How I Shop Around

Last week I posed about the pros and cons of shopping around. Today I wanted to post about how I shop around. The reality is that over the years I’ve come up with a bit of a process for shopping around and it follows a fairly basic series of steps:

  1. Do I need to shop around?
  2. Check online
  3. Call ahead
  4. Batch when physically shopping around
  5. Ask for specials

Do I need to shop around?

The reality is most of the time the answer to this question is no. I’ve decided that my time is valuable to me, so for me to spend hours of my time and effort to get the best price on an item it really needs to be significant. For example I was more than happy to drive around and make an effort when I was looking for a new car. On the flip side there have been times when I have simply ignored the fact that I’m paying a premium on a purchase because it wasn’t worth it to shop around. I’ve needed to replace the ink in my printer a few times and I simply went to the nearest store to buy it because the $5 I’m going to save isn’t worth the time to get it. For me the item needs to be expensive before I start shopping around and the potential savings significant. I know that this might not be the most frugal but I don’t get a thrill from spending 2 hours to save $2.

Check Online

Once I’ve determined that I need to make a purchase that’s significant enough for me to shop around then I’ll start by looking online. Most retail outlets now have their prices online. This really cuts down on the amount of time I spend on shopping around. At the very least this is a great place to find resources for what I’m looking for. Car insurance for example might be hard to shop around for online since prices are quoted (though some places do offer online quotes) but you can get a listing online which makes the next step quicker.

Call Ahead

If you’re looking for a specific item, say a washer and dryer, you want to know that the stores you’re going to actually have the item in stock. It’s great to find yourself an amazing deal but when that deal vanishes because they don’t have any items left it becomes really frustrating (and can be costly).Picking up the phone and making a call can save you a lot of time and effort.

Batching

This item in the process doesn’t always apply but if I’m looking for an item I’ll try to make sure I’m not going too far out of my way for just a single item. The goal here is to make the most of my time. This item also really applies when there’s no rush in making the purchase. When I we were considering a new TV I only went into stores that had TVs when they were in close proximity to where I was. The purchase wasn’t urgent, we had a working TV and even if we didn’t, TV really isn’t that important.

Ask for Specials

The TV is a perfect example when it comes to this part of the process because we found a decent deal on a TV but it became a better deal when we bought a model that came from an opened box. Someone had returned the TV but there was nothing wrong with it. The best part was that it came with the same warranty as a sealed box. A simply question saved me 10% on the purchase and at $500 for the TV the 10 second investment saved me $50. It never hurts to ask if there are any specials on the item you’re buying. If you happen to be calling and shopping around asking this question might be make your decision for you. Some stores don’t advertise that they offer perks and bonuses with purchases (The tire place that gives you a free alignment is a perfect example I’ve found).

Overall personally I’m not big on shopping around though I know there is a very distinct benefit to it. For myself I’ve found the balance of time and effort in return to require a significant benefit. I know that I can save myself some money if I were to shop around more but the reality is I’ve significantly cut back on my purchases and most of the time I spend money on items that are day to day items.

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