Everyone likes saving money. Most of the time people just get lucky when they find sales, but you can comparison shop with a plan if you think ahead. In the old days (like, 15 years ago), that consisted of reading sales circulars in the paper and going from store to store. I remember my grandfather had a specific route and day of the week when he would shop to make sure he got the best deals at each store.
You can still look for deals in newspaper circulars or coupon mailers, if you want, but thankfully, there are many more ways to comparison shop. You can use websites and apps to find the best brands and the best prices. I've got some things to keep in mind listed below, no matter how you comparison shop.
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Know the Value
You can’t compare something you buy at Walmart to something you buy at a specialty store, like Torrid, for example. I'm not saying you shouldn't shop at Walmart, but they are set up to sell cheap things, not well-made things — especially when it comes to clothing. If an outfit wears out after one wash, it’s not very valuable.
Compare apples to apples, so to speak. Comparing jackets at Macy's and Nordstrom, for instance, is a more equitable match. Comparing Walmart to, say, Old Navy, is also a better match.
Set Aside Time
Shopping isn’t something you should do without a plan. Like everything else that you need to plan ahead for, you should set aside time to really research what you want to buy. I mainly do this at Christmas time, when I know what I want to buy someone but I want to make sure I get the best deal.
You’ll need to use several resources to find the right items at the right price with the right value. But if you do it carefully, you’ll buy quality merchandise at the right price.
Use the Internet
I know, duh. Using the internet to compare prices is much faster and convenient that scanning the newspaper inserts. You can use your desktop computer to compare websites or you can use an app like Shopsavvy. With Shopsavvy, you scan a bar code and it compares prices from all the major retailers. Download Shopsavvy on iTunes for iPhone or Google Play for Android.
To compare prices for vacations, you can use some of the bargain finder sites like TripAdvisor or CheapOair to find deals online.
Know What Brands Are High Quality
This is a lot harder to do if you’re been used to shopping at bargain stores. But there are brands known for being quality brands that are worth buying at the right price if you find them. You may need to venture into some higher priced shops that you’ve never gone into to find out the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of those items, so that you know when you’ve found a deal. You can also read reviews on Amazon to find out what people are saying about specific brands.
Outlet Stores Don't Always Have Deals
There was a time when visiting an outlet store was like hitting the jackpot. I think those days are gone. Now, outlet stores are like visiting the mall. So, it’s important to know the normal price for the types of items you’re looking for before you go into an outlet store. You need to know whether these items are regularly sold $50 percent or more below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Some items never sell for the MSRP, ever. So you might as well save yourself the trip to the outlets.
Check the Actual Store
Whether it’s a flight, a hotel, or a pair of jeans, if you see a good deal be sure to check the source. For example, if you find what you think is a good deal for any of these online, check the actual store or website if you can. For instance, if a pair of jeans is selling on ebay for what seems like a great price, check its online store, like Torrid, to see what they're selling for.
With flights, go to the airline's website to find out what their price is. For room rates, call the hotel directly to see if they can do better. You get the idea.
One awesome aspect of looking online for deals is being able to read the reviews of a product. But if you’re in a store and you see a product you like, you can still look it up on the store's website to see what people are saying. Or if it’s sold on Amazon, you may be able to read reviews there. Also for some items, like cars and appliances, you can check Consumer Report, which is a magazine (online and offline) that takes no advertising dollars and publishes honest reviews by experts.
Consider Used Items
Buying used is a great alternative to paying full price. It's ideal to buy something used when the item is made by a well-known brand, easy to care for, and designed to last a decade or more. If you buy used online, check the reviews. If you buy used in person, you can look at the item for flaws and turn it down if you choose. But a used wool pea coat is just as good as a brand-new one, except you’ll pay less. The value is the same.
You can often buy used, name-brand quality merchandise that looks like new on several shopping sites. For clothes, check out Poshmark, one of the hippest places to buy clothes on consignment. Download the Poshmark app on iTunes for iPhone or Google Play for Android.
Comparison shopping takes planning, an understanding of the value of an item, and the willingness to use your time to shop online and in person to look for the best deal. If you are ready to do that, you can save a lot of money on awesome brands that will last you a long time.
What's your favorite comparison shopping website? Tell us in the comments!
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