How to potentially save a fortune on a big-ticket appliance

Old OvenOur oven was old when we bought our house, but it worked. Then we got 8 more years of life out of it. During that time, only a couple burners worked consistently, we replaced some missing knobs and the heating element in the oven had to be replaced. That cost us about $100, which wasn’t too bad at the time.

Recently, we’ve spent more time trying to get the burners to work than we do actually cooking food on them. Not cool.

We started looking around for a new oven, and they’re not cheap. We thought we found a pretty good deal on a slide in, but when we had measurements done it turned out the only type of oven we could fit into our space would be another drop in. They cost more because there aren’t a ton of them made anymore.

I found one that would work at Lowe’s for $1349, with a regular price of $1499. They would have to order it for us. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but I had already resolved myself to the fact that we would be spending somewhere between $1000 and $1500 for a new oven. We didn’t want a top of the line one since we’re putting it into an older kitchen.

It was at this point that I remembered the Sears Outlet store in the area. I decided to do some searching on to see what was available at the local stores. Nothing.

However, I did find the same model that Lowe’s had at several other Sears Outlet stores around the country and for a lot less, like $700 off the list price of $1499. We’d have to pay about $212 to have it shipped, but it would still come out to be much less than what we would have paid somewhere else.

So how do you buy an appliance sight unseen? Below are some tips.

  • The prices at Sears Outlet stores are low because they’re usually open box, refurbished, or scratch and dent. includes pictures of the items on their website in most cases so you can see the exact appliance that you would get.
  • If you have a question about the item, call the store and ask some questions. We did, and the guy was very helpful. He looked it over and told us exactly what he saw wrong with it, which was pretty much nothing.
  • Even though ours was a display model, it still came with the same warranty that we’d get if we bought it brand new at the store.
  • The price you see online isn’t the price you have to pay…you can pay less. has a “Make an Offer” option. I put in a price and it showed the probability it would be accepted. After submitting, I got a counter offer immediately and saved another $25 or so off the list price.
  • If we needed to return the oven, we could take it to our local Sears Outlet store. We wouldn’t get the $212 shipping charge back, but we’d at least get the cost of the oven back worse case.
  • After accepting the offer, I picked a delivery date and they delivered it about a week or 2 later.

So that’s how we bought our new oven for 25% off the Lowe’s sale price. Our total cost was about $1012 before taxes, which included the shipping charge. We installed it Monday and have enjoyed it the last couple of days. If you’ve got a Sears Outlet store near you, you could do even better without the shipping charge, assuming they have what you’re looking for.

So what do you think? Would you buy a big-ticket item sight unseen? Let me know in the comments below.

Where to Save Money on Electronics and Accessories

If you’ve ever purchased a high-definition television, Blu-Ray player, or some other electronic, you’re most likely asked by the sales associate or check out person if you need cables, surge protectors or other miscellaneous items to complement your purchase.

If you answer yes, you’ll probably be directed to the most expensive complementary items they have because “those will give you the best quality.” Of course, you don’t want to degrade your new high-end electronics with a crappy cable or surge protector, right? Well, in many cases expense doesn’t always mean quality. (Side note: More expensive HDMI cables will not give you a better picture because they send a digital signal. The picture will either appear as it’s supposed to, or it will be choppy, pixellated or non-existent. In the digital world, there is no in between. You’ll know as soon as you hook it up.)

To save some serious money, your best bet is to get your cables and other items someplace else. My online “Radio Shack” for random electronics and accessories is They tend to have ridiculously inexpensive cables (HDMI, USB, audio), printer cartridges, adapters, and even speakers. I’ve been shocked by the number and variety of items they have.

Below are a few of the items that I’ve purchased with comparative prices and percent savings over the next cheapest option at the time of writing. I tried to find the cheapest option on each site that was equal or served the same purpose.

  • Micro USB cable (6ft)
    • – $5.19
    • $5.99
    • – $1.41 (72% savings)
  • USB Car charger
    • – $4.25
    • – $6.64
    • – $1.34 (68% savings)
  • HDMI cables (6ft)
    • – $5.59
    • – $8.99
    • – $3.54 (36% savings)
  • Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter for Apple MacBooks
    • – $16.24
    • – $24.99
    • – $13.56 (16% savings)
  • Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter for Apple MacBooks
    • – $3.91 (41% savings)
    • – $19.99
    • – $6.72
  • Inkjet printer cartridges (HP 57 Color Cartridge)
    • – $43.99
    • – $49.93
    • (Value version) – $32.99
    • (Remanufactured) – $15.34 (53% savings)

It’s important to note a couple of different things about the prices above. First, these are comparing the online prices. If you went into the store, you probably wouldn’t be able to find the same items at the same prices. Second, had one of the items cheaper than, but it was from another seller and wasn’t a Best Buy item. That was the case for many of the other items as well on Finally, sells remanufactured printer cartridges. Many people may not feel comfortable using remanufactured cartridges. However, our printer is well over 10 years old and I can’t justify purchasing a genuine cartridge for it that costs more than it’s worth. At this point, if a remanufactured one were to damage the printer beyond repair, I’d just go buy another one.

Even with shipping, purchasing these types of items through is oftentimes much cheaper than buying them at your local electronics store. The only downside is that you won’t have them immediately. So if you plan on running out to get a new TV before the Super Bowl, you may want to order your HDMI cables a couple of weeks ahead of time so you aren’t overspending in the store just to get everything hooked up in time.

As far as customer service, I have no complaints. I had an adapter that worked perfectly…the first time. I pulled it out later and hooked it up and no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to work. They set me up with a return, I mailed it back, and they sent me another one. I didn’t have to do a bunch of troubleshooting or anything. It was pretty much no questions asked.

Potential Savings: As you can see above, savings can range anywhere from 16% to 72% as of when I checked the prices at writing. You may have better luck depending on what it is you’re looking for.

PSA: Letter from Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel and Important Notice

Below is an email that I received from Target regarding the unauthorized access of credit and debit card information that has been in the news. For those of you who may not be on their mailing list, I wanted to repost it.

Dear Target Guest,
As you have likely heard by now, Target experienced unauthorized access to payment card data from U.S. Target stores. We take this crime seriously. It was a crime against Target, our team members and most importantly you – our valued guest.
We understand that a situation like this creates stress and anxiety about the safety of your payment card data at Target. Our brand has been built on a 50-year foundation of trust with our guests, and we want to assure you that the cause of this issue has been addressed and you can shop with confidence at Target.
We want you to know a few important things:

  • The unauthorized access took place in U.S. Target stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. Canadian stores and were not affected.
  • Even if you shopped at Target during this time frame, it doesn’t mean you are a victim of fraud. In fact, in other similar situations, there are typically low levels of actual fraud.
  • There is no indication that PIN numbers have been compromised on affected bank issued PIN debit cards or Target debit cards. Someone cannot visit an ATM with a fraudulent debit card and withdraw cash.
  • You will not be responsible for fraudulent charges – either your bank or Target have that responsibility.
  • We’re working as fast as we can to get you the information you need. Our guests are always the first priority.
  • For extra assurance, we will offer free credit monitoring services for everyone impacted. We’ll be in touch with you soon on how and where to access the service.
Please read the full notice below. And over the coming days and weeks we will be relying on and our various social channels to answer questions and keep you up to date.
Thank you for your patience, understanding and loyalty to Target!
Important Notice
We wanted to make you aware of unauthorized access to Target payment card data. The unauthorized access may impact guests who made credit or debit card purchases in our U.S. stores from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2013. Your trust is a top priority for Target, and we deeply regret the inconvenience this may cause. The privacy and protection of our guests’ information is a matter we take very seriously and we have worked swiftly to resolve the incident.
We began investigating the incident as soon as we learned of it. We have determined that the information involved in this incident included customer name, credit or debit card number, and the card’s expiration date and CVV.
We are partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and to examine additional measures we can take that would be designed to help prevent incidents of this kind in the future. Additionally, Target alerted authorities and financial institutions immediately after we discovered and confirmed the unauthorized access, and we are putting our full resources behind these efforts.
We recommend that you closely review the information provided in this letter for some steps that you may take to protect yourself against potential misuse of your credit and debit information. You should remain vigilant for incidents of fraud and identity theft by regularly reviewing your account statements and monitoring free credit reports. If you discover any suspicious or unusual activity on your accounts or suspect fraud, be sure to report it immediately to your financial institutions. In addition, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) or law enforcement to report incidents of identity theft or to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. To learn more, you can go to the FTC’s Web site, at, or call the FTC, at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338) or write to Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
You may also periodically obtain credit reports from each nationwide credit reporting agency. If you discover information on your credit report arising from a fraudulent transaction, you should request that the credit reporting agency delete that information from your credit report file. In addition, under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report by going to or by calling (877) 322-8228. You may contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies at:
(800) 525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 9532
(800) 680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
In addition, you may obtain information from the FTC and the credit reporting agencies about fraud alerts and security freezes. You can add a fraud alert to your credit report file to help protect your credit information. A fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, but it also may delay your ability to obtain credit. You may place a fraud alert in your file by calling just one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies listed above. As soon as that agency processes your fraud alert, it will notify the other two agencies, which then must also place fraud alerts in your file. In addition, you can contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies regarding if and how you may place a security freeze on your credit report to prohibit a credit reporting agency from releasing information from your credit report without your prior written authorization.
Again, we want to stress that we regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause you. Be assured that we place a top priority on protecting the security of our guests’ personal information. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 866-852-8680 or visit Target’s website if you have any questions or concerns. If you used a non-Target credit or debit card at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and have questions or concerns about activity on your card, please contact the issuing bank by calling the number on the back of your card.
IF YOU ARE AN IOWA RESIDENT: You may contact local law enforcement or the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to report suspected incidents of identity theft. You can contact the Iowa Attorney General at:
Office of the Attorney General
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-5164
IF YOU ARE A MARYLAND RESIDENT: You may obtain information about avoiding identity theft from the FTC or the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. These offices can be reached at:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(877) IDTHEFT (438-4338)
North Carolina Department of Justice
Attorney General Roy Cooper
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
(877) 566-7226
IF YOU ARE A MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENT: Under Massachusetts law, you have the right to obtain a police report in regard to this incident. If you are the victim of identity theft, you also have the right to file a police report and obtain a copy of it.
Massachusetts law also allows consumers to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from a consumer’s credit report without written authorization. However, please be aware that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, mortgages, employment, housing or other services.
In order to request a security freeze, you will need to provide the following information:

  1. Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.);
  2. Social Security number;
  3. Date of birth;
  4. If you have moved in the past five (5) years, the addresses where you have lived over the prior five years;
  5. Proof of current address (e.g., a current utility bill or telephone bill);
  6. A legible photocopy of a government issued identification card (e.g., state driver’s license or ID card or military identification);
  7. If you are a victim of identity theft, a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft;
  8. If you are not a victim of identity theft, payment by check, money order, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover only). Do not send cash through the mail.
The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to place a security freeze on your credit report. The credit reporting agencies must also send written confirmation to you within five (5) business days and provide you with a unique personal identification number (PIN) or password, or both that can be used by you to authorize the removal or lifting of the security freeze.
To lift the security freeze in order to allow a specific entity or individual access to your credit report, you must call or send a written request to the credit reporting agencies by mail and include proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number) and the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze, as well as the identities of those entities or individuals you would like to receive your credit report or the specific period of time you want the credit report available. The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to lift the security freeze for those identified entities or for the specified period of time.
To remove the security freeze, you must send a written request to each of the three credit reporting agencies by mail and include proper identification (name, address, and Social Security number) and the PIN number or password provided to you when you placed the security freeze. The credit reporting agencies have three (3) business days after receiving your request to remove the security freeze.
Is the CVV code the same as the three digit code on the back of my card?
No, the CVV code is not the same as the security code on the back of your card. As of now we have no indication that the three digit code on the back of the card has been impacted.
How do I know if this impacts me?
If you shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, you should check your account for any suspicious or unusual activity. If you see something that appears fraudulent, REDcard holders should contact Target, others should contact their bank.
If I shopped at or in Canada should I be concerned?
No, this was an issue that impacted US stores.
Can I still use my card at Target?
Yes you can, if you used your card during the impacted periods, you should continue to monitor your accounts.
Has the issue been resolved?
Yes, Target moved swiftly to address this issue so guests can shop with confidence. We have identified and resolved the issue of unauthorized access to payment card data. The issue occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and guests should continue to monitor their accounts.
How can I be assured you are taking the steps to protect my information in the future?
We continue to invest in our security practices to protect our guests’ information including the retention of a leading third party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of this incident. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused our guests.
If I call you what are your hours of operation?
Agents are available to take calls from 7am to 11pm daily.

Foot Family Project

Foot Family

In preschool, our youngest was assigned the project of creating a foot family. For those that don’t know what that is and can’t figure it out from the picture, it is essentially a picture made up of outlines of each family members foot, turned into something fun and supposedly represents our family.

My wife likes to take these types of projects on as a personal challenge. She doesn’t think that she’s very crafty, but I think she really underestimates what she can do. So last Sunday, we headed off to the local craft store to find everything that we would need to make a castle setting with a king, queen, and two princesses…out of feet. Unfortunately, our favorite store for these things, Hobby Lobby, was closed on Sunday, so we headed over to Michael’s.

Needless to say, they didn’t have many of the things we needed and definitely not in the size that would be in scale to our feet. This caused us to have to rethink what we were going to be. I took the kids so mom could reevaluate the situation. Eventually, we decided to head over to the Dollar Tree store to see if they had anything that we could use.

Surprisingly, they had just the right items to turn our feet into the barn animals you see in the picture. For $5, my wife bought construction paper and 4 kits that are normally used to turn paper bags into puppets. Needless to say, it turned out to be a success and I’m sure it’s the best foot family in the class. So while the craft stores may have a lot of options, they may not be the best or cheapest option.

The “ALDI” Experience

Anyone who has shopped at ALDI probably remembers their first time and how awkward an experience it was. If you managed to fill your cart with groceries (assuming you got a cart), you may have found yourself leaving it in the checkout lane and simply walking out. You might have felt like you just walked into an exclusive club where no one checked your membership card.

We had similar thoughts when we first shopped there. After the first time, my wife and I said to each other “well we tried it” and didn’t have plans on going back accept maybe occasionally. Something changed though. As we went back to our old shopping habits, we realized how much extra we were paying for the same stuff at ALDI. Why would we pay a dollar more for a gallon of milk, or frozen pizza, or spices, or almost anything else for that matter.

So we gave it another shot. After about two months of transitioning, we slowly started to feel more comfortable with it. After about a years worth of shopping there, it’s now our first choice before we go anywhere else.

ALDI Shopping Tips

Bring a quarter. In order to use a shopping cart, you’ll need to put a quarter into one of the contraptions on the cart to unlock it from the rest of the shopping carts. Don’t worry, you’ll get the quarter back when you return the cart. You may be thinking “seriously?!?!?”, but think about it. How much do retail stores have to pay for a shopping cart? If we estimate somewhere between $100-200, then by ensuring that it gets returned means they don’t have to pass that expense along to the customers each time one mysteriously disappears. Plus, you can rest assured that you won’t be parking next to a cart corral or that a cart won’t get loose and run into your car. If you’re one of those people who likes to leave a cart anywhere in the parking lot, ALDI isn’t for you.

Bring some bags or be prepared to buy some. Call it environmentally friendly, or another way to pass some savings on to the consumer, either way, you’ll need to bring your own bags or buy some at checkout. They do sell a variety of bags from paper to heavy plastic to insulated for frozen items. If you prefer, you can just grab an empty box from a shelf as you’re shopping and put your items in there when you check out. Oh, I forgot to mention, you’ll be bagging or boxing your own groceries.

Leave the checkbook and credit cards at home. ALDI only accepts cash and debit cards. It’s faster for them and they avoid the fees credit card companies charge. If you don’t remember your debit card pin number, you might want to call your bank before you head out for your shopping trip.

When you’re checking out, if there is an empty cart nearby, put it into place next to the cashier when you’re done. This saves the cashier from having to get up and move it into place and allows them to start scanning the next person immediately.

If you like to shop late at night, you’ll need to go someplace else. ALDI is only open during the most profitable hours, which means when most people would be out grocery shopping. If you like to shop at midnight, ALDI isn’t for you.

Produce can be good or bad. Many times their produce is pretty good and they have quite a selection, but you’ll want to check it out before you get it. You can always ask an employee when they get their produce shipments and they’ll be happy to tell you. That way you’ll know the best day to come in and get it at its freshest.

Things You’ll Notice

No music to calm the shopping nerves. If you hear music while shopping, you might want to get checked out by your doctor. I’ve never noticed any music being played over a speaker system. Music costs money.

To-the-point receipts. Don’t you hate those huge receipts or the six feet of coupons that print out at other stores? Well, you won’t need to worry about it because everything on an ALDI receipt is printed very compactly. It uses less paper that way.

Barcodes everywhere. There are large barcodes on items or barcodes on multiple sides of an item. This helps speed up the checkout process.

ALDI carries more than just food. You might find kids swimming pools, walkers, or a variety of other items. If they get a good deal on something, you might just find it in the store. It’s kind of like a grab bag of goodies and you never know what you’ll find.

Friendlier shoppers. The shoppers at ALDI generally seem to be a little bit more friendly than at other places. It’s not unusual to walk up to the checkout with only a couple items in hand, and have the people in front of you let you go ahead of them. This is a purely subjective observation.

Shopping at ALDI is generally faster and easier than going to a larger store. For one, there aren’t as many choices (who needs 3 brands of flour to choose from) and the aisles are arranged in a way that you can quickly move between them and get what you need.

You will find some, but not many name brands. One local ALDI even has a sign hanging up saying that their store brands are made by the major manufacturers. Does that mean all of the products will taste the same as the brand name products? Not in all cases. However, we have found in some cases that the ALDI store brand product is better than the brand name products. One example is the American cheese slices. They are meltier on grilled cheese sandwiches than any other cheese slice we’ve used. Cereal on the other hand is hit or miss. Some of them are good (like their Cinnamon Life cereal equivalent) and others definitely taste different. This may bother some people, but after a while, you tend to find out what is good to you and what isn’t. They do offer a Double Guarantee so if you don’t like a product, you can always take advantage of it.

We decided to give ALDI a try and I think it’s worth it for most people to try as well. You don’t have much if anything to lose, but a lot of potential savings. Hopefully these tips will help you feel like a pro the first time you go. We don’t buy everything at ALDI, but we do the majority of our grocery shopping there and we think it’s worth it.

Potential Savings: This is hard to quantify, but as a point of reference, we budget $430 every 4 weeks on groceries for a family of 4, 2 adults and 2 younger children who sometimes eat like adults. Most months, we stay under this budgeted amount without any trouble. Shopping at ALDI has given us some extra room in our budget to be able to purchase other grocery items (shampoo, face wash, meat items, etc.) at other places without killing the budget.

Featured Image By Bidgee (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Target REDcard debit card

Target Logo

Do you shop at Target? Do you have a Target REDcard yet? More specifically, do you have a Target REDcard debit card? Assuming you shop at Target and you haven’t signed up for one, what are you waiting for?

When we were first asked by the cashier if we had a Target REDcard we of course said “no”. We don’t have credit cards and we don’t sign up for them in order to get a deal. That’s when she told us that they had a debit card. Of course, the question that came to mind was, “what’s the catch?” Since I couldn’t see any at first glance, we decided to sign up for one and start saving right away. We’ve had our Target REDcard debit card for probably 3-4 years now and the benefits have continued to get better.


5% off your purchases

This benefit is the one that appealed to me the most – 5% savings on purchases at Target stores and You might wonder how they’re able to offer 5% off your purchases and not charge any fees. This is what I’ve come up with. With a normal debit or credit card, when you make a purchase, the store is charged a fee to process your purchase through your card. It’s a cost of doing business that most stores absorb to win your business. With the Target REDcard debit card, Target is able to do the processing and take the money out of your checking account using a bank transfer. This keeps them from having to pay the fees to the banks or credit card processors. They can then pass the savings on to you. The normal processing fees probably don’t amount to 5%, but I’m sure they’re willing to take a little bit of an extra hit to give everyone the 5% rebate.

Free Shipping from

They didn’t originally offer this when we signed up for our card, but I’m not going to complain. I took advantage of it recently when buying an anniversary gift for my wife that they didn’t have in the store.

Extra 30 Days for Returns

If you use your REDcard, you get an extra 30 days to return your purchases. Not that you’ll need it though, but it is a benefit.

Take Charge of Education (1% to the school of your choice)

You can enroll your REDcard with Take Charge of Education and choose the school you’d like donations to be sent to. One percent of your purchases is sent to the school of your choice. You can even log in and see how much has been sent to your chosen school because of your purchases and the purchases of others who support the same school.


They don’t list this as a benefit, but really it is. What good is saving 5% if you’re going to pay interest on your purchases because you went into debt for them?


Spending More

One drawback that I can see (and they probably hope for) is that you might spend more than you normally would because you know you’re saving money. A little self control can fix this problem. As long as you use it to purchase the items you would have bought anyway at Target (for us, that was diapers and wipes), you will save money. Otherwise, stay away if you have a shopping problem that you can’t control.

An Extra Card to Carry

That extra weight in your purse or wallet could cause some serious health problem. Not to mention the anxiety that is caused by making a purchase at Target and then realizing you forgot to use the REDcard. Then you’ve got to consider the chiropractor and counseling charges. This thing could end up costing you a ton more than you’re saving. (Can you tell that I’m having a hard time coming up with drawbacks?)

Potential Savings: I guess this depends on how much you spend at Target, but essentially 5% of your total purchases and free shipping if you use If you have the willpower, take the savings (which prints out on your receipt) and put it in a savings account, towards your debt, or in a 529 for your kids. You would have spent it anyhow, so you might as well redirect it before it gets absorbed somewhere else.

Update 11/24: 5% Off Gift Cards

I’ve recently discovered that you can get 5% off of gift cards that you purchase through Target. They don’t have everything available, but they do have quite a variety. We’ll be saving $140 off of our Disney vacation by purchasing Disney gift cards through and using them to pay for the trip. That’s some serious savings!