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What to look out for when buying big-ticket household items

By Monica Boyd
From state-of-the-art appliances to centrepiece furniture, big-ticket household items can burn a large hole in your pocket. Attention to detail and preparation, however, can help you get the product you want at a price you can afford. These purchases are investments you’ll use every day, so you’ll want to get it right. Shop around and keep these pointers in mind.


There are four styles to choose from – top freezer, bottom freezer, side-by-side and more premium French-door models. As well as the price, consider your lifestyle and what foods you like to eat, how often you buy groceries and in what quantities. If you’re a frozen pizza fiend or like to stockpile Tupperware dinners, for example, the side-by-side may prove too narrow. The pro? Lots of compartments on the door. The bottom freezer is better for stacking and is great for larger families, if you don’t mind bending over. If you’re big on produce, look for a model with multiple drawers. Consider spatial restraints, too, like where the fridge will live and what the door may bump into when opened. Also consider cleaning methods. Wire shelving requires a bit more manoeuvring than plastic tray slots. And if you can’t stand smudges, steer clear of stainless steel.


Though an obvious place to start, consider how big the room is. Keep your measurements on hand as it’s easy to forget when confronted with a steal on Gumtree! How many people will it seat? Does it leave room for additional chairs?  Don’t choose a model that overwhelms the space, as you’ll be tied to that layout for as long as you own the couch. Consider its visual height and whether it disrupts the flow of the space. And most importantly, think about how you’re going to use it. Will you have the young’uns leaping on the cushions, or is it reserved for Netflix alongside your S.O? This will help determine where you go in terms of firmness, fabric and craftsmanship.


Size matters. There’s no point falling for a super king when you’ve only got room (and a bed base) for a double. Then there’s firmness, which generally depends on your height and weight. To check if a mattress is supporting you properly, lie down and slide a hand beneath the small of your back. If there’s a large gap, it’s too soft. If no gap, it’s too firm. Your hand should be able to pass through while your back touches the mattress. Also, the more springs, the better, in terms of support per square inch of your body. Typically, pocket-sprung mattresses are more supportive than open-coil, especially if there’s a size difference between you and your bedfellow, while more costly memory foam mattresses actually mould to body’s contours. If in doubt, sign up for a mattress trial. Borrowing a bed may sound strange, but it’s a great way to work out what’s right for you.


First things first: Gas or electric? This is driven by personal preference and what you’re familiar with. Gas ovens are cheapest to cook with and tend to create a slightly more humid baking environment, whereas electric ovens produce a more even, slightly dryer heat. There are also different sizes. Choose from a single or double oven – built-in or built-under – according to your kitchen design and always check the internal measurements against your largest baking dishes. When it comes to features, expect to pay more for fans, grills and self-cleaning functions that’ll save you time and elbow grease.

Washing machine

If you have limited space, a front loader may be a more viable option than a top loader. Also consider size and speed. The average household requires a 7kg drum, though models typically vary from 5kg to 11kg. What’s your wash pattern like? If you tend to do lots of small loads throughout the week, no need to prioritise size. If you own plenty of clothes and wash less frequently, you may require a bigger drum. Speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). The faster the spin cycle, the drier clothes get, saving time and potentially money. And it’s worth paying more for a noise level around 50dB and energy efficiency. Though bear in mind that five-star energy ratings don’t always equal five-star performances. Then there are added features such as “baby cycle” and “hand wash”‘, which can be tailored to suit your needs.

By Kathleen Lee-Joe as seen on

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