How to Make Fewer Decisions and Still Get the Best Deal

by | Jun 5, 2019

If you’re a savvy shopper, chances are you’ve compared prices to save some beans. On the flip side, tedious searching comes with a cost. Besides the time invested, scouring sites for endless hours can leave you with a serious case of brain drain.

Not-too-long ago, I was shopping around for fuzzy stickers. After checking what felt like a gazillion craft sites, online marketplaces, and sticker companies, I was paralyzed by the astounding array of choices. All in all, it was to save a mere few bucks. How can we get the best deals and save some mental space?

Check out these eight tips to be a savvy shopper without going down the big black rabbit hole that can be comparison shopping:

Shop Generic

Instead of being the hunt for doorbusters and weekly deals, figure out which store offers the best prices for their generic brand. While this involves hunting for the best deal, the nifty part is that you usually only have to do this once.

Start with the items you buy on the regular. I typically buy pasta sauce, nuts, yogurt, protein bars, and granola. So I’ll hunt for the generic versions from my few favorite markets. Over time, buying the less-expensive brand at a consistently low price will help me save in the long run.

Repurchase Staples

If you typically know how much things cost, you won’t have to compare your standard products with new brands. It might sound boring but think about it. Chances are you carry staple products in your fridge and pantry, and “subscribe” to certain products on Amazon. It’ll lead to fewer decisions. If you’re already buying cheaper items, you don’t have to worry about these purchases costing a small fortune.

Shop at Discount Retailers

I love discount supermarket chains. Before I shop at Sprouts and Whole Foods, I’ll check out what’s available at Grocery Outlet, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s. If you’re shopping at a market where the majority of items are heavily discounted, you’re snagging a deal by default.

Of course, the peril is getting excited by the thrill of a deal and stocking up on items you don’t need. Even when shopping at a discount supermarket chain, I’ll bring a mental (or physical whatever works for you!) checklist of things I want to buy. Lest the temptation to load up my cart with “so-called” deals.  

Buy in Bulk

Stocking up on staple items could help you save on the line. Toss in extra rolls of toilet paper, laundry detergent, and trash bags. I normally stock up once every few months. Not only do I save, but that’s one fewer trip I have to make to the store. Make a list of items you could potentially purchase in bulk. Then take inventory of what you currently already have, and head out to the store only when you run out.

Comparison Shop for Select Items

If you are going to engage in a session of comparison shopping, be picky as to which types of purchases you are going to invest the time in. Major purchases are worth the time — like a car, commuter bike, computer, major kitchen appliance, or pricey gadget. You can save more on these higher-cost items so it’s important to find the best bang for your buck.

I recently was hunting around for an electric keyboard to appease the emerging musician within. After narrowing down the brand and model, I found that there was a sale for 15 percent off large purchases on an online retailer. Bingo!

Use Browser Extensions

There are a handful of browser extensions that do the comparison shopping for you or let you know if there’s a promo code for particular retailers or products. Think of these are running in the background, doing the heavy lifting. That’s right, you won’t have to visit a bunch of different online marketplaces and retailer sites. Check out Honey, Amazon Assistant, Cently, or PriceBlink.

Lean on Herd Mentality

I know, we all want to believe we are special snowflakes. But it turns out that following the crowd — or at least what your tribe thinks — might be the most effective route. Chances are your friends have similar tastes and preferences like you. If you know your price range for specific items, try asking your social circle for products and companies they enjoy. Nine out of 10 times my friends have steered me in the right direction.

Besides reading product reviews, I’ll ask expert friends for their advice on specific purchases. Plus they know me and how much I can spend. My friend Paul, who is a professional audio mixer, gives great recommendations on budget-friendly, yet high-quality home speakers and headphones.

Know How Much Your Time is Worth

When you see something at the store or online that catches your eye, your initial response might be, “Me want” or, “Need.” You mindlessly add it to your cart, but do you know what your time is worth?

Before you make the purchase, ask yourself how many hours you worked to pay for it. For instance, if you’re hourly wage is $20 an hour, and you want to buy $80 pair of shoes, that’s four hours of work. If you rake in $40 an hour, that’s two hours of your life.

Asking yourself this simple question could help you think twice and understand whether it’s really worth it. In turn, it’ll spare you from getting deep in the weeds with comparison shopping.

Final Thoughts

No need to go crazy and comparison shop for every single purchase. Instead, save by buying generic and going on auto-pilot for the majority of your purchases. If you are going to do a round of checking prices, pick your battles wisely. You’ll save money and time and mental energy.

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