Maralyn Edid

Maralyn is a veteran reporter, writer, researcher, and editor. From her early years at Crain's Chicago Business and the Detroit bureau of Business Week, then on to a long-term stint at Cornell University's ILR School and now at Cheapism.com, Maralyn has been -- and remains -- committed to getting the story straight. That means a devotion to balance, to thorough investigation, and to making sense of diverse ideas and facts. Maralyn earned a Master's in Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell, a Master's in Journalism at University of California-Berkeley, and a B.A. at Tufts. Maralyn resides in New York City.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Blenders

    Home cooks can choose among a few different types of cheap blenders: conventional countertop blenders, immersion or hand blenders, and increasingly popular single-serve or personal blenders. This buying guide covers all three types, but the best cheap blender for most consumers is a conventional full-size model. Countertop blenders in the under-$40 range are versatile appliances that can purée, crush, chop, and mix -- perhaps not with the abandon of pricier models but good enough for smoothies, soups, salsas, frozen drinks, and the like. Our analysis of specifications, user reviews, and tests by consumer-product experts turned up decent blenders for a fraction of the cost of a Vitamix.

  • Health & Wellness

    Cheap Eyeglasses Websites

    People who rely on corrective lenses to see their way through the world are all too familiar with the financial squeeze of prescription eyewear, which hits the mid-triple-digit zone in short order. But those on a tight budget with straightforward lens requirements can find relief in the flourishing online prescription eyeglasses market. Cheapism.com pored over comments posted by consumers and independent review sites to identify the best cheap glasses websites. We found that for less than $50, consumers can order a pair of good-looking frames with single-vision lenses.

  • Lawn & Garden

    Best Cheap Pools

    When hot summer days arrive, kids love playing in water. A cheap pool is one surefire way to cool the crowds. Keeping toddlers entertained is easy with plastic or inflatable waders sold at major superstores for $10 to $30 or so. But older children -- not to mention adults -- need a pool that's at least three feet deep. Although some backyard pools cost $5,000 and more and require professional installation, there's a decent selection of cheap pools bearing price tags that max out at about $900. Granted, you'll need to level the ground properly, but setting up a cheap pool is otherwise a do-it-yourself (maybe with a few extra hands) project.

  • Outdoor

    Best Cheap Sleeping Bags

    Every overnight camper/hiker and sleepover attendee craves a comfortable sleeping bag. With price tags ranging from less than $20 for a cheap sleeping bag to well to over $600 for the ultra-high-end models, there's no shortage of makes, styles, and features to choose from. When you factor in purpose and quality, though, your options begin to narrow. And if finding a cheap sleeping bag is part of the decision tree, your search becomes a bit more constrained. That said, there are good cheap sleeping bags to be had, and we compiled a list of the best to help make your shopping expedition more efficient and productive.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Paper Shredders

    Identity and other types of data theft -- not to mention all those scary television shows about hoarding -- have made shredding essential for individuals as well as organizations. Unless you want to tear up all your old tax returns by hand, you need a paper shredder. For frugal consumers, that means a cheap paper shredder. Given the array of choices, which one should you choose in the under-$75 set?

  • Personal Care

    Best Cheap Shampoo

    Shampooing your hair two or three times a week, or even daily, is reason enough to reserve a spot in your shower caddy for one of the best cheap shampoos. Finding the product that works for you, however, may be a chore. Witness the hundreds of brands and shampoo categories vying for your dollars. You'll find oily hair shampoos, dry hair shampoo, flat hair fixes, color-treated or damaged hair shampoo, and more. There are pricey shampoos and budget alternatives in every one of the shampoo niches.

  • Outdoor

    Best Cheap Hiking Backpacks

    Backpacks intended for serious hikers weigh you down in more ways than one: They're much larger and hold pounds more stuff than the cheap backpacks we researched and they're a drag on your budget, to the tune of $250 and up. Cheap hiking backpacks are sufficient for short overnight trips in mild weather, jaunts from base camp, simple daytrips, and, depending on the size, toting things around town and carrying onto an airplane.

  • Personal Care

    Best Cheap Moisturizers

    Selecting a cheap moisturizer that best suits your skin type can be arduous, and if you don't shop wisely, can cost you a pretty penny. Department store moisturizers, for example, sell for as much as $700. But the quest for your Holy Grail cheap moisturizer need not force you to choose between hydrating your skin and paying your rent. Our research indicates that cheap drugstore moisturizers are as effective as costly department store brands.

  • Health & Fitness

    Best Cheap Bike Helmets

    For every type of cycling activity -- mountain, road, commuter, sport -- and every type of cyclist -- male, female, youth -- there's a helmet marketed to meet the need. At their core, all helmets perform the same function: They are meant to keep the cyclist safe and comfortable. There's no reason for the casual rider to buy a $200 helmet optimized for speed and style when the best cheap helmets are designed to keep the wearer equally safe.

  • Outdoor

    Best Cheap Tents

    Planning a camping trip or a backyard adventure shouldn't make you want to hide under a tent. Thrifty consumers will find plenty of cheap tents that provide a comfortable refuge for many camping excursions. The first step is to figure out your shelter needs and then decide which basic tent features you must have and which pricier features you can sacrifice. For starters, the type of tent you buy depends on where you'll be camping (the climate, the terrain), how you'll use the tent (sleeping, cooking, family activities), and personal preference. Dollar-wise shoppers take note: The most expensive tents may not be the best buy, so use this guide to help find a quality tent that fits within your budget.

  • Health & Fitness

    Best Cheap Bike Locks

    Some cyclists recommend spending 10 percent of the value of the bicycle on a lock; for a $500 bicycle, then, a $50 lock would be reasonable. Accordingly, locks range in price from a few dollars to well over $100. High-priced bike locks are made of high-quality components to make them harder for thieves to pick, cut through, or bust with a tool. But you don't need to spend a fortune on complicated locks. We found cheap bicycle locks that can safeguard your bike for less than $30.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Ice Cream Makers

    Ice cream is a simple treat: cream, sugar, and some flavoring. And in an era when consumers increasingly are concerned about what goes into their food, this universally loved dessert virtually screams for a do-it-yourself approach. But how to choose a cheap ice cream maker that produces satisfying results? To keep the process easy and fun for users, we combed retail and review sites for electric ice cream makers that reliably churn out cold, rich, creamy treats in 40 minutes or less and cost less than $45.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Slow Cookers

    The idea of slow cooking food has been around almost as long as humanity's ability to make fire. Although taste for this technique diminished as technology and the domestic arts evolved, interest in slow cooking has revived in recent years. The modern demand for convenience is fueling demand for slow cookers: Just throw a few ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and dinner is ready several unattended hours later. To help the harried, Cheapism.com devoted hours to reading expert and user reviews to come up with the best cheap programmable and manual slow cookers costing $50 or less.

  • Baby

    Cheap Diapers

    Among the dozens of diapering options, it's not easy to tell which is the least costly and most effective. To help caregivers find the best cheap diapers, Cheapism talked with new parents, sorted through scores of online reviews of cheap disposable diapers, and also peeked at the eco-friendly, washable category. The criteria we assessed include cost per unit, fit, and absorption and leak protection. For comparison, we focused on the prices of size 3 diapers sold in bulk packages of 100 or more. The cost per diaper rather than the package price is the critical number (if the unit cost is not displayed, divide the total price by the number of diapers) and bulk diapers are typically the most economical buy. Always check manufacturer websites for coupons and free samples.

  • Kitchen & Food

    Best Cheap Kitchen Knives

    Professional chefs who need professional-grade kitchen knives rely on brands such as Wusthof, Shun, and Henckels, whose internationally-acclaimed knives cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. But if you're just a regular home cook shopping for the best cheap kitchen knives to use in your home kitchen, there's no reason to spend big on cutlery sets. According to scores of reviews by consumers, there are plenty of quality inexpensive kitchen knives that cut cleanly and easily and feel good in the hand on the market at prices you can afford.

  • Retail

    Best Cheap Car Rental

    When looking for a cheap car rental, the budget-minded will settle for a regular economy car with few frills while others won't go for anything less than a flashy Hummer with a souped-up stereo. If you belong to that first group, you can find a rental car for as low as $14.99 a day; if you belong to the big spenders category, figure on shelling out close to $200 a day. The car rental companies on our list feature rates that hover around $25-$40 a day for an economy car, which is the cheapest type of car you can rent.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Cheap Toasters

    Toasters are a fairly basic appliance, but they vary dramatically in price. The cheapest toasters retail for around $8, while designer toasters range from $50 to $120. (Restaurant-quality toasters cost upwards of $900!) The price differentials for the toasters that sit in your kitchen usually reflect the material and build quality, the amount of bread that can be toasted in an hour, and the presence of mechanisms such as heat sensors and automatic temperature adjusting. Fortunately, most consumers can get by with a cheap toaste. A two-slice toaster that boasts all the necessary features can be purchased for $30 or less; four-slice pop-up toasters cost a bit more.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Coffee Grinders

    If you enjoy a good cup of coffee, a small investment in a cheap coffee grinder is a small price to pay for fresh coffee at its best, brewed at home or in the office. Coffee is most flavorful when the beans are ground just before brewing; once exposed to oxidation through the grinding process, coffee beans begin to lose flavor. A coffee grinder lets you enjoy the rich fullness of coffee's natural essence. High-end coffee grinders can set you back a few hundred dollars, but we found several grinders costing $20 or less that are more than adequate for this simple task.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Electric Guitars

    Who hasn't ventured into a guitar store and picked up the shiniest guitar to give it a strum, picturing themselves on a stage? The availability of cheap electric guitars at stores like Walmart and Radio Shack has pulled more and more buyers into the electric guitars market, but this development has prompted an explosion of unauthorized copies and poorly-built instruments. While there are many cheap electric guitars selling for less than $200, most of these guitars are short on performance and high on looks.

  • Online

    Best Cheap Travel Sites

    Travel deal sites try to get your attention through clever ads with flashy graphics, talking garden gnomes, and William Shatner sightings. But do they get you the lowest prices? We've saved you a lot of time and frustration by identifying the best cheap travel sites. The results, detailed below, provide all the information you'll need to land the best travel deals. That said, there's no one particular site that always wins out, so plan on searching several travel deal sites to land the best prices.

  • Toys

    Cheap Drum Sets

    Drums and cymbals: every parent's worst nightmare rolled into one noisy contraption. If you're willing to take the plunge, buying a cheap drum set is the way to go. For one, many kids lose interest in their enthusiasms after a while, so you surely don't want to start your child out with a $1,500 drum set. And two, almost every major drum manufacturer -- including Pearl, Tama, Ludwig, ddrum, Yamaha, and Pacific Drum -- makes entry-level drum sets aimed at young players. Oh, yes, good inexpensive drum sets will appeal to adult rock star wannabes, as well.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Bathroom Scales

    Doctors have claimed time and again that regularly weighing yourself can keep the pounds from creeping up on you. That means you'll want a cheap bathroom scale that gives you the cold, hard, unvarnished facts and does so consistently. Upmarket models are priced in the $50-plus range and can easily hit the triple digits; a professional digital scale like you'd find at the doctor's office -- the 599KL Waist-High Digital Scale, with a 600-pound capacity, for example -- costs more than $400. You can buy a cheap mechanical scale for as little as $9 and a cheap digital scale for less than $30.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Turntables

    With the music industry in flux and CD sales falling daily, the full, rich sound of vinyl records is sparking a replay for this "old" media. The MP3's floating around online are generally poor quality and don't match the warmth of a record, so more consumers are starting to invest again in vinyl. This surge of new record buyers has generated a need for cheap turntables for casual listeners. Although we mention a few affordable analog turntables in this buying guide, our focus is on good quality USB turntables costing less than $150.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Cordless Drills

    For occasional DIY types, there's a plethora of cheap cordless drills on the market but little guidance in the form of expert and user reviews that could point you to the best cheap cordless drill. So the first thing you need to know is that battery technology has evolved, which means you should beware of old-style cordless drills selling for discounted prices. The second thing you need to know is that a good cheap cordless drill with all the necessary features and performance attributes, including sufficient power, light weight, and durability, can be had for less than $160.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Steam Cleaners

    If elbow grease isn't your thing, a cheap steam cleaner is an easier way to get surfaces in your home looking spotless. These machines apply steam, or hot water and cleaning solution, to the soiled area and either steam away dirt, germs, and allergens or brush and suction away dirt and moisture. Pricey models arguably clean more thoroughly and win loud applause from users who suffer from allergies. But for the average household, steam cleaners under $200 work just fine.

  • Electronics

    Best Inexpensive Radar Detectors

    There are only two places where you can't use a radar detector in a private vehicle: Virginia and Washington DC. But the rest of you drivers, listen up: a good cheap radar detector may (and we stress may) affect your annual speeding ticket count. The performance of radar detectors -- that is, whether they truly work -- has long been the subject of still unresolved debate. With police speed enforcement technology evolving every year, manufacturers are forced to regularly pump out new models just to keep pace. So we've researched a crop of cheap, top rated radar detectors to help guide your decision about whether, and which, to buy.

  • Accessories

    Best Cheap Batteries

    Batteries are one of those can't-live-without artifacts of modern life. What with all the wireless gadgets we possess, it's quite possible that you're burning though a few dozen batteries a year. Replacement costs add up quickly, which puts a premium on finding the best (as in, longest-lasting and most reliable) and cheapest battery around. Frugal consumers may be tempted to buy the no-name dollar-store variety, but experts insist that's a bad choice. Super-cheap batteries are destined to disappoint -- they have short life spans and some are prone to leaking. Stepping up a notch to a name-brand battery costs a bit more upfront but saves money in the long-run and delivers significantly better performance. We found several good cheap batteries that should keep your electrical gadgets fully powered up without draining too much from your wallet.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Baby Monitors

    Baby monitors -- even cheap baby monitors -- are a bit of a luxury, especially compared with things like diapers and bottles. But many new moms and dads see a good baby monitor as indispensable. Some of the most popular brands of cheap baby monitors are Fisher-Price, Graco, Safety 1st, Sony, Summer Infant, and The First Years. Prices range from $15 for an analog audio monitor with one parent unit to $100 and up for audio/video monitors with digital technology.

  • Home & Garden

    Best Cheap Air Mattresses

    A good cheap air mattress makes the perfect occasional bed. It takes up little space when deflated and costs significantly less than a regular mattress. The best cheap air mattresses are comfortable enough that you won't have grumpy guests and small enough and light enough that you can stow one away in the back of your car for camping trips or to use when you're the guest. And unlike a regular mattress, an air mattress can be adjusted to suit the sleeper's firmness preferences, assuring a pleasant stay in dreamland.

  • Weight Loss

    Best Cheap Diet Pills

    Do diet pills work? Is it okay to buy cheap diet pills? And why are some diet pills cheaper than others? These are some of the important questions people ask when they start thinking about using diet pills. There are safe and risky diet pills in every price category. Higher prices usually reflect marketing expenses rather than product quality, so don't be swayed by the price point.

  • Appliances

    Cheap Sewing Machines

    Sewing machines have come a long way since your high school home economics class. Now you can buy cheap sewing machines with built-in stitch designs, push-button controls, and LED or LCD screens. Of course, you can also keep it old school and choose a cheap sewing machine that's controlled with a foot pedal and knobs and dials, and demands more manual involvement by the operator. While high-end, computerized sewing machines will set you back $600 and counting, cheap sewing machines, both manual and electronic, range in price from $70 to $250.

  • Computers

    Cheap Webcams

    Webcams are basically small digital cameras that record videos like normal camcorders do, but rely on software to transfer the images to a computer through an Internet connection. Given that all Macs and many PC laptops feature built-in webcams and sales of desktop computers are falling, the market for stand-alone webcams is shrinking. Still, companies including Logitech, Microsoft, Creative Technology, Hewlett-Packard, and Philips continue producing webcams that sell for a range of prices. Unless you plan to broadcast a web show or use the webcam as a security device, there's no need to purchase a camcorder-quality webcam; a cheap webcam will more than suffice.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Electric Grills

    Ever since George Foreman launched his infamous infomercials in 1994, indoor electric grills, cheap or not, have enjoyed place of pride in modern American kitchens. They might not deliver the taste or experiential pleasure you get when grilling over an open flame, but they offer some definite advantages: a convenient alternative to an outdoor BBQ, a frugal stand-in for a full-sized broiler, and a healthy substitute for indoor cooking methods that are messier and generally more fattening.

  • Baby

    Cheap Baby Swings

    Are you a sleep-deprived parent in need of an occasional prop, like a cheap baby swing, to provide an hour or so of relief? Infant swings can lull a little one to sleep or supply a few moments of stimulating entertainment. Either way, you want a cheap baby swing that's safe, comfortable, and reliable. Now that wind-up swings have disappeared, you'll have to settle for a model that relies on batteries -- infant swings that draw power from an electrical outlet are priced above the Cheapism ceiling. For less than $100, though, you can get a baby swing that features a playlist of tunes and sounds, a toy bar, and multiple swing speeds and recline angles.

  • Toys

    Best Cheap Scooters

    Many children eagerly anticipate their first ride on a scooter (look, Ma, freedom!) when they can begin cruising around the neighborhood in speedy and stylish fashion. Although you can spend hundreds of dollars on a tricked-out scooter, there are plenty of cheap scooters bearing two-digit price tags in an assortment of styles and colors that will keep youngsters happy and active -- and away from all those couch-potato alternatives. Moreover, cheap scooters seem to be a gender-neutral interest that's as popular with girls as with boys.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Cribs

    A high-class look and solid build quality are the stand-out attributes of this convertible crib, according to DaVinci Emily crib reviews. Parents rave about the cherry finish and spaciousness in crib reviews on Toys R Us , and thrill to its presence even when the intended occupant hasn't yet arrived. Most reviews assert that the crib sets up easily, typically in less than an hour, and one mother-to-be reports on Amazon that she managed the feat totally on her own. The relatively low price is a big attraction, but crib reviews also say the large number of positive reviews posted by other purchasers also played a role in their decision.

  • Fitness

    Best Cheap Workout DVDs

    It may seem that cheap workout DVDs had fallen by the wayside with the rise of free iTunes downloads and on-demand fitness programs. But it may just be that if you shell out money for something, you're more likely to use it. Never mind that our research into the best cheap workout DVDs suggests that users form attachments to the fitness personalities themselves, so if you like the workouts they offer, it's easy to stay committed. In other words, find the cheap fitness DVD that works for you and bask in the results.

  • Fitness

    Best Cheap Yoga Mats

    The practice of yoga is booming. Yoga studios are popping up all over the place and yoga-related products are proliferating. Whether you're a beginner practicing at the gym or a longtime practitioner doing Bikram or "hot" yoga, you need a mat. Prices start at less than $10 and leap beyond $100, but frugal yogis can easily find mats for less than $25 that meet all their requirements for thickness, slip resistance, durability, and, if it's a personal priority, eco-friendliness.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Popcorn Machines

    It’s tough to beat the taste of freshly popped popcorn, and with a cheap popcorn machine you can savor those fluffy and tender morsels whenever the mood strikes. No need to invest hundreds of dollars in a concession-stand behemoth or fork over $4.99 per bag of pre-popped stuff at the grocery store. For less than $30, you’ve got your choice among hot air poppers, stove-top popcorn poppers, and electric poppers -- the former being oil-free and the latter two types requiring a tablespoon or two of oil. In five minutes or less, any one of these popcorn poppers will deliver a tasty, versatile, and healthy snack that can be personalized with a mix of salty, savory, or sweet flavor enhancers to suit your taste preferences.

  • Baby

    Cheap Booster Seats

    Cheap booster seats are designed to bridge the gap between the time a child outgrows a five-point-harness car seat and is big enough for an adult seatbelt. The average booster seat is intended for children aged three to eight, weighing 30 to 100 pounds, and standing between 34 and 57 inches tall (specifics vary slightly by model). Booster seats typically come in three styles: backless, high back, and convertible. To help consumers get the most out of their investment in a car seat, manufacturers also make combination models that meet multiple needs as the child grows. These combo car seats are usually more expensive than our Cheapism niche, so this buying guide largely focuses on high back and backless booster seats.

  • Personal Care

    Best Cheap Acne Treatments

    Ugh, acne -- that scourge we hope never to face again after the age of 16. But many adults continue to struggle with acne and others develop it at certain points in their lives, like during pregnancy or periods of high stress. Well aware of these facts of life, the skin care industry has developed heaps of cheap acne treatments aimed at stopping or lessening the severity of blemishes large and small. Severe or cystic acne may require something stronger and more expensive, like antibiotics, but blackheads and whiteheads and classic red pimples often can be cured with products costing less than $7.

  • Online

    Cheap Digital Photo Printing

    With the advent of the digital camera, demand for low-cost digital prints has created a new online market. Cheap digital photo printing services are now major players in the photo world and a boon to frugal shutterbugs. The existence of cheap digital photo printing services eliminates the need for an expensive in-home digital printer and all the associated costs, like ink and paper, and frees consumers to spend their money on prints rather than printing tools. Moreover, cheap digital photo printing services provide the expertise and accuracy that comes with running off thousands of prints a day, as well as the benefits of professional-grade equipment.

  • Toys

    Cheap Microscopes

    Expensive microscopes that cost upward of $2,000 are designed for scientific laboratories where unquestioned accuracy and precision are required. For children and young adults just launching their scientific careers, however, or school teachers, hobbyists, and professionals with an occasional need for minute inspection of whatever their line of work entails, the best cheap microscopes will do just fine. A good cheap microscope can help children develop an interest in science and explore the world around them. Many starter microscopes come with accessories such as sample slides and other tools for examining microscopic objects. But microscopes can also be used to see the fine details in ordinary small items that abound in our everyday lives, like coins, stamps, gemstones, or ground spices.

  • Apps & Software

    Free Parental Control Software

    You've probably seen plenty of advertisements for free parental control software and wondered whether it could do the job as well as the software that you'd pay to download. The truth of the matter is that there's a lot of free parental control software out there that's either useless or the source of computer security problems. On the other hand, there are some high-quality download options for parents who want to monitor their children's Internet activity without spending a lot of money.