a fridge. .

2. READING PILLOW. You will bless the day you thought to bring a good reading pillow with you to school. It will serve multiple functions—a place to sit and study that isn’t a stiff desk chair. Or as additional seating. Trust me—a comfortable, useful reading pillow will make all the difference by turning your bed into a very comfortable chair. This shredded foam reading pillow is awesome for reading, studying, watching TV or just hanging out. Well made, it is sturdy but at the same time cozy enough to serve you well all the way through your college career. .

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Best Inexpensive™ Dishwasher

Just this past week I heard from my dear reader Penny who is frustrated in the face of needing to purchase a new dishwasher. She writes: 

“Our dishwasher is more than 20 years old and every time I think I have decided on a new one and read the reviews, I back out. I know that you recently purchased new appliances. What brand dishwasher did you go with? How does one filter all the reviews, good or bad?”

Dishwasher and IKEA

My husband and I have just completed our big kitchen remodel. It’s been nearly a year since we started planning so you can be sure I’ve been researching appliances ad nauseam. 

Here’s my conclusion based on credible evidence, product reviews and long conversations with appliance professionals: They just don’t make ‘em like they used to! 

These days you won’t find a dishwasher with an expected lifespan of 20 years. The best we should expect from new dishwashers is 8 to 10 years, which is by design. Industry insiders call this “planned obsolescence.” And we have to assume that those will not necessarily be trouble-free years. It’s sad but true. 

Nearly all appliances these days come with a one-year warranty. Most appliances pros will tell you that if an appliance is going to fail, it is most likely to do that during the first 90-days, so a one-year warranty is supposed to be sufficient. Anything beyond that is called an extended warranty, which brings up another matter, altogether. Let’s just say it gets complicated.

Related: Best Inexpensive Stick Vacuum—Finally!

There are two brands I suggest you stay away from—Samsung and LG. While their appliances are lovely when they’re in good working condition, these companies do not have a solid infrastructure for service and repair in the U.S. That means you’ll have a difficult time finding someone to repair them whether they’re under warranty or not. And when you do, you could wait weeks for parts to arrive from overseas. 

On the other hand, the Whirlpool family of appliances (Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana to name a few) are made in the U.S. Whirlpool has a reputation for making good appliances with repair, service, and parts readily available. 

With all that being said, I do have some really good news—and a solid recommendation, which may surprise you. Read more

Best Inexpensive™ Dish Drainer, Electric Kettle, Outdoor Grill

You know it’s a good day for me when my “inner shopper” gets to come out and play.

Researching, reviewing and testing the things that you, My Dear Readers, request is like a license to shop till I drop—all the joys without the horrible side effects of overspending. Coming up with solid recommendations for the best inexpensive options is one of the most satisfying things I get to do. I’d say we have a good thing going on.

DISH DRAINER

I’m one who relies heavily on a dishwasher, which means I haven’t owned a dish drainer or even thought about that until just recently when I heard from Pam:

I recently replaced my wire dish drainer rack and couldn’t find anything but small replacements drainers with small drainboards. What’s going on? Any ideas where to find a bigger dish drainer (NOT plastic) and drain board?

Pam’s right. Huge, metal dish drainers are a thing of the past. But not to worry. After a bit of searching, trial and some error—and tremendous need now that I do have a dishwasher (we’re remodeling!)—I’m excited to reveal my Best Inexpensive™ pick, which I absolutely love.

POLDER DISH RACK AND TRAY. I love this dish drainer because it is stainless steel, elegantly designed and includes both a drain try and separate drying tray. That effectively doubles the space of the rack itself—and the drying tray stores beneath the rack when not needed. That makes this Polder Dish Rack and Tray versatile. About $40. 

Dish Rack and Polder

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