Replacing or Upgrading Appliances: An Often Overlooked Big Ticket Purchase

By Elizabeth Kiss, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Family Resource Management Extension Specialist, Kansas State University

Saving for a new computer, a longed-for vacation, or a deposit for an apartment are goals that many of us can relate to. Because we use them daily, saving to replace or upgrade appliances is not always a high priority. If you’ve priced any appliances lately, you know that they can be big ticket items, particularly if you need to replace a refrigerator, washer and dryer, or television in a hurry.

Follow the same steps when preparing to buy an appliance as you would for other big ticket purchases: set a goal, do your research, and make a plan. –

  1. Set a goal. According to a 2007 study of the life expectancy of home components, household appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers, had a life expectancy ranging from 9 years for dishwashers to 13 years for clothes dryers and refrigerators. Currently available televisions may have shorter working lives. Action step: inventory your appliances and rank them in order of anticipated need for replacement.
  2. Do your research. Focusing on the one or two appliances that you will likely need to replace in the next year, start researching current models and prices. Be sure to consider features that are important to you as well as those that are not. Next, practice the “Rule of Three” and compare the costs and features of acceptable models offered by at least three competing sellers. In general, comparison shopping can save you as much as 50% off the price you would have paid for an item without comparing. Action step: compare models and costs at three vendors.
  3. Make a plan. Now that you’ve identified your next big ticket appliance purchase and compared prices at three vendors, it’s time to make a plan for saving the funds needed to make the purchase when the time comes. To start, assume you want to purchase the appliance within the next 12 months. Break down the anticipated total cost into realistic monthly, or weekly, savings amounts based on your current income and expenses. If the amount you need to save regularly to purchase the appliance is more than your budget can absorb right now, you may need to save less each month over a longer period, perhaps 18 or 24 months. Action step: calculate how much you need to save each month for 12 or more months to achieve your goal.

As you plan and save for big ticket items, keep this in mind: “An over-spender isn’t just someone who spends more than he earns. An over-spender is also anyone who pays too much for things, especially when items or services purchased are conveniently available for less.”