Needs vs Wants: Dishwasher

dirty dishesEasy call, right? A dishwasher is obviously a need. In these rushed days, who in their right mind would opt OUT of having a dishwasher?

The situation is this…my dishwasher is dead. It developed a terrible sound, followed by a terrible smell, and utterly failed to wash the last several loads of dishes that I forced through it to a decent level of clean. Once I was sure that it was dead, I did what any normal homeowner does when a major appliance bites the dust–I went shopping.

I went to Sears first because (1) we have a card there and (2) our last dishwasher was a Kenmore, and I liked it a lot. I found a model that was perfect almost immediately. It had hidden controls (since I have a toddler and don’t like my dishwasher turning on at random times of the day), it had bells and whistles (something like a thermoblaster area for pots and pans…sounded perfect for those dishes that wait a week to be washed), and it had a moderate price tag for a washer with those features ($600…when sitting next to the $2000 washer, that looks like pocket change!). I always shop around though, so we left without even talking to a sales rep.

We went to Home Depot on a whim, but they didn’t have anything that could beat the Sears machine. Since I am not one to snub my nose at a discount, we also went to the local scratch-and-dent store. They had a washer with the hidden controls for $349! Of course, it didn’t have a thermoblaster, but it was also almost half the price.

At this point, I’m about ready to whip out the debit card and go for it. Of course, I know that I really need to talk to my husband about it before spending that kind of money, so I left.

After leaving the stores, I started having those guilty second thoughts. I remembered my efforts to rein in out spending habits. I remembered our decision to stop relying on credit for major purchases. I remembered my budget guide that tells me to save money specifically for big purchases. I remembered my resolution to be a lot more strict about needs vs wants with myself.

So I started washing my dishes.

Know what? My glasses aren’t nearly as cloudy as I thought they were. They actually sparkle. It also didn’t take that long to wash a day’s worth of dishes. Of course, I’m still washing because I had a LOT more than one day’s worth waiting on the new dishwasher.

The time I spent washing my own dishes gave me time to really reflect on the usefulness of a dishwasher and the habits that it creates in my kitchen. Here’s the problem: the more I rely on my dishwasher, the more dishes I allow to pile up.

Think about it this way. If you know that you have to wash the dishes by hand, are you going to let them sit in the sink or on the table overnight? No! Knowing you HAVE to wash them by hand instead of just throwing them into the dishwasher, you are more likely to just go ahead and rinse them off right after dinner. Newsflash: when you wash a dish immediately after using it, it comes clean with almost NO work! Holy cow!! (I know, I know…some of you are thinking that it should have been obvious to me much sooner than 28 years old, but I have always had a dishwasher to depend on.)

After all of that introspection and dish washing, I have decided to do something really crazy. I am going to wait to buy a new dishwasher until I can pay cash for it. I don’t want to put it on a credit card, and I don’t want to undo our progress toward having an emergency fund for a “want” that I can do without.

That means that I will be without a dishwasher for at least 3 months…one of those months, I’ll still be working outside the home. I think that it also means that I will be a lot more conscious of using only the dishes that are necessary when cooking and serving meals. I washed 36 cups and glasses today. That’s A LOT of cups and glasses for a family of 4…especially when we aren’t at home most of the day 5 days a week!

I have had Zander, my niece Katie and my nephew Joe playing at my house today. They have each had a single cup from this morning when they first started playing till now. They will keep that cup until this evening.  I have had to remind them and rescue the cups from the sink a few times already, but  I know that they will get into the habit.

Baby steps.

What do you think? Could you live without a dishwasher? What would you do without before giving up your dishwasher?

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5 thoughts on “Needs vs Wants: Dishwasher

    • It has just always been there for me. My parents’ house, my first apartment, and my first home have all had dishwashers. I have never lived somewhere without one, so I have never really considered whether it was needed or not. It was just there. I think that my mother-in-law is the only person that I know without a dishwasher. In fact, I have adpoted her dishwashing tricks to save water while washing my own dishes.

      My husband thinks I’m crazy to not run out and buy a new one, but I guess he hasn’t realized that there haven’t been ANY dirty dishes sitting around since the dishwasher broke. I can’t say the same for BEFORE it broke. 🙂 He’ll catch on though.

  1. Such a timely post! Our dishwasher dies a couple weeks ago. This is our 3rd in 10 years. I don’t know if well water is rough on them or what! This last one was well researched and a Bosch. It lasted just over the one year warranty. My daughter came over today and asked if the dishwasher is working yet. I said Yep, It sure it! As a hundreds of dollars dish drain. For the same reasons you stated, I am not buying another. I hand wash and put in the dishwasher to drip dry. And although my dishwasher cleaned very well and my glasses didn’t have the cloudy look. It isn’t any harder to do. Just maybe a little time consuming. I won’t be replacing at all.

    • I love the dishwasher as a drainer! I hadn’t even thought of that. The unexpected (and quite surprising) side effect of washing dishes by hand is that my husband is less prone to leaving his dirty dishes in the sink. He cooked supper last night, and he washed his cooking dishes as he went! Holy moly!!

  2. We have a dishwasher, but it is old and I can imagine that one day very soon it will be washing it’s very last dish. I don’t want to spend a ton of money on something that isn’t a need when I’d rather beef up the emergency fund. I just tonight had the discussion with my kids about how much easier it is to wash a dish that hasn’t been sitting out on the counter for days and that spaghetti sauce will come off if you rinse the dish right away vs. two days later. Still, when our dishwasher is full and there are still dirty dishes, those dishes get washed by hand. As we purge our dishes (we have entirely too many), the way we approach dishwashing I think will change. I’d love to get to the point where we each only have a few dishes each that are easily washed in the sink each night. Not sure about all of the dishes used for cooking. I’ll have to think about that issue.

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