Who says web surfing can’t directly save you money? First of all, here are five websites I use on a very frequent basis that have directly saved me significant money.
Remember The Milk
I wrote ecstatically about this site before, but the same still holds true: I use it to manage my grocery list, among other things. I just add items to Remember the Milk whenever I think of it, then when I’m out at the store, I fire up the mobile version of the site and there’s my shopping list right on my cell phone. This makes it incredibly easy to just follow the grocery list and get out of the store without spending extra money.
This is basically the equivalent of printing money. When you have your shopping list ready, just visit this site and scroll through the pile of available coupons. Print the ones that match what’s on your list – most of them won’t, but I usually find one or two that do. I also like to visit the website of the grocery store I’m about to visit to pick up even more coupons. Quite often, five minutes of web surfing in this fashion can save me another $5 on a grocery store visit. No need to worry about clipping coupons at all; just print the ones you actually can use out before you go to the store.
If you’re about to make a larger purchase, stop by FatWallet before dropping the cash. The site is basically a collection of deals on all kinds of products from various vendors, from computers to housewares. I looked at FatWallet just before buying my laptop and after about three minutes of looking around, I found a Dell code that knocked $300 off of the price. I’ve found other deals there, too, just by looking around a bit before making a planned larger purchase.
PaperBackSwap is another site I’ve waxed ecstatic about in the past, but it still holds true: it’s an incredibly cheap way to get books in the mail at home. Basically, for every book you don’t want any more that you’re willing to ship via media mail to someone else who wants it (you’re matched up at the site), you can request any of the million-plus books there to be shipped to you for free.
What about other online sites?
Many people use such sites as Priceline.com and Shopping.com for online comparison shopping, and I agree that you can sometimes find deals by using them. However, I almost always find that the prices are slightly inflated at these types of sites. For example, I was recently able to find a very nice price for an airline ticket online, and it would have been quite easy to just click and order it. However, I just directly called the airline, told them the price that I could get online, and asked them if they could directly beat it. They did almost immediately by about $20.
In short, don’t believe in online comparison shoppers as the be-all-end-all of saving money. Although the prices are better than what you might find off the shelf, quite often a little more legwork can save you a little bit more than that. If you’re going to book a flight, get a hotel room, or other such things online, take an extra minute to call up the airline or hotel. Tell them the price you can get online and ask if they can directly beat it. Quite often, they will; by cutting out the middleman, you save and the airline or hotel might be making an extra dollar or two as well.
The same is true for comparison shopping. I’ve often found that once I locate the best price on a comparison shopping site, if I go to that specific site and enter directly, I can find the same item for the same price – or often cheaper.
Remember, comparison shopping sites are a tool to help you save money; they are rarely the ultimate answer themselves.