Comparison shopping

Research shows that prices can vary for all types of products; therefore it makes good sense to comparison shop before buying. Comparison shopping is especially beneficial when buying expensive items, items you purchase often, or items where the product quality or prices vary greatly. Through the use of advertisements, catalogs, telephone inquiries, or the Internet, comparison shopping is easy and can save you money.

For household goods and groceries, compare the unit price (such as the cost per ounce, pound or other unit of measurement that stores are required to post for every product). That’s the best way to compare cost, but there’s more to the equation than price. For example, by reading the labels of two cartoons of orange juice, you might find that the more expensive brand has 120% of the daily requirement of vitamin C, while the cheaper brand has no added vitamins. If nutrition is a consideration, the more expensive brand may be a better buy.

Buying large sizes can often save money. Usually, the unit price is less for larger containers, but not always. And before you buy in bulk, be sure you will actually use a bulk of the item. It can be a good idea to stock up on items you need when they are on sale. Again, just be sure you can use up what you buy before the expiration date arrives.

Look for generic brands or store brands of items where it really doesn’t make a difference. For example, some products have the same taste and texture, regardless of whether it’s a name brand or the store brand. The difference in price, however, can amount to as much as a 50 percent. Paper products, dairy products, and canned goods are also good examples of products that are practically identical, whether you buy generic or name brands.

If you use coupons, it is important to only use them for items you would ordinarily buy. Also, make sure you compare the price of a product including the discount with the coupon to the brand you normally buy or a generic brand. You might be surprised to find out that the name brand product is still more expensive, even with the coupon.

Do not assume that all supermarkets have the same prices. If you have a few chains in your area and you do not know which ones are least expensive, check them all out. Make a list of the ten or so products you buy most often, and do some comparison shopping. Often you will find a huge difference between chains, and, if you can save just five percent, it adds up to hundreds of dollars over the long run.

And try to limit or eliminate shopping at the corner convenience store for items that could be purchased less expensively on your weekly supermarket trips. Along those same lines, don’t assume that the grocery store is the best place to buy non-grocery items such as batteries and laundry detergent.

Comparison shopping is not just limited to products that you purchase. Research and compare companies that provide services, such as utilities, telephone, cable, and Internet. And don’t forget to research and compare companies, coverage, and costs for all forms of insurance.

This information came from one of MMI’s Journey to Financial Security series of programs. For more information about the series, visit 

For more about comparison shopping, also read  Be a smart Internet shopper and Jumping on the coupon bandwagon .

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.