comparison shopping Marilynn Dawson budgetingComparison Shopping: Discovering the benefits and differences of a product or range of products before making a purchase.

The art of comparison shopping has saved many people money, and it can save you money too! If you’ve never done it before, this is typically how I do it:

1) Know exactly what you’re after. Sometimes figuring out exactly what you’re after is a step all by itself if you were told by a doctor or friend or co-worker or family member that you really should get such and such because you need/want it for some particular reason. In the old days, as recently as the ’80’s and into the ’90’s even, this step was accomplished by walking, biking or driving downtown and checking out the stores that might contain what you thought you were after. Occasionally this step meant stopping a store worker and asking them where to find something, only to be told it was referred to by a different name. Once you knew the exact name of what you were after, you could assess if it was what you were told about, or if you had to keep looking.

These days, figuring out exactly what you’re after can take place online using search engines and search functions of favourite stores or manufacturers’ websites. Sometimes an email or click of the live chat button is still required to figure out exactly what you’re after, but this step in today’s world can be far less time-consuming and far less of a drain on your gas tank.

numbers money calculating calculation2) Have a budget in mind. You didn’t expect to come across an article like this on THIS blog without some mention of that all-important financial word, did you? Once you know what you’re looking for, build an understanding of how much this product typically costs and assess whether or not it can fit into your budget right now. If the price is all over the map, ask yourself why? Sometimes the item can come in different sizes, quantities, quality, list more or fewer benefits, come with sales, deals, add-on’s, member-only pricing, etc. Narrow down the criteria you are after, then compare pricing to your budget again. If you only have a certain dollar value you can put toward the purchase, this will narrow the field all by itself. You may have to choose between quantity and price, or quality and price, just as two examples of the decisions you may have to make.

Shopping decisions3) If you are shopping solely online, you also have to factor in shipping. Compare the cost of purchasing online versus going to the local offline store to get it yourself. Is there enough of a price difference between in-store and online to warrant paying the additional shipping charges, or is it cheaper to drive down there instead? Depending on what you are shopping for, this answer will vary, particularly when considering outlets where it may be purchased.

An example of this kind of shopping from my own life involves looking at adrenal support. For more than 10 years, I suffered from adrenal fatigue without knowing it, and it finally caught up with me in a bad way in May of 2013. Adrenal health books and advice from the local natural healthfood store led me and family to a range of products to get my healing kicked off to a solid head start. Two of those products were 5-HTP and later when my budget didn’t allow for 5-HTP, swapping to L-Tryptophan supplements instead, and products containing it.

One of the local stores I can drive to in town also has a website where I can buy this online. Out of curiousity, I looked up these products on their website and found the following:

NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine NEW ROOTS L-TRYPTOPHAN 220MG 90 VC NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine $32.99


I added them to a shopping cart to check out what the shipping would be like, and learned it would cost $10.00 to have them shipped to me for a total cost of: $57.98

I could drive to the local store, spending roughly $5 of gas round-trip, and save myself roughly $5.

However, what if I didn’t live here where this store is available, and my only option was to get it online? There are so many stores online to choose from! I’d originally been curious if the local store had the NOW version of L-Tryptophan because I’d found it on another online store. Unfortunately, they don’t, so my comparison shopping couldn’t give me an exact comparison. A different store however, did, but not the same quantity.

NOW FOODS L-Tryptophan 500 mg 60vcaps $13.59NOWFOODS L-Tryptophan 500mg

Shipping at that location was $9.99 to get this product to my door.

The online store where I found both NOW FOODS items was over at Tripleclicks. How did vendors there compare?

L-Tryptophan supports relaxation
Pharmaceutical grade (USP)
Vegetarian formulaL-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid important in human nutrition for the synthesis of melatonin and serotonin, hormones regulating sleep, positive mood and immune function. As an essential amino acid, it is not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. NOW L-Tryptophan is pharmaceutically pure–every lot is tested to be free of Peak E and microbial contamination. Contains no sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.

500 MG, 60 V-CAPS

21 USD

Shipping on this product costs $10.08 from this vendor.
Neurotransmitter Support
Supports Positive Mood
With L-Tyrosine5-HTP, the intermediate metabolite between the amino acid L-tryptophan and serotonin, is extracted from the bean of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia) . Contains no sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.
200 MG, 60 V-CAPS

24.99 USD

¬†Shipping on this product was not listed. Normally shipping is listed in the product’s right-hand sidebar if it is being charged to the customer.

So the total cost of ordering both these items from Tripleclicks would be: $68.03. That’s roughly $11 more than getting similar products from the website of a local store. It’s $2 more if I bought one from the local website and the other from another website and paid shipping at both. So for an extra $2 more, if I was living in a small town without a local affordable health food store, I could get both products from one place.

Fortunately for me, I can save myself $15 by driving down to the local store. Comparison shopping needs to take all these details into account, or all it becomes is expensive window shopping. Remember what I’ve said in the past, that a few minutes spent with a calculator can mean the difference between a runaway budget, and having funds to spare at the end of the month. Back when I used to be an affiliate for Tripleclicks, if I chose to add these to a standing order, I’d pay an even cheaper rate than the retail member prices I already shared. Yes, all the stores I did my research at had both member and “regular” prices, offering the guest visitor the better of the two prices assuming they wanted to become a member of course. I also quoted you Canadian totals, because I am Canadian and interested in doing my comparison shopping in my own currency.

4) That’s actually a point worth making because of the international nature of online shopping these days. Always ensure the website you are on is showing you their prices in YOUR country’s currency! Your efforts will be meaningless and quite unhelpful if you don’t at least have a conversion site up helping you make sure you are comparing prices online to what you might buy at your offline store.

5) Member pricing goes a long way when comparison shopping! Take Amazon for example. As a Prime Member, you can eliminate shipping altogether on orders over certain amounts, or ask for shipping to be expedited to within 2 days of your order. This is only available in certain countries of course, but membership has its perks! You could continue today’s illustration by searching for the above two items there and comparing brand, quantity, price etc. just as I did for the three sites linked to here. I am an affiliate of Amazon’s as well, but I’m not too happy with how they are doing things these days, so I’m not as keen to take a piece of their pie at the moment. However, if you wish to use my affiliate link I’ll start you at my course for budgeting: (paid links)

From any of those links, you can continue today’s example, or do your own comparison shopping for something entirely different.

So what are those points again?

1) Know exactly what you’re looking for, and get help narrowing that down if required.
2) Have a budget and stay within it.
3) If comparison shopping online, factor in shipping costs.
4) If comparison shopping online, be sure you are getting prices in your own currency.

Always settle on the location that will give you the best price for the quantity and quality you are after. Sometimes your budget will have you settling on price more than quality or quantity. If you are in that boat, don’t be upset by it, but work within it to make life easier in the long run. If you have the money, settle more for what gives you the best quality for your money. Lastly, remember that membership has its perks. You could save yourself even more money simply by signing up at the site of your choice as a member. Not all online stores work this way, but many do and more are coming onboard with the idea in order to get and retain customers. Use it to your advantage when you find it!