This is where we thank the technology gods for the World Wide Web. Twenty years ago, comparison shopping meant thumbing through the Sunday ads in the newspaper or individually calling different stores in the phonebook to ask for prices on specific items. No longer! Now we have so much technology at our fingertips that it can actually be overwhelming at times, so we’re here to cut through the clutter and make comparison shopping easy for you:
Check reviews first
You can find the cheapest possible digital camera simply by googling “digital camera” and hitting the “shopping” tab, but you might end up with a piece of junk if you don’t know what kind of camera you want and which ones are actually good. If you’re willing to spend the money for an account, Consumer Reports is still one of the best places to find which products work best and what features they have. Barring that, the Internet is full of sites giving product reviews – both from professionals and people just like you.
Look at a cross-section of sites – from CNET to Amazon to PCMag – and check out the lowest-rated consumer reviews. Often, this will tell you if the “problem” is legitimate (e.g. a dozen people say their vacuum blew up) or just a few angry people ranting about how long it took to ship or how loud it is.
[Check Your Credit: Don’t Guess. Know.® Get your free credit report and score. No credit card required.
Find the right price
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to find the right price. I say right and not necessarily best because the rating of who you’re buying from should definitely be part of this equation. You don’t want to buy from Johnny One-Star who has a lot of horrible feedback when Target is selling what you want for $2 more.
The easiest way to search, as mentioned above, is to simply google the product you’re interested in and click the “shopping” tab. Google will typically bring up a huge list of places and prices with little discernable order. If, however, you’re looking for something a little cleaner and clearer, Yahoo! Shopping and Pricegrabber are better sites for you. Yahoo! Shopping will give you an easy-to-read list of prices, a simple way to sort results and consumer reviews. Pricegrabber provides the total price – including taxes and shipping – and compares a number of legitimate retailers.
Don’t fear “used” items
[Check Your Credit: Don't Guess. Know.® Get your free credit report and score. No credit card required.Despite what I said about wanting a good, legitimate seller, don’t be afraid to purchase from individuals using Amazon’s Marketplace or selling through eBay. Simply make sure other people have had good experiences with them. And if you happen to find the item you want on a site like Craigslist, don’t discount it because it’s used. Certainly ask how the item was used and look at pictures, but often places like Craigslist can provide you with incredible deals you won’t find anywhere else. Just remember that you’re in control, and if that piece of furniture has more nicks and scratches than the owner said, you can always say no… or ask for an even steeper discount!
Compare services too
If you want to save money, don’t stop your comparison shopping at things like books and DVDs. One of the best ways to save is by comparing services like phone, Internet, and cable plans. Often, companies will try to entice new customers with ridiculously low deals to start, only to raise them significantly later. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever, but know what you’re getting into… and how difficult it will be to get out of it.
DirecTV, for example, makes you sign a two-year commitment to their service, and will charge you hundreds of dollars if you leave early. Do your math before you sign up and make sure you’re getting the best deal in the long-run.
For more tips and tools to help you make the most of your money, including a Debt Payoff Planner that will show you how to get out of debt faster and save potentially thousands in interest, visit Quizzle.com. And check out these other great money-saving articles:
- Does Money Make You Happy? Maybe Not
- 5 Ways to Save Money on Insurance
- The Coupon Dictionary: Your Guide to Coupon Lingo
- Got Flood Insurance? What You Need to Know about Your Coverage
- Should You Refinance Your Home?