The value of comparison
Still, 50 percent of Americans don't comparison shop
for goods and services before parting with their cash.
"They underestimate how much they could save,"
says Gwen Reichbach, executive director of the National Institute
for Consumer Education. "They think it won't save them very
much and it will take them too much time and effort."
And they couldn't be more wrong.
Shopping around: A sure shot
"The fact is that shopping around for most products
will yield savings far greater than 10 percent," Gillis says.
"The 50 percent of consumers who don't shop around are losing
out on thousands of dollars of potential savings. By luck some of
these people will stumble onto the best priced item, but more than
likely half of them will pay more than they should."
And while it's possible to comparison shop on everything
you buy, there's no need to go overboard.
"It doesn't have to be all or nothing,"
Start by taking a close look at core expenses that
you pay every month. Are you paying too much for long-distance phone
service? A couple of quick phone calls to competing companies will
let you know.
What about gasoline? Do you fuel up at a service
station with the lowest price in your area? Take a close look on
your next morning commute.
"If you're driving down a street with 25 gas
stations, it's not too hard to find one that's cheaper," says
Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers' Checkbook.
And let's not forget about food. You could trim your
food bill by as much as 19 percent simply by shopping at a couple
of different stores. Weekly fliers put out by grocery stores make
it easy to track where the best deals are. And you could always
call a store and ask about a specific price or sale item.
What about your auto and life insurance premiums?
Could you save money with another provider? You won't know if you
Bankrate.com shows you how to shop
for your insurance needs online and 19
ways to save on auto insurance.
Saving money on core expenses frees up more money
to tuck into an emergency fund or to pay for something fun, like
"That's where we all like to spend," Reichbach
says. "We don't like to spend on basics. We like to spend on
vacations or a new computer, buying a new car more frequently, going
out to dinner."
Of course, you want to get the best deal on a big
splurge item as well.
The Internet makes it easy to comparison shop for
almost everything travel-related including airline tickets, car
rentals, hotel rooms, cruises and resort packages. Be sure to visit
multiple sites for price quotes and information.
For tips on snapping up a lower air fare check out
The Internet is also a great resource when shopping
for a new set of wheels.
Autoweb.com, Edmund's Automobile Buyers Guide, AutoSite, Autopedia, Kelley Blue Book, CarPrice.com and Nadagides.com
are among the sites offering auto pricing information.
Incentives and new and used car pricing information
may vary from site to site so be sure to visit several. When in
doubt, contact an auto manufacturer directly.
And don't forget to shop around for your auto loan.
loan search engine will help you compare car-loan rates in your
It's wise to have an auto loan ready to go before
you set foot in a dealership. That way if a dealer wants your financing
business, he's going to have to beat the best rate you've found
on your own.
And even if your big splurge is nothing more than
a new color TV, you'll still want to do plenty of research before
Comparing prices at national discount chains is a
good first step. But don't overlook local retailers. A local electronics
retailer may have the best prices around.
Wherever you shop, don't be afraid to ask for a better
deal than the ticketed price.
"It's amazing how many times you'll get another
price," Gillis says. "In many establishments, salespeople
have license to offer another price for things."
You won't know unless you ask.