Get the lowest price on anything
Before you plunk down hard-earned cash, you can quickly see which stores are offering the best deals.
NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- In the world of brick-and-mortar retailing, finding the best price is often a simple matter of driving to Costco or Wal-Mart.
But in Web world, hundreds of retailers and mom-and-pops are fighting one another, and your fellow shoppers have battleground intelligence to share.
When you're on a bargain hunt
Hit the "Hot Deals" forums at FatWallet.com and SlickDeals.net. Though both sites have a particular emphasis on pricey electronics, users regularly uncover and post discounts that run past 50% of the retail price on all sorts of items.
A recent post on SlickDeals pointed shoppers to a 50%-off sale at Kohls.com.
Another alert user followed up with a coupon code - think of it as the clip-out coupon of the digital world - to give another 20% off when entered in the checkout window. If you got in on the deal, you could have walked away with a $60 pair of casual shoes for $24 plus tax and shipping. The catch: The better the deal, the quicker the forum's users will wipe out a Web site's inventory.
When you're researching a product
Check out the reviews on Amazon.com. Pay particular attention to posts written by users who have a badge under their names designating them a "top reviewer." You can be more confident that their reviews are legitimate and not written by a seller.
You want a critical mass of reviews - at least 25 or so.
Another good source of customer reviews: Epinions.com.
Once you know what you want
Start at comparison shopper PriceGrabber.com. Search for your item and you'll get back quotes from major retailers and small outfits. Make sure you disclose your zip code, so the site can factor in tax and shipping.
Note the two or three lowest listed prices, then go to SlickDeals' coupons section and check to see whether any discounts are available that would cut your price further.
If you're truly industrious, you can earn a small rebate on your purchase by buying through the Cash Back section of Ebates.com or FatWallet.com. Merchants pay those sites a commission, which they share with you. Expect to save another 1% to 5%, depending on the store.