I remember a conversation I had with my mother-in-law shortly after I was married, many, many years ago. We were talking about our different approaches to shopping for dresses. She described going into the “best” store, finding a dress she liked, then comparison shopping at three or four other stores to locate the best price before making her purchase. She always thought of this as her way of getting a discount. As I was working full-time and had precious little opportunity to shop, I thought this approach was an awful waste of time just for the possibility of saving a few dollars.
Given that comparison shopping back then involved physically going from place to place and that malls were not that prevalent yet, I believe I was right. But things are very different now!
I have been shopping online since it was first available (and I’ve been an Amazon customer since 1998) and I have saved an enormous amount of time by doing so. But I have also learned to never go with a specific item at a specific price until I have gone through my version of “comparison shopping.” Here are the steps you can take to ensure the best price for something you want to buy.
#1 – Start by using Google’s free Chrome browser. (I have recently discovered the remarkable usefulness of using different browsers for different tasks, a topic I plan to cover in an upcoming post.) If you don’t know what a browser is, or if you don’t know which one you are using, or if you don’t already use Chrome, ask one of your grandchildren/niece/little kid next door/techie friend to help you. The reason for using Chrome will become clear in a minute.
#2 – Google the item you’re shopping for as specifically as possible. For example, this morning, I was looking for appliance touch-up paint for our Samsung washing machine and Googled “Samsung DH81-11982A” after I found the part number on the Samsung website. You could say “men’s white pajamas extra large” or “Nantucket baskets” or “miniature golf balls” or “2016 Lexus RX350” or what-have-you, but always use Google to do the search and always be as specific as possible.
Note: if you’re having trouble being specific (say you want new towels but haven’t yet picked a brand or style), go first to www.thewirecutter.com to get their views on the best products in hundreds of categories. It’s basically Consumer Reports, but free.
#3 – On the results page, you might see some general information and/or some advertisements for what you have searched for on the right side, but for now, just ignore these. Select the top four of five entries on the left that do not say [ad] in front of them and open each one in its own tab. (Right-click on the name of the website you want and pick “Open link in new tab” from the menu that pops up).
#4 – Look at each tab in turn and compare price and shipping costs. My appliance paint this morning ranged from $112.34 to $52.69. You’ll want to pay attention to reviews and customer service as well, if that information is available. Pick the one you like best and order it.
#5 – The reason you are using Google Chrome for this is because of the free Chrome extension called “Honey” which, during your ordering process, will search for all available discount codes and coupons and automatically apply them to your order. I saved an additional $3.47 and got free shipping on my paint by doing this.
So there you have it: the product you want at the best combination of price, quality, and customer service, all with very little effort.
If you haven’t tried this approach yet, it may sound complicated – but once you’ve done it a couple of times, I guarantee you’ll use it, or something very much like it, all the time.
I'm Linda Fleit. My husband and I were lucky enough to retire when we were 61, about nine years ago. We love being retired and want to share all that we've learned over the years about this wonderful stage of life.