Comparison Shopping: Get The Best For Less

Your dollar store stocks cans of V8 for 53ยข rather than the $1.07 you’ve paid at your chain grocery store. T.J. Maxx carries the same shower mat as Target for half the price. You snag an extension ladder for $20 at a flea market. For bargain shoppers, these examples illustrate the “thrill of the hunt.”

Rather than stumbling on these lucky breaks, what if you set out to find these savings? How much could you save?

Comparison-shopping is a very useful skill to help reduce your expenses and live within your means. The consumer credit counselors at Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions (CCCS) offer these pointers.

Recognize the “value” of an item, not only the price. For an avid gardener, good pruning shears are key. You might prefer a pair of high-quality, Swiss-made ones which sell for $50 retail. But to save, you purchase a $15 pair made in China from a hardware store. Your pair wear out every 6 months, you toss and replace them for another $15. Instead, you could’ve bought the pruners you wanted new for $32 on eBay. In time, you would have saved money on a long-lasting item of higher value.

Psyche yourself up. Comparison-shopping is time consuming and requires resourcefulness. You need to be ready and willing to make this commitment. By doing so, you will, in equivalent, earn a decent hourly wage!

Try shopping for on the Internet. eBay and Craigslist are good sources for many commonly-used items. While eBay is better for smaller objects (lower shipping costs), Craigslist is a better for appliances and furniture. When people move, they often get rid of large items-washers and dryers, refrigerators, and furniture-and are willing to part with them cheaply. Purchasing a year-old, name-brand washer for $150 might save you $300.

On a smaller scale, you can find barrettes, cell phone batteries and makeup on eBay. It’s worth a look.

Beware of deals that aren’t really deals. Just because a store is going-out-of-business doesn’t mean it’s offering good deals. You’ll see lines of uninformed consumers snaked around stores advertising liquidation sales. Often these shoppers could go to a discount store and buy their items for less everyday! It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a crowd-buying mentality and overpay.

Likewise, just because a hard cover book that retails for $25 sells for $17 on eBay doesn’t mean it isn’t on Amazon for $14. Always include shipping prices in your online comparisons.

Avoid the outlet store trap. Because a store is located in an outlet mall doesn’t mean you’ll find low prices there. In fact, the majority of retailers located in outlets offer rather expensive clothes, accessories, and housewares. If a designer purse is regularly $450, but marked down 67% to $150, is it truly a deal?

Rely on the Internet for key price comparisons. Searching the Internet to get the best deals is generally a must. Calling six (800) numbers to price a plane ticket from Los Angeles to New York, for instance, will take an inordinate amount of time and patience, and usually won’t get you the best deal. Most large companies, from airlines to phone and insurance companies, offer exclusive online discounts. For those without a computer, try using one at a public library or enlisting help from a friend or relative.

Consider the source. Dozens of websites were created to help consumers comparison shop. Make sure the sites you use do not only include companies who pay them to be included in their resource lists. This business model creates a conflict of interest and disregards offers from companies that do not advertise with them. When searching for flights on Orbitz, for instance, also check fares on Southwest Airlines’ site. Orbitz was started by six of the largest airlines of which Southwest was not a part. Despite having some of the lowest prices, Southwest doesn’t advertise regular passenger tickets on other sites.

For in-store purchases, ask if your salesperson is paid commissions. If so, he or she may be less likely to have your best interests in mind.

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Comparison-shopping is necessary to reduce expenses so they more closely align with you’re your income. A visit to a nonprofit consumer credit counselor, like those at Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, can help you budget and manage your debt. For a free appointment, call 800.750.2227 (CCCS).

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Clearpoint does not recommend or endorse any particular store or website. The examples given are for illustrative purposes only to demonstrate the skill of comparison shopping. Clearpoint advises shoppers to determine the best places to source their own deals.