Gina Briles

Gina K. Briles writes family, household, and shopping-related product reviews. She is a displaced Jayhawk and a coffee addict living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two small children, and Vizsla dog.
  • Retail

    Lowe's or Home Depot

    Do-it-yourself season is that time of year when you suddenly feel compelled to organize the garage, do something about your outdated kitchen, build a deck, or apply a fresh coat of paint. Whatever the project or task may be, chances are you'll check the offerings at Lowe's and/or Home Depot. Cheapism sent a researcher to outposts of both hardware giants to determine which offers the better value for your limited renovation dollars. These big-box bigwigs are highly successful and fiercely competitive, making it impossible to pick a winner based on the cost of merchandise alone. Although prices at Home Depot and Lowe's sometimes fluctuate, they're often exactly the same, and the differences we noted typically were slight. In the end, the service and overall experience we got for our money earned Lowe's the title of value champ.

  • Outdoor

    Cheap Kids' Bikes

    Parents can pay a lot of money for a bicycle that a child will outgrow in a year or two, or they can seek out solid, cheap kids' bikes. The big-box stores offer low-cost options ranging from the widely available Huffy line to the Toys R Us exclusives Rallye and Avigo. Other names you'll come across at the lower end of the market include NEXT and Pacific, and occasionally Schwinn. Within this pool you'll find several acceptable options for the limited time your growing child will be riding a starter bicycle. One of these cheap bikes should do the trick until the child gets older and more serious about the type of riding he or she will be doing.

  • Health & Wellness

    Best Cheap Sunscreen

    Warnings about damage from sun exposure, constant reappraisals of what constitutes "too much sun," and frightening rates of skin cancer have transformed cheap sunscreen from a vacation-only sundry to an everyday must-have. Sunscreens range in price from $5 or $6 to well over $100 for boutique beauty creams. At the low end of that spectrum are popular brands such as Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Hawaiian Tropic. There are also several generics, such as Target's Up & Up brand and Walmart's Equate products, that do surprisingly well in lab testing, earning the respect of both experts and consumers.

  • Beverages

    Best Cheap Beer

    Over the past several years, scores of new varieties of beer have flooded the shelves, with the marketplace becoming both wider and more specialized. Craft beers are competing head-to-head with the traditional standbys and altering the perception of what constitutes an acceptable price; $15 for a six-pack is now fairly commonplace. The question is, must an avid beer drinker keen on a fresh, full taste really shell out that kind of cash? Cheapism has consulted online ratings and reviews and conducted two comparative samplings in a continuing quest to identify the best cheap suds, whether old-school American-style lagers or their craftier contemporaries. This year, our panelists tasted nine popular beers in a blind test to help guide consumers to high-quality brews at budget prices.

  • Groceries

    Best Cheap Tortilla Chips

    Tortilla chips are a staple of social gatherings far and wide. From football Sundays to family get-togethers, the crunchy crisps make appearances alongside guacamole, seven-layer-dip, queso, and salsa. Tasty versions of this party food are readily available at mouthwateringly low prices. We gathered a group of hungry chip lovers to taste-test 13 common brands of tortilla snacks, from Frito-Lay's Tostitos and Santitas to Trader Joe's and Costco's Kirkland Signature. Here's the scoop on which cheap tortilla chips won out in a blind test.

  • Appliances

    Cheap Garage Door Openers

    The best products often come with a hefty price tag, but when it comes to garage door openers, thrifty consumers get a well-deserved break: Cheap garage door openers, selling for less than $175, are typically the longest-lasting and most reliable.

  • Frugality

    Outlet Shopping vs. Retail

    Bargain shoppers may be concerned about price, but they still appreciate name-brand products and enjoy staying on top of trends. Outlet shopping malls woo budget buyers with the promise of designer labels at affordable prices. To determine whether the lure actually snares savings for frugal consumers, we compared outlet shopping vs. retail. Our foray during the holiday season netted close to 30 percent off regular mall prices by shopping the outlets. As we prepared for the upcoming summer splash, we found savings worth nearly 35 percent at the outlet mall, even after retail discounts were factored in.

  • Groceries

    Best Cheap Salsa

    Salsa and chips -- the dynamic duo of snack foods. Whether you're watching sports, enjoying family movie night, or stocking up to binge a new season of a favorite show, this simple combo is the hero of the hungry. To find the best cheap salsa to pair with tortilla chips, we organized a panel of eight tasters for a blind test. Our volunteer panelists sampled 11 low-price name-brand and store-brand salsas purchased at Safeway, Walmart, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. While budget-priced salsa may lag high-end artisanal products in terms of nuance and ingredients, the best cheap salsa has near-universal appeal.

  • Groceries

    Best Frozen Pizza

    Frozen pizza may be the hallmark food of our chaotic modern culture. It feeds struggling students, kitchen-phobic singles, and busy families. Stocking the freezer with premade pies also saves time for the over-scheduled and saves money compared with delivery or eating out. The question is: Which are the best frozen pizzas for those late nights and dinners on the run? We shopped for top frozen pizzas costing no more than 30 cents per ounce and served up a feast of six cheese and six pepperoni pies to a panel of nine willing participants, who dished on which were the best frozen pizzas and which were the worst.

  • Retail

    Best Garden Center

    By the time spring arrives most of us are ready to emerge from indoor hibernation. Whether you're an avid gardener or a novice cultivator, sprucing up your little plot of earth is a rewarding way to celebrate longer and warmer days. After the dull greys and browns of the cold weather season, the best garden centers promise the advent of colorful buds and blooms. While it's easy to spend big bucks on mature plants and trees, single-purpose tools, and decorative containers, sticking to basics and following a few simple guidelines brings gardening well within reach.

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