Friday, April 9, 2010

The Art of Comparison Shopping

I love to shop online! I can get great deals on a wider variety of items than I can buy locally and I can comparison shop without having to leave the couch! There are LOTS of deals to be had out in cyberspace! But with all that information and all the online retailers out there, you could spend literally hours finding the best deal on a single item if you don't know where to look. As a veteran (serial?) online shopper and lifelong bargain hunter, here are some of my best tips for saving money on online purchases. Just 3-5 minutes and knowing how to use a few websites can save you 10% - 30% or more (plus shipping) on nearly every purchase you make! The first step is knowing how to comparison shop.

Your best tool in comparison shopping is not going from site to site looking up the item you want, nor is it Google. Familiarize yourself with one of the big comparison shopping sites and let them do the work for you. Try one of these: (same as or Both of these sites do a great job of finding prices on items at many different online retailers and both offer you the option of entering your zip code so you can compare shipping and tax. I especially like Shopzilla because it includes merchant as well as product ratings. Also, you don't need to know exactly which item you are going to purchase in order to do a price comparison. If you are looking for a blender, for example, but haven't decided which brand (or brand, but not which model), do a more general search (ex. Cuisinart blender). You may find that one website is having a sale, which makes one model much cheaper than others. I have been able to get better models/brands of items than what I would have bought normally (but at the same price) by finding sales like this.

Sometimes bargain shopping isn't about how cheaply you can get an item. You also should consider quality when shopping. Buying a $20 blender that will need to be replaced in a year or two is not as good of a deal as paying $40 for a much nicer blender that will last you for 10 years or more. Check out product ratings while you're on PriceGrabber or Shopzilla. If you don't find a lot of ratings, check out I love Amazon for their free shipping, but because so many people shop there, they also have more product ratings than just about any other site. Even if I have no intention of buying an item there, I will go to Amazon just to read the reviews. If you're shopping for electronics (cameras, TVs, BluRay players, etc.), check out for professionals' opinions of different items.

So, to sum it up, spend a couple of minutes of researching before you buy online. Spend a minute or two on a price comparison site and read a few reviews to make sure you're getting a quality item at a low price. And stay tuned for the next installment: using coupons online (it'll be a good one!).

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A Random Thought

If you wouldn't have bought it to begin with, you didn't save money on it!

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