How to find small appliances for cheap

Cheaper Small Appliances

by Lynn Bulmahn

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This morning, I enjoyed a breakfast of eggs fried in that small, handy tabletop appliance that advertises on TV for three easy payments plus shipping and handling, totaling about a king's ransom when you add it all up.

Have I lost my mind? Did I fall prey to the hard sell featured on the constant infomercials that hawk the product? Not at all! My little meal/snack/dessert maker cost me $4.99 at Goodwill.

OK, it didn't come in the box. It didn't include the C-shaped spatula designed for it. It didn't have the instruction/recipe book.

I don't need the product box. I use a regular spatula. I downloaded the book for free on the internet. I printed out the instructions and recipes onto some three-hole punch computer paper and put them into a notebook.

The infomercials now say this product has been supplanted by a new, improved model. Great! I want one! But I won't be talking to the operators who are standing by to take my order via the phone.

Instead, I'll scout thrift/secondhand stores, garage sales, estate sales and salvage/overstock/liquidation places. I might not find it for a couple of years, but I can wait. I won't pay more than $10 for it. I'll probably pay much less. This is how I buy small appliances, and it saves me a bundle!

My toaster was a really fantastic find. Being from the South, I don't eat bagels. I eat just bread, and I have zero use for a toaster that adjusts to accommodate different thicknesses. Most new ones do.

At a garage sale, I found a toaster identical to my grandmother's. It only toasts bread slices, and it is a sturdy old thing made in the USA. Perfect! It's especially perfect since I only paid $2.

For seven years, I used a microwave that set me back a whopping $20 at a church garage sale. It died last year. My total cost was under $3 per year.

I have several slow cookers. None cost me over $6. Yes, they're secondhand. I only get the kind where the inner crockery vessel lifts out so that I can wash it in the dishwasher. When a crock got cracked, I bought the same part at a thrift store for $4. It came with a lid, so I have a spare top.

The only bad luck I had was when buying a portable sewing machine for $25 at a thrift store. After I got it home, it didn't sew. Turns out, it'd been dropped and couldn't be repaired. The lesson learned was that I should try before I buy.

Secondhand small appliances are plentiful and cheap. When people get a Keurig®, they sell or donate their coffeemaker. When newlyweds get too many toasters, guess what happens to the extras?

There are a few things to remember when buying used:

  • Make sure all necessary parts are included. While it's possible to order parts and accessories from the factory, it may wind up being rather expensive. Remember that some items are not necessary, such as the special spatula that was supposed to be included with my small cooker.
  • Look carefully at any glass, plastic, or ceramic parts to ensure there are no chips or cracks.
  • Test the item before you buy it.
  • Make sure there are no damaged electrical parts or frayed wires. You don't want to burn down the kitchen!
  • If the cord is detachable, be sure it is the right cord that is supposed to go with the item.
  • If there are no instructions, you can usually download a set from the internet or go on a chat room to find a copy from someone else.
  • Check to make sure the product has not been recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission's website will let you know.
  • Always compare prices. Even though used is usually less than new, that's not always so. Last December, a big box discount store sold slow cookers for less than Goodwill charged for one.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more on small appliances, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Library.
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