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The value of comparison shopping

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.

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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," Reichbach says.

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 don't ask. 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 a vacation.

"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 this article.

The Internet is also a great resource when shopping for a new set of wheels., Edmund's Automobile Buyers Guide, AutoSite, Autopedia, Kelley Blue Book, and 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.'s auto loan search engine will help you compare car-loan rates in your area.

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 buying.

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.

PAGE 1 | 2  
-- Updated: June 23, 2004

8 ways to save on air fare



How long it takes to save on purchases


What consumers want to save by comparison shopping

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