Raechel Conover

Raechel Conover is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Yahoo, blogs, and other websites. She's a self-confessed shopaholic and frugal mom, always scouring the sale and clearance racks for deals and taking full advantage of free community activities and events with her husband and young sons.

  • Frugality

    Sam's Club or Costco?

    Deciding whether to join Costco or Sam's Club is no small task. Both warehouse giants offer an array of discounted goods and services including grocery items, prescription medications, electronics, automotive supplies and services, and more. Both also promise exceptional deals compared with retail . Which, if either, is the better choice? We became members and shopped at each to find out.

  • Taste Tests

    Best Cheap Pizza Chains

    Americans certainly love their pizza: More than nine out of 10 scarf it down at least once a month. On average, the total amount of cheesy goodness consumed each year comes out to 46 slices per person, according to Statistic Brain . To honor this perennial favorite and commemorate National Pizza Month, we organized a taste-off to determine the best cheap pizza chain among the biggest national brands: Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Papa John's, and Little Caesars.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Grills

    To many people, a warm evening, a nice patio, and the delectable smell of dinner cooking on the grill approaches perfection. Many top-end grills come in well over the $500 mark, and reviewers swear that the features, build, and durability of high-end grills are worth the high price tag. But frugal consumers can partake in this beloved backyard ritual without spending more than $200. Our research indicates that there are plenty of options -- both charcoal and gas-fueled -- that satisfy many users with their features and performance for a few summers, at least.

  • Home & Garden

    Best Cheap Mattresses

    In the innerspring mattress category, you could find yourself in restful bliss or toss-crazed slumber every night whether you spend $500 on cheap mattress set or upward of $5,000 on a luxurious model. Mattress makers would have you believe that every one of their models -- be it a traditional innerspring, an off-brand that arrives at your door in a vacuum-packed box, an innovative memory foam or latex mattress, or one filled with water or air -- offers a great night's sleep at the best price ever. Our recommendations for the best cheap mattresses are all innerspring mattress lines, which account for about three-quarters of the mattress market.

  • Outdoor

    Cheap Hiking Boots

    Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment for getting up close and personal with the great outdoors is the right footwear. Few things will do more to dampen the pleasure of a hike than bad boots. Fortunately for hikers on a budget, the best cheap hiking boots provide the support and protection to make a peaceful stroll or vigorous trek enjoyable and rewarding. There's no one dominant brand in cheap hiking boots, but some of the better-known names include Merrell, Keen, Columbia, L.L. Bean, and The North Face. We compared footwear from these and other brands, looking for several important features and favorable reviews from consumers and experts.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Furnaces

    The decision to buy a new furnace often comes at the worst possible moment: It's midwinter and freezing outside and your old furnace decides to kick the bucket. You don't have a lot of time to shop around for the best value on a new model. Instead, you're at the mercy of your local HVAC contractor and whatever is available to install on short notice. But with a little forethought and planning, you can take much of the stress out of buying a cheap furnace and save a lot of money in the process.

  • Frugality

    Cheapest Grocery Store: Walmart, Kroger, or Aldi?

    Can frugal consumers get cheap groceries without going extreme-couponing crazy? Sure, as long as you know where to shop. We recently compared grocery prices at three different types of stores: Walmart, the reigning king of low prices; Aldi, a growing chain of discount groceries; and Kroger, a supermarket chain with siblings (including Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Fred Meyer) spread over 34 states. A survey of 37 standard grocery items earned Aldi the low-price winner's laurel, with savings of more than 15 percent over Walmart and about 23 percent over Kroger (about 17 percent including Kroger sale prices at the time of comparison). However, in other respects, such as variety and convenience, the best grocery store isn't necessarily the cheapest.

  • Fitness

    Best Cheap Walking Shoes

    Walking is a low-impact way to improve your health and fitness, and the right pair of cheap walking shoes will add enjoyment to your walking workouts. Even if you don't walk for exercise per se, good cheap walking shoes can make all the difference in your next sightseeing trip, your morning stroll to the coffee shop, and any other activities that require time on your feet. New Balance, Asics, Nike, Saucony, and Ryka are the big names in walking shoes. Some models made by these companies fall within the Cheapism range, as do walking shoes produced by companies with less brand recognition. We found several of the cheapest walking shoes worthy of note.

  • Home & Garden

    Best Cheap Pillows

    One good thing about buying cheap pillows is that you don't need to spend a fortune to get good pillows. According to SleepLikeTheDead.com , paying more doesn't necessarily get you more benefits. Pillows range in price from as little as $5 each to more than $100, with the Cheapism niche falling between $5 and $30. The best way to choose a cheap pillow is to become familiar with the various types, know which type of pillow matches the way you sleep, and arm yourself with the rest of the information in this buying guide.

  • Lawn & Garden

    Cheap Weed Eaters

    Weed eaters, also known as string trimmers, grass trimmers, and line trimmers, cut grass and weeds where the lawn mower won't reach and help keep your driveway and walkways looking sharp. You've got your pick between cheap weed eaters (i.e., consumer) and expensive weed eaters (i.e., commercial). Black & Decker dominates the market for both commercial and residential versions. Other brands that stand out in the inexpensive price range include Toro and Weed Eater. In the upper end of the market, Echo, Craftsman, and Honda are also popular choices. High-end weed eaters cost upward of $300, but for less than $100 you can find a cheap weed eater that will do your yard proud.

  • Kitchen Appliances

    Best Cheap Refrigerators

    From basic top-freezer refrigerators starting at less than $500 to feature-packed side-by-sides, a variety of reliable, cheap refrigerators are available for less than $900. Although you get lots of bells and whistles with upmarket models, you aren't guaranteed better dependability. The best inexpensive refrigerators do an excellent job keeping fresh foods fresh, frozen foods frozen, and penny-pinching users content. We identified four models that deserve a place on the list of any consumer in need of a new, cheap refrigerator.

  • Dining

    Cheap Family Restaurants

    Do you fret over the bill every time your family goes out for dinner? Restaurant meals can add up quickly. Including tips, national spending at eating and drinking establishments amounted to $1,402.67 per person in 2010, according to the most recent data available online from the USDA's Economic Research Service. While dining out generally isn't cheap, some family restaurant chains are a better value than others. We set out to determine the best casual dining chains for families on a budget, focusing on full-service restaurants with bar-and-grill-style menus (rather than quick-service or fast-casual chains, where customers order at a counter).

  • Fitness

    Best Cheap Running Shoes

    Experts recommend replacing running shoes about every 300 to 500 miles. By this rule of thumb, consumers who run an average of three miles three days a week should be buying new shoes about once a year. Finding a good cheap running shoe suited to your foot can take some of the sting out of this exercise. Adidas, Nike, Asics, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, Reebok, Mizuno, and Puma are some of the best-known names in this market, which totals more than $3 billion a year, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Based on our analysis of price, features, and online reviews, we identified several top budget running shoes priced between $50 and $100. Our selections are all available in men's and women's versions.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Upright Vacuums

    Shopping for the best cheap upright vacuum cleaner can be daunting. There are so many to consider, and at all price levels. Upright vacuums are the most popular by sales volume and range in price from $50 to $600 and beyond. The good news for budget-minded consumers is that a simple yet efficient model capable of picking up pet dander, pollen, dust mites, embedded dirt in carpets, debris on hard-surface floors, and all of the preceding from furniture, moldings, and window frames, can be had for less than $150.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Electric Toothbrushes

    Many dentists recommend electric toothbrushes to their patients as a better route to oral health than the traditional manual toothbrush. The good news for frugal shoppers is that you can find a cheap electric toothbrush that will improve the health of your teeth and gums, so long as you're willing to forgo the bells and whistles. Electric toothbrushes run a gamut of price points, with high-end choices starting at $75 and some even costing close to $150 but many selling somewhere between $5 and $30.

  • Groceries

    Best Cheap Dog Food

    With at least one dog living in nearly half of U.S. households, it's no wonder the dog food industry is booming. And for thrifty masters, that means a determined hunt for the best cheap dog food, be it dry kibble or wet and canned. Figure on spending 5 to 10 cents an ounce for cheap kibble and 10 to 18 cents an ounce for cheap canned dog food. Although many big names in the industry command hefty prices for their products, some smaller companies with lower profiles offer top-quality dog food at comparatively budget rates. We identified several low-cost brands that deserve shelf space in your dog's larder.

  • Groceries

    Best Cheap Doughnuts

    National Doughnut Day falls on the first Friday in June -- or Nov. 5, depending whom you ask. To honor the sweet treats, we rounded up 10 doughnut lovers for a hands-on blind tasting to identify the best cheap doughnuts. We sampled a variety of classics (glazed, chocolate, iced/sprinkled, and jelly-filled) from the top doughnut chains -- Dunkin' Donuts , Krispy Kreme , and Tim Hortons -- and from Entenmann's , a regional brand found in many grocery stores.

  • Outdoor

    Best Cheap Mountain Bikes

    In the past, cheap mountain bikes were rigid, featured few speeds, and included many parts borrowed from lighter, faster bikes intended to be ridden on pavement. They were also hard to find and primarily marketed toward frugal mountain bike enthusiasts. Cheap mountain bikes have evolved, however, and now are an affordable and accessible option, whether you're learning to ride the trails, commuting to work or school, or embarking on a fitness routine.

  • Frugality

    Walmart, Target, Kmart Showdown

    Frugal shoppers can trace several of their go-to stores for bargains back to the same year: 1962, when Walmart, Target, and Kmart all opened their doors. After 50 years of rolled-back prices, bull's-eyes, and Blue Light Specials, Cheapism set out to determine which discount retailer has risen above the others in terms of price, quality, and service. Not surprisingly, Walmart posted the lowest prices on a shopping cart of 30 identical and like items -- nearly 5 percent cheaper than Target overall and about 15 percent cheaper than Kmart. On the other hand, many customers assert that Taraget presents more attractive merchandise and a more agreeable shopping experience. In our comparison of Walmart, Target, and Kmart, we found that Walmart holds its own on those fronts and also offers the widest array of products and services both online and off, delivering bona fide one-stop shopping. All things considered, Walmart earns our discount crown. Target is next in line and Kmart disappoints on all counts.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Canister Vacuums

    Cheap canister vacuums are versatile machines with arsenals of attachments. Although many users prefer upright vacuums with beater brushes that pound out the dirt for deep carpet cleaning, a cheap canister vacuum with a carpet attachment can get the job done adequately, though perhaps not to white-glove standards. Most budget models are best suited for lighter-duty housekeeping chores, from tile and hardwood floors to window treatments and upholstered furniture. Their various tools and brushes and long hoses allow them to reach places upright vacuums can't.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Car Seats

    Following car seat safety guidelines can mean cycling through three or more different seats before a child is big enough to ride in a car without one. That makes cheap car seats a must for many parents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages parents to keep children in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible and the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its policy in 2011 to recommend that children ride facing backward until age 2. However, many children outgrow the height and weight limits on rear-facing infant seats before they turn 2. That's where a convertible car seat comes in.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Fans

    Cheap fans are practical in hot climates and during the summer everywhere else to help circulate air and lower the temperature in a room. On hot days a cheap fan doesn't make up for not having air conditioning, but it can make a difference. In fact, Galt Technology says a good fan can cool a room by 10 to 15 degrees. Cheap fans are much less costly to run and use much less energy than air conditioning and many frugal consumers are increasingly turning to inexpensive fans as a lower-cost, eco-friendly alternative.

  • Baby

    Cheap Jogging Strollers

    For parents who frequently find themselves on the run -- literally -- jogging strollers are a practical investment. Prices for jogging strollers range from the Cheapism niche of $100-$200 to the high-end segment of $400 and above. With expensive models such as the BOB and Baby Jogger dominating this stroller category, are budget consumers destined to be left in the dust? No way. We found several good cheap jogging strollers that let you keep up with the pack.

  • Frugality

    Amazon vs. Walmart

    As American consumers increasingly choose online shopping over bricks-and-mortar retail, Cheapism set out to compare the two superstores in each space: Amazon and Walmart. We embarked on a shopping spree that pitted Walmart, the big-box behemoth, against Amazon, the online superstore, to find out whether the Internet or a physical store is the best source for cheap holiday shopping. We chose these two vendors for several reasons: They are the giants of American retail; they are universally recognized for offering an extensive array of products at low prices; and they represent two very different business models and shopping experiences.

  • Fashion

    Cheap Bras

    Women spend a lot of time and money trying to look their best, and the right bra provides an essential foundation for building that image. Bras range in price from about $10 to as much as $200 (unless you count one-of-a-kind, diamond-encrusted designs that cost millions). We focused our attention at the low end, seeking out cheap bras between $10 and $25.

  • Appliances

    Cheap Robotic Vacuum Cleaners

    Vacuuming is not most people's favorite pastime, but it must be done on a regular basis to ensure a clean home. While a cheap robotic vacuum isn't meant to take over for a traditional vacuum, it can help keep your home clean until you get around to dragging that upright out of the closet again. Robotic vacuum cleaners appeal not only to consumers who don't like to vacuum often but also to those who like to keep even the floors under their furniture super-spotless. They range in price from as little as $30 to more than $1,000. Most fall between $300 and $600, and few are less than $300.

  • Home & Garden

    Best Cheap Office Chairs

    Anyone who has logged hours upon hours behind a desk knows the importance of finding the right cheap office chair. According to the Department of Labor , a good office chair should support your back, shoulders, and neck; help prevent carpal tunnel problems in the hands and wrists; support your legs and buttocks; improve leg circulation; reduce workplace fatigue; and make it easy to reach whatever you need. The best cheap office chairs accomplish this for less than $150.

  • Groceries

    Best Cheap Ice Cream Treats

    If you're craving a cool, refreshing, tasty, and cheap ice cream treat, you may be forgiven for thinking that ice cream is ice cream is ice cream. As our panel of six taste testers discovered, however, there's a difference between just okay ice cream treats and those that hit the sweet spot. More importantly, price doesn't seem to matter all that much. We organized a blind tasting of several types of ice cream novelties, including the classic versions of sandwiches, bars, and cones from three budget brands: Klondike, Nestle, and the Kroger store brand. To ensure a more credible assessment of cheap ice cream treats, we threw in ice cream bar samples from two premium brands: Dove and Haagen-Dazs.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Handheld Vacuums

    It's a hassle to get out a large upright vacuum to clean up a small mess. This is where a cheap handheld vacuum comes in, er, handy. If something spills or breaks, you can pull out a handheld vacuum and leave the upright in the closet until the whole house is due for a cleaning. Prices for handheld vacuums range from just under $30 to more than $200, which gets you a top-of-the-line Dyson. We looked at cheap handheld vacuums between $30 and $80. Models in this price range have limited features and moderate suction power. Higher-end vacuums give you more suction power, more accessories, and lighter weight for added convenience. They also can clean up both wet and dry spills. The good news for frugal shoppers is that there are cheap handheld vacuums that will meet most users' spot-cleaning needs.

  • Appliances

    Best Cheap Humidifiers

    A cheap humidifier is a simple solution to the problems caused by dry air. The symptoms typically break out in the winter months when the heat comes on or in extremely dry climates that are short on moisture. If you or members of the family suffer from irritants like dry skin, chapped lips, itchy eyes, or nosebleeds and/or your house is showing telltale signs like static or cracks in wood beams or furniture, you probably need a cheap humidifier.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Rolling Backpacks

    Rolling backpacks -- that common-sense design innovation -- are the perfect choice for students of all ages, travelers, sales people, business people, and just about anyone needing to cart around heavy cargo. They're doubly convenient because they can easily be transformed into a traditional backpack when rougher terrain is encountered. Rolling backpacks costing $60 or more are easy enough to find; locating a good cheap rolling backpack requires a bit more effort. The good news for thrifty shoppers, though, is that $35 or less will buy you a backpack that's roomy, sturdy, and stable.

  • Personal Care

    Best Cheap Women's Shavers

    Women's shavers range in cost from $5 to $50, with electric shavers hovering at the pricey end of the spectrum. While electric shavers are good options because they're long-lasting and you don't need to use water and soap, beauty experts note that women generally prefer manual razors for the close shave they give. The blades on a manual shaver have direct contact with the skin, whereas the blades on an electric shaver are covered in screens and foils that protect the skin from nicks and cuts, which interferes with the closeness of the shave. The good news for frugal shoppers is that manual razors are not only the most popular, they also cluster at the low end of the price spectrum.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Hair Dryers

    Have you ever walked out of the salon after a blowout with smooth, sleek hair, feeling great? Many consumers spend hundreds trying to recreate the look at home with high-end hair dryers. Frugal shoppers can find a number of decent cheap hair dryers with some of the same professional qualities for less than $40. The hard part of seeking out the best cheap hair dryers is wading through a market that's flooded with different budget brands and models, all claiming to produce "professional" results. Many do not, of course, but some come close.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Umbrella Strollers

    There's no substitute for a cheap umbrella stroller for short trips to the mall or park, when riding public transportation or negotiating a crowded airport, or for stashing away at grandma's house as backup. The best of the bunch are several steps ahead of yesterday's versions, mostly in terms of performance and build quality and somewhat in the way of features. These days the concept of an umbrella stroller has become a little fuzzy, with many now referred to as lightweight strollers. And while prices have taken a predictable leap skyward -- with some edging close to the level of a travel system or jogging stroller -- good cheap umbrella strollers are readily available. We identified several under $60 that are comfortable for the child and user-friendly for the adult.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Baby Carriers

    One must-have item in your arsenal of baby gear is a cheap baby carrier. Baby carriers come in several styles, including cheap baby slings, cheap front carriers, and not-so-cheap backpack carriers. Each type of discount baby carrier frees up your hands, which means you can work, run errands, and do household chores with your baby as close as could be. Experts at The Cradle also note that discount baby carriers are soothing for infants, provide stimulation, and enhance mental development.

  • Baby

    Cheap Travel Systems

    Before the baby even arrives, expenses start piling up. One way to save money and lock in convenience is to buy a cheap travel system comprised of stroller, car seat, and base. Of course, you can buy the stroller and car seat (with or without a base) separately, but why? A travel system is a product for which the whole costs less than the sum of the parts. And with a car seat that fastens securely into the stroller, you can efficiently move a baby from one vehicle to another.

  • Electronics

    Cheap Breast Pumps

    As a new mother, or even a second- or third-time mother, breastfeeding demands and enables a special relationship with your newborn. Nothing quite aids this connection as much as a cheap breast pump, particularly if you don't expect to be with your baby 24/7. Good manual breast pumps can be had for about $30 and good cheap electric breast pumps cost less than $160; high-end breast pumps, by contrast, go for $400 and counting. Paying upscale prices gets you a model that's faster, more efficient, and easier to use, but legions of women who choose cheap breast pumps report they manage just fine and their babies thrive just as well.

  • Accessories

    Best Cheap Laptop Bags

    Laptop bags range in price from $25 to $250 and up. Many designers, such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, make laptop bags that stand at the very high end of the price range, some even costing thousands of dollars. There are plenty of attractive laptop bags with relatively low price tags -- you just need to know what to look for. For $65 or less, frugal shoppers can find high-quality bags made of durable fabric that help protect a laptop and maintain their integrity for a good long time.

  • Electronics

    Best Cheap Digital Photo Frames

    Digital photo frames are the best way to move pictures off your camera or out of the computer and display them for the enjoyment of family and friends. But digital photo frames weren't always so popular. When they first hit the market, many experts and consumers scoffed at the idea that they could be attractive for home use. But designers managed to marry new technology to traditional frame design to produce digital frames that look like they belong in your home. And consumers have found that cheap digital photo frames provide hours of low-cost entertainment.

  • Baby

    Best Cheap Maternity Clothes

    Finding out you're expecting inevitably means a slow but steady dash to round up an assortment of cheap maternity clothes. You'll only be wearing these garments for a few months, so there's no reason to splurge. But that doesn't mean your new wardrobe will be lacking in style or quality. When making our picks for best cheap maternity clothes we considered variety, fit, and comfort in addition to price.

  • Accessories

    Best Cheap iPad Cases

    Some people prefer to use an Apple iPad sans case, but with a $499 starting price for the newest full-size model, it's worth picking up a cheap iPad case to keep the coveted device safe. Covers and sleeves also offer a bit of protection, but you have to remove them to use the iPad, leaving it vulnerable. A cheap iPad case stays on your iPad to provide protection not only at rest or during transport but also during use. A good case may cost more than a cover or a sleeve, but you don't need to spend more than $60 to get maximum protection against jostles, shocks, and scratches.