August 17, 2015

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Update: We ended up buying new. It just made sense, particularly to have the old pieces hauled away and recycled. Thanks for all the feedback everybody!

I am absolutely 100% laundry cursed.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a load without staining, shrinking, or warping something, pulling off buttons or sending some important piece of material through the wash in somebody’s pocket. Have you ever tried convincing the Verizon rep that your phone, which went a full cycle in a dorm washer and dryer, just “suddenly stopped working… I don’t know why”?


But my laundry curse reached def-con 5 yesterday. I threw in a load of towels, and half way through the washer started making a noise like a fork stuck in a garbage disposal. Of course, it was only just starting the spin cycle, and the towels were soaking wet and weighed approximately one kilo-ton apiece. I did my best to wring them out a bit, but I actually have a minor disability that makes it very difficult and painful for me to grip or twist and so I didn’t have much effect.

Now here’s where I got dumb. I put these beluga-whale-weight towels into the dryer. Allow me to demonstrate how well that went, via onomatopoeia:


Yep. I killed the dryer. The towels were too heavy and they caused the dryer to stop turning and, from the smell of it, almost catch on fire.

I spent the rest of the night surrounded by fans and dripping towels, angrily watching Gilmore Girls with ice packs on my arms.

So, lovely readers, I present you with my conundrum of the day: how should I deal with this situation?

The Specs:

My husband and I bought this washer and dryer set in 2011 from the previous tenant of our apartment. I think we got them for something like $200. I’m not sure but I’d guess that they’re now 10 - 15 years old. That’s basically 90 in appliance years. When we moved them to our current apartment, we had to buy a converter kit because they didn’t match the modern hook ups.


Our dryer has died once before, and when it was being repaired we could see that all the wires inside were calcified and covered with charred layers of lint and dust. That was about two years ago. And the burning smell yesterday was really worrisome. At this point I’m declaring the dryer a fire hazard, so it absolutely has to be replaced.

The washer works fine and has never given us any trouble until now. But it has a serious case of what I like to refer to as “skudge.” I was going to upload a picture but it was so gross looking that I decided to spare you all. Just trust that it's a stunning mixture of mildew and dust and gunk. None of it has ever affected performance or given our clothes a bad smell or anything, but it’s pretty off-putting to wash your clothes in something that looks like it's growing hair on the inside.

The Background:

We have a growing emergency fund with about $7,000 in it. We have several major savings goals right now, including two big trips we’re taking in the next few months, plus the usual net worth growth goals.

We don’t need anything too fancy from a washer-dryer. But I do want reliability. I see washers advertised on Craigslist that say “Works great, you just need to remember to shut it off or the spin cycle doesn’t end.” That’s not what I’m looking for. I want to throw clothes in, hit the button and walk away or even leave the house without a worry.


I’m going to rate my options on three factors:

1. Elbow grease (How much work am I going to have to put into this? 1 = Herculean effort, 10 = Sipping a martini on the couch while muscled men do the work for me.)
2. Razzle dazzle (How excited will I be about the solution? 1 = Using this appliance is like sitting through a three hour powerpoint presentation, 10 = Holy shitballs it’s laundry day again? Huzzah!)
3. Frugal bad-assity (How little money did I spend? 1 = Goodbye money! I’ll miss you!, 10 = Even Mr Money Mustache would be proud of me.)

Option One: Repair the washer, replace the dryer with a used model

When something breaks, it’s almost always a better idea financially to repair it than to replace it.

The washer is probably just broken due to normal wear-and-tear. Unless it’s something really insanely broken, My husband could buy parts and fix it himself. We’d still be left with an old, skudgey washer, but it’d work, and it would cost us next-to-nothing.


And then we could go frugal and buy a “gently used” dryer from a local refurbisher. They sell dryers for $189. Since the item would be used, we’d probably not get as many years out of it as we would a new item, but at $189 we’d still get a great return on our investment. Of course, the refurbisher is only open from 9-5 Monday through Friday, doesn’t deliver in our area, offers no waranty, and they won’t haul away your old appliances. We’d have to figure all that out for ourselves. Total cost: ~$200

Elbow grease score: 2
Razzle dazzle: 3
Frugal bad-assity: 10
Total score: 15

Option Two: Replace both the washer and dryer with used models


The refurbisher also sells washers for $200-300. No repair by hand, and no more skudge! We’d get older model items with more limited life spans, and we’d still have to figure out delivery, installation and scrapping the old appliances ourselves. Total cost: ~$450

Elbow grease score: 5
Razzle dazzle: 4
Frugal bad-assity: 9
Total score: 18

Option Three: Repair the washer, and replace the dryer with a scratch-and-dent model


There is a scratch-and-dent showroom in the area which sells appliances which are brand new, but which have some kind of cosmetic defect which prevents them from being sold at regular retail. This would give us a brand new dryer that would be more energy efficient, more gentle on our clothing, and nicer to look at, for less than retail. It would also come with a 10 year warranty on the major parts. Of course, we’d have a very limited selection. There’s no guarantee that we’d be able to get a highly-rated model. The store charges $75 for delivery, and $10 per item they haul away. Their dryers sell for about $450. Add in the cost of replacement parts for the skudge-washer. Total cost: $535

Elbow grease score: 3
Razzle dazzle: 5
Frugal bad-assity: 7
Total score: 15

Option Four: Replace both the washer and the dryer with scratch-and-dent models

Brand new, energy efficient appliances with only minor defects, no more skudge, everything hauled away and installed for us, with a 10 year parts warranty. We’d still have to go to the showroom and pick from a limited selection. And we’d have to be careful to make sure that the defects really were minor, and that we buy a good reliable brand. Add in delivery and haul away costs. Total cost: $995

Elbow grease score: 9
Razzle dazzle: 7
Frugal bad-assity: 3
Total score: 19

Option Five: Brand new appliances


Best Buy sells a bundled washer and dryer that have five star ratings. They’re Energy Star Certified, they connect to your smartphone so you can get alerts when the load is done or if there’s a problem. The washer auto-balances loads, the dryer has a moisture detector that stops it before it cooks your clothes, they have steam cycles, and LED display and vibration control and they use jets instead of agitators, so the wear on your clothes is minimal.


Best Buy offers free delivery, free haul away, and they recycle your old appliance. Because I can buy online, I can finish the purchase process without driving anywhere, and I know exactly what I’m buying. It would come with a 1 year total warranty on parts and labor. We could get 10 or more years out of these appliances. Of course, the bundle with everything included costs $1300. This would mean reducing our emergency fund by 20%, and having to rebuild it.

Elbow grease: 10
Razzle dazzle: 10
Frugal bad-assity: 1
Total score: 21

Okay, so I started this list trying to convince myself to buy cheaply, but my scoring system is actually leaning towards the nicer models.

Is my scoring flawed? Am I missing options? What would you do if you were me? Please let me know in the comments!

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