Last month was a flurry of media events related to the launch of The Joyful Frugalista. To be honest, I was trying to act all calm about it like it was normal, but it was pretty surreal. The real biggie was a five minute segment on Sunrise (later parodied on The Project), filmed on location in a supermarket. I had a migraine throughout as I was a tad stressed, although managed to hide it well.
One of the original ideas for this segment, which didn’t end up happening, was for me to go into a few different stores and negotiate a good deal on a fridge. The camera man was going to film me undercover as I asked for a discount. I was (once again) trying to act all super cool, but inwardly I was fretting. “What if I can’t get a discount?” I thought to myself. “Or what if I ask for one and they laugh at me … recorded on TV!”
While we ended up spending the morning in Coles instead, I did quite a bit of research about fridges as we zipped along the highway headed for Sydney.
That research came in really handy when my fridge broke this week.
I was home sick – funny how I came to earth with a thud after so much excitement. And while having a late breakfast (just before I was about to stumble back to bed) I noticed that the bread in the freezer didn’t appear frozen. When I examined it further, I found that quite a lot wasn’t frozen. The fridge was on and we hadn’t had a power outage. My lovely Neil came home from work at lunchtime to examine, and discovered that the compressor motor had stopped working and was very hot. It would try to start only for a second when power was applied to the fridge (and this was not something that could be easily fixed).
So now we needed a new fridge – in a bit of a hurry. Ms Frugal Ears and bargain hunting to the rescue!
Before I go onto talking about how we got about getting the best deal for us (and who we eventually purchased it from), I want to first touch upon gratitude. Neil and I have had a lot of things go bung since we became a couple just over 18 months ago. There was the hot water heater in an investment property that flooded after Neil tried to fix a leaking tap (no, wasn’t his fault). The dryer in another property broke. A toilet cistern needed replacement. And my car had steam pouring out on a trip down the coast as the radiator top tank split and would not hold pressure (thank you NRMA roadside assistance).
It is really easy when things like this happen to have a conversation that says something like: “Oh, woe is me! Why does it always happen to me? I’m always so unlucky! It always happens at the worst possible time!”
The reality is that appliances, cars and stuff have a finite life span and eventually they will break. It’s important to cost in the need to fix or replace things into your budget – or at least make sure you have some money to cover those contingencies. And where appropriate, make sure you have insurance and/or warranties in place.
As we replace our fridge, I am thankful that we have money to do so. I’m also thankful that my fridge has given us so many years of good service. I’m also thankful to my good friend, Trish, who immediate rang me when she saw my Facebook post about the broken fridge and offered us storage for two whole bags of frozen food (hmmm, even on a food budget I’m still a bit of a hoarder).
Now, back to the fridge and how we went about getting the best deal.
- We took measurements to make sure we bought a fridge the right size. This seems pretty obvious, but I have met so many people who have done things like bought furniture that won’t fit in the lift (or through the front door). You can crane many items of furniture in through a balcony, but fridges are difficult if they won’t fit in their allocated space in the kitchen. Specifically, we were looking for something around the 440L to 460L size with a width of between 700mm and 780mm.
- We went online. We looked online to compare three sites (which I had used previously and knew were good value) – The Good Guys, Bing Lee and Appliances Online. We found it was easy to get distracted by lots of nice shiny distractions. We didn’t need anything fancy such as ice makers or drink coolers – just a fridge that would fit in the hole in the kitchen cupboards and that would serve a medium sized family. I wrote a list brands, prices, sizes and details of what we liked.
- We did a Google search on the model number. In our research, we noted the numbers of particular model/s we were interested. We then put those into a google search to see what we could come up with. That gave us a few more options. (Note: if you have time sit back and wait a few days at this point. For the next little while, Google will bombard you with ads for fridges every time you are surfing the internet.)
- We took note of delivery charges. Appliances Online delivers for free, installs the fridges and also takes away your old fridge for free. The Good Guys charge $55 – we thought this was fair but our preferred model was not in stock in either of the two stores close to us. I have a GoGet car share membership, and it would have cost of $33 for two hours to hire a van if we needed to (or we could have tried to phone a friend.)
- We weren’t too fussed on purchasing additional warranty, but we kept it in mind. If a product is faulty, then as a consumer I will request the company that made it repairs and replaces it. Warranty doesn’t usually cover wear and tear, and I figure most discernible faults will become apparent soon. That said, this was still something we took into account.
- We checked out Costco. Costco has some excellent white goods and appliances, and their warranty lasts for life so long as your membership is current. I so wished we had space for an amazing two-door space aged granite fridge by Sharp they had that was so state of the art (and $600 cheaper than the same model at another store nearby). But sadly, they did not have anything that fit our space constraints. (Neil said if we ever build a house, we will design the kitchen around a Costco fridge.)
- Asking for a reduction on floor stock or slightly damaged goods is also an option. We could have gone to one of the stores I had done research on to ask if they could do us a better deal – including on whether they had any floor stock they wanted to clear and/or any products with slight damage. You can save a lot of money buying this way. But since I was sick, and I was now tired, we opted to go home and buy online instead. (Note: if you have the luxury of time, definitely do this. It is also useful to get expert opinion. And The Good Guys had a cashback option on Samsung products we could have explored.)
- We were about to purchase our fridge when – we spotted an even cheaper model. We had decided on a Haier 457L fridge from Appliances Online ($709, including delivery and removal of the old fridge). But then we noticed a ChiQ 435L inverter fridge ($609). This was $100 cheaper than the Haier one, looked good and was a good size.
- We checked online reviews about our chosen model. It was difficult to get many reviews as this isn’t a brand many people have used, but the reviews on Appliances Online seemed positive. It was not listed on the brands reviewed on the Choice website (you can access reviews on a number of fridges if you are a member). There were only two reviews on the productreview.com.au website, but both were positive.
- I purchased through Cash Rewards. By using my Cash Rewards link, I am eligible for 1.4% cashback, which will amount to $7.75.
- I searched for a promo code. Just before I finalised the order, I did a final search for promo codes. I was able to get one that worked and scored another $20 off.
How did we go?
Well, initially we had been looking at models between $890 and $1200. We ended up buying a fridge that cost $581.25 including delivery, installation and removal of the old fridge. Plus according to the ChiQ website they have a limited time offer of an additional two years warranty – three to five years – so long as you register your purchase within 30 days.
Have you had to buy a new fridge recently? If so, how did you go about researching and negotiating a deal?