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For big savings, compare prices online

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(Read caption) In this September 2012 file photo, Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, speaks at the introduction of the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite personal devices, in Santa Monica, Calif. Do price comparisons across the real world and the internet and you’ll end up finding the biggest bargains of all, Hamm suggests.

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It seems pretty common to use online sources to comparison shop for the big items. The internet is a powerful tool for finding the best bang for the buck on automobiles, homes, televisions, cameras, and so on.

Yet that’s just a starting point. I use the internet to comparison shop for anything non-perishable that will cost me more than $20 or so over the course of a year.

Garbage bags. Toilet paper. Socks. Laundry detergent.

I use the internet to comparison shop for all of these things, and many, many more. 

There are many sites out there that will ship a bulk purchase of a non-perishable item to your home for free or for a relatively small price. If you can capitalize on that from the convenience of your home, take advantage of it. Compare the prices you get online for these items with the prices you can get locally and go for whichever option is cheapest.

For starters, there’s Amazon.com, which seems to sell pretty much anything and offers free shipping on all purchases of $25 or above.

So, let’s say I need some large trash bags for leaf disposal. Before I head out to the grocery store, I’ll just check on Amazon for the price on the bags I need. Let’s say I find a box of 108 bags for $48.92, or about $0.45 apiece.

Can I find them cheaper at my local grocery store? I write down the price on my grocery list and go shopping. If the local store has a comparable or lower price, I’ll buy the item at the store. If not… I go home and make an online order.

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Usually, the price is cheaper via one of my local options, but not always. When it’s not, I buy it online and save a few dollars. A few days later, the item shows up on my front door.

You don’t have to stick with just amazon.com, either. Shop around at various online sites. See if your local big box retailer has lower prices at their website than at their store. Check out other options, too, like NetGrocer for grocery items or Drugstore.com for drugstore prices.

You’re not just limited by the prices at your local stores. Do price comparisons across the real world and the internet and you’ll end up finding the biggest bargains of all, even on the ordinary things you might not expect.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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