Not Just for Meerkats

Online retailers and comparison websites lure us in with a sense of false security. Don’t be taken in by how easy they make it to spend money. It pays to do a little more legwork, even if that is without even leaving the house

Most of us are used to the idea of ‘shopping around’. There’s nothing worse than thinking we’ve bagged the bargain of a lifetime only to find it cheaper elsewhere three days later. Yet it’s taken some of us a while to apply the same process when shopping online.

Worse, it’s not only quicker and easier to compare Argos to Amazon to B&Q from the comfort of the armchair, there are even websites that do the comparing for us.

For starters, type what you’re looking for into Google and one of the search results that comes up is ‘Shop on Google’. Here, the site immediately gives you a selection of what you might be after and an idea of prices. Type in ‘lightbulbs’ and see how it offers a range of products. Now type in ‘Phillips GU10 LED’ and see how the prices vary between suppliers.

The list might not include every supplier, though. They might also charge more for delivery or be out of your area, if you’re keen to pick it up and save that cost anyway. It’s worth trying different search engines, plus Amazon or Argos, plus the online stores you think will offer what you’re after.

There are now comparison websites for much more than just financial services, like insurance, credit cards and loans. They also now help you compare deals on holidays or gas and electricity suppliers, mobiles, broadband and a whole lot more.

But it’s important to know you need to compare the comparison sites too as they earn commission on what you spend and because some of their listings bag them more cash, they’ll steer you towards that one. Checking two or three sites will ensure you find the best deal for you, not them.

The most familiar comparison sites include:

Switching energy suppliers has never really taken off. There is the perception that it’s a lot of hassle – even the Energy Minister recently said so. But it’s not. You just need a couple of bills from the past year handy. Switching has been the victim of a lot of ‘fake news’ and people have started to believe that the prices just go up as soon as they move to a new supplier.

This is only really true when charges go up across the whole marketplace, so chances are your old supplier put them up too, and if it was cheaper before, it’s still cheaper.

One thing to be aware of is that some enquiries prompt companies to give you a call to nail the sale. This happens a lot with car insurance and you’ll notice you sometimes have to give contact details before they’ll quote you. Then they call to ask if you want it.

It’s a competitive marketplace, which is why they do it. You may get a call from each one you get a quote from, just be prepared to politely say ‘no’ and try to think of it as good customer service rather than a nuisance.

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