20 Fall Essentials Under $50
Fall isn't far off, and with it comes a temptation to buy host of cold-weather gear for the kitchen, the yard and everything in between. Frugal consumers can get all they need for a fun and cozy fall on a budget. These items cost less than $50 each and some even save money over time.
Space Heater. A space heater can go a long way toward keeping the place warm without turning up the thermostat. The best space heaters chosen by Cheapism.com cost about $30. The Vornado VH101 boasts quiet operation and the Lasko 754200 can heat a room surprisingly fast for its compact size.
Electric Blanket. On a chilly fall night, throw an electric blanket on the bed instead of blasting the heat. Sunbeam makes a few that earn good reviews, including a fleece heated throw on sale for $40, plus 20 percent off with the coupon code LABORDAY. Users particularly like this model because it's very soft and heats well even on the low setting.
Firewood. Another way to avoid cranking up the heat is to make use of a wood-burning fireplace (assuming it's not just ornamental). Buy firewood cheap from a local seller -- in bulk to save cash, if the fireplace will get a lot of use. Or cozy up around an outdoor fire pit on a chilly evening and roast some marshmallows with the kids.
Thermostat. If turning on the heat is necessary, a programmable thermostat can save $180 a year, according to the federal Energy Star program. How? These nifty tools -- some of which cost less than $40 -- can be programmed to use less energy while residents are sleeping or not at home.
Slow Cooker. Getting tired of burgers off the grill and already dreaming about roasts and soups? A slow cooker is the way to go with fall cooking -- it's convenient, delicious, and cheap. The Hamilton Beach 33155, a Cheapism top pick, is on sale at Walmart for about $17. At 5 quarts, this slow cooker can feed a family, and reviewers say the heat settings are accurate and food turns out perfect nearly every time.
Fall Produce. What goes in the slow cooker is up to the chef, but it's easiest on the wallet to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Fall produce is abundant in most parts of the country from late September through early December. Choices include apples, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupes, cauliflower, celery, cranberries, eggplants, figs, grapes, honeydew melon, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, oranges, pears, plums, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, and yams.
Fall Beer. Okay, maybe it's not an essential, but seasonal beer is a fun tradition. Many distributors come out with specialty brews that incorporate fall flavors. According to Gayot, Abita Brewing's Pecan Harvest Ale is a good, budget-friendly brown ale to try, and many a local pub will no doubt have specials on fall brews.
Coffee. Say goodbye to iced coffee and welcome back a hot cup o' joe in the morning. It's common knowledge that the savings from skipping the coffee shop on the way to work add up, and coffee at home can easily cost less than $10 a pound. Folgers Black Silk, starting at about 31 cents an ounce, ranked high with a panel of Cheapism.com taste testers. The bold flavor gave it depth without the burnt taste common in cheap coffees.
Coffee Maker. Get a coffee maker to go with that caffeine addiction. The Black & Decker DCM18S Brew 'n Go Personal Coffeemaker can be found for just $16 and comes with a travel mug. Users like the convenience of the timer, the permanent filter and the short brewing time.
Hot Chocolate Mix. Hot chocolate is a cold-weather staple. In a Cheapism taste test, classic Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate was the judges' favorite. It costs about 11 cents per serving and panelists recognized a taste they remembered fondly from childhood. For a bolder, darker chocolate flavor, try Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium, starting at less than 40 cents a serving.
Apple Cider. Coffee, hot chocolate -- add another fall beverage to the list. Apple cider is a traditional autumn treat that won't break a grocery budget. Look for Trader Joe's Spiced Cider ($3 for two quarts) in the store's October flier and drink it warm or cold, spiked or not.
Cookware. As summer winds down, chances are some home-cooked food sounds good. Solid cookware is vital for making meals at home and cutting dining-out costs. A Cook N Home 12-piece stainless steel set, available online for about $50, claims high praise from users and the distinction of best cheap stainless steel cookware from Cheapism.com. Reviewers report that the pots and pans are lightweight and easy to clean.
Pharmacy. One downside to fall: Colds and flus begin to make the rounds. Some families will need a good, affordable pharmacy on speed dial. When Consumer Reports compared generic drug prices at more than 200 pharmacies, Costco came out the cheapest, with no membership required. A Cheapism pharmacy comparison found that grocery and big-box stores have lower prices than pharmacy chains.
Leaf Blower. A leaf blower is a must in the fall for a yard with a lot of trees. Homeowners can find electric leaf blowers under $50 with sufficient power to clean up a small lawn or some flower beds. For $25 more, pick up Cheapism's choice of best cheap electric leaf blower, the Toro 51609 Ultra. Reviewers appreciate that the machine is powerful but relatively quiet and weighs just 7.5 pounds, which makes it easy to carry around and use.
Rake. While a leaf blower will save back strain and hours of time compared with clearing a whole yard manually, having a rake on hand for smaller jobs is a necessity. Pick one up at any home improvement store for less than $20.
Yard Waste Bags. Ordinances about bagging yard waste vary by community, so be sure to check what is required locally. If yard waste bags are needed, buying them in bulk is the way to go. Home Depot sells a pack of five for less than $2.
Rain Boots. Splurging on high-end, high-priced Hunter Boots isn't necessary. Search places such as Amazon and Zappos for options under $50. A highly rated pair from Target with Hunter-like treads and buckles on the sides costs $35.
Hiking Shoes. Outdoor types who plan to spend time checking out fall foliage will find good hiking shoes worthwhile. Watch for this year's models and color schemes to go on sale at the end of the season. A $100 budget buys the tried-and-true Merrell Moab Ventilator, a perennial Cheapism top pick that boasts countless stellar reviews.
Halloween Costume. Trick or treat! The kid in all of us wants a good costume for Halloween, and making a costume saves a lot of money. Depending on what you want to be, most of the necessary supplies are probably on hand. A quick browse on Pinterest and other sites should provide plenty of inspiration.
Denim. Autumn calls for jeans and sweaters, but don't buy new ones right away. As soon as the back-to-school rush is over, denim prices dip. September is the time to stock up on jeans that will get plenty of wear through the spring.