Comparison shop with confidence to save money and avoid debt.
Smart comparison shopping tricks help rein in overspending so you don’t have to rely on credit.
Taking the right steps to minimize costs everyday so you can save money helps you maintain a balanced budget. If you incorporate good comparison shopping techniques in your daily life, you can save on everything from toilet paper to your next car. All those savings add up to help you keep costs low, so you don’t have to rely on high interest rate credit cards to get by.
The articles below help you save big on certain items throughout the year. You can save on small incidentals, find the best credit cards and even get advice on car buying. Don’t let overspending lead to debt in your budget! Take the right steps to comparison shop every time you buy.
10 Comparison Shopping Tricks to Help You Minimize Costs Every Time!
#1: Anytime you have a loan or lease agreement, make sure to check total costs
Anytime you sign a contract or purchase agreement, there are additional costs over and above the price. You have fees, interest changes, finance charges and probably some penalties that can lead to even higher costs. You need to consider all these added expenses and factor them in when calculating the value of a deal.
This is especially true when you buy a car. Those no-money-down or cash-back offers you hear advertised by dealerships are often not as valuable as they appear. If you compare the total cost to a standard low-interest rate bank or credit union loan, it’s often higher.
So, check the Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement. Add up total fees and interest charges over the life of the loan for each of the offers you have on the table. You want the option that provides the lowest total cost over the life of your loan. Just make sure you can afford the monthly payments, too, at the terms you choose.
#2: Make sure online sellers are legit, with good reviews of them and the product
Online comparison shopping sites and retail websites are a good way to get a great deal. However, make sure that you only work with well-reviewed and accredited sellers. Check the reviews for the person who is selling the product, as well as the product itself.
When using comparison shopping sites, make sure they are independent and impartial. Some websites represent themselves as third-party review sites. However, they make retailers pay for recommendations or only recommend a set group of sellers; that’s no impartial and you may not get the best product through a service like this.
Only trust independent, third-party reviews that are unsolicited by the company itself. Hit up several review sites to make sure the product is as good as the first site made it seem. The more you review, the more likely you are to get the product you really need.
#3: You should comparison shop for services, too
From utilities to cable or satellite to streaming services, make sure you get the best deal on monthly service contracts. Often people spend time saving a few dollars with coupons on groceries, but don’t bother shopping around for services.
Make sure to always check the following:
- Do you use all your minutes and data on your mobile service?
- Is there telephone, mobile, cable or satellite services that you can bundle for a discount?
- Do you have streaming services (i.e. movies, TV, music, video games) that overlap? If so, can you lose a few?
- Do you pay for features you can drop to get a better price?
- Can you choose items a-la-carte to avoid paying for features or channels you don’t use?
Check around at least once per year to see if you have the services you need for the right price. Also, make sure to check with a new provider; they may cover the cost cancelling your other contract if it’s not up yet.
#4: Don’t go crazy and sign up for every deal site
Coupon and daily deal sites are great ways to save money, but don’t go overboard or you can get overwhelmed. What’s more, these coupon sites often have the same deal advertised everywhere; in many cases, the same company owns several websites, just with different names.
So, don’t sign up for every deal site and every email alert. Your inbox will be flooded and you get burnt out before you come close to getting into a couponing habit. Instead, sign up for one site that has a good spread of coupons you can use. You are more likely to keep up with couponing this way.
Local or in-store coupons can also be a smart choice. If you always shop at the same grocery store, see if they have an app. It can offer weekly circulars and digital coupons direct to your smartphone.
#5: Pay close attention to store policies
Policies matter when it comes to getting the best deal. Can you return an item if you don’t like it? If the store has a sale next week, can you get a price adjustment? What about price-match offers?
Always make sure to check a store’s policies, aiming for the most flexible. The follow retail policies can make a big difference in the deal you get:
- How do refunds work? Do you need a receipt?
- If you can’t get a refund, how does the store return policy work?
- Will the store price-match another store’s sale price on the same item?
- Will the store give you a price adjustment if you buy an item and it goes on sale next week?
#6: Don’t be afraid to haggle and negotiate
This is a money-saving principle that few consumers use effectively. If the only place you’d consider bargaining is a flea market, you’re missing out. You should negotiate prices on:
- Big-ticket purchases, like electronics or furniture
- Street vendors, farmers market, trade conventions
Most retail chain stores won’t let you haggle, but independent local stores often will. And remember, it never hurts to ask. Even if they won’t reduce the price, a retailer may throw in some freebies to sweeten the deal. Just make sure that the freebies and add-ons make the purchase price valuable instead of just driving up the cost.
#7: Always factor in travel costs
If you spend a ton of money hunting down the best deal, you offset any cost savings with transportation costs. This is why it’s often not the smartest idea to price match on gasoline. If you drive 20 miles out of your way to get a tank of gas, you cut the value. That being said, if you have a gas price app that alerts you when you get close to a good deal, you can stop in and fill up.
Travel costs can also affect used car pricing. If you cross a few state lines and have to put up a friend in a hotel to help you pick up the car, make sure to factor that cost into your purchase price.
#8: Don’t just accept Google’s search results
Several companies have sued Google because they say the search engine’s price match engine is unfair. Basically, Google gives you their best price match results instead of showing you results from other sites. Google only works with specific vendors and retailers to display their comparisons; it never shows you all the deal sites. So, if you only look at the top Google search results when you comparison shop, you could miss out.
Make when you use a search engine to compare prices, you click on some of the results instead of just relying on Google. Check the Google results, but also click through some of the websites below that to get the best deal overall.
#9: Don’t trust outlet and sale prices as better
Just because someone says a deal is a good deal, it doesn’t make it true. You should never trust that a price is the lowest simply because it’s on sale or available at an outlet. In many cases, outlet prices are the same. In some cases, unscrupulous stores mark an item up, to keep profits high when it’s marked down for a sale.
This often happens with Black Friday sales, especially with the fad item sales of the year. For instance, when Ugg Boots were hot a few years ago, they were 60% more expensive during the holidays. Once the holiday pop ended, the price dropped significantly.
Make sure you check historic prices of an item and consider if the price will drop after a holiday. For example, if a new video game console goes on sale for Christmas, make a gift certificate to buy the console after the holidays. You can expect a $100 price reduction or better.
#10: Never confuse value with price
If you buy the cheapest version of something, you may not get the results you want. That’s true on everything from generic food products to off-brand electronics. So, always keep value of the product in mind when you shop. Make sure you can be happy with a cheaper version of the product and that it won’t affect your enjoyment of said item.
Generic groceries, cleaning and personal care products should be a matter of choice. Assess the generics on a case by case basis. For instance, generic cheese may be okay for cold sandwich toppings, but it may not melt effectively on patty melts. If you’re making a stew, you may not need high end organic products, because you won’t be able to taste them in the final product.
For larger items, make sure to weigh features AND consider customer service issues. If you get a discount mobile phone that doesn’t have a large network and customer service is outsourced to India, that might not be the deal you want.