As inflation and high prices continue to drag on our bank account balances, many of us are looking for new ways to save money. Price apps are an increasingly popular way to find the best deals on anything from hotels to your groceries or a new TV. Per Bloomberg, almost 37 million U.S. consumers downloaded price comparison apps in the first 10 months of 2022.
That said, it’s certainly not true that everyone is using price comparison apps. According to recent PwC research, around 1 in 4 Americans use price comparison websites when checking out products they plan to buy. Over half the people surveyed use search engines, and 28% say they get information the old-fashioned way — through good old word of mouth.
Will price comparison apps really save you money?
Regardless of how many people are using price comparison apps, the real question is whether they can save you money. And the short answer is almost certainly yes. It depends a bit on how you shop and which app you use, but in many scenarios, these apps make it easy to score discounts.
Comparing prices can be a great way to cut your costs, but it can also be time-consuming. I have a friend who regularly visits four or five different grocery stores each month to get the best deals. He saves money, but it takes him four or five hours more than me to do his monthly shopping.
This is where price comparison apps come in handy. Your time has value. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage is around $30. If your shopping trip takes several hours to save, say $20, that may not be worthwhile. But if an app or browser extension can do the same work in a couple of minutes, it’s a whole different ball game.
How to use price comparison apps
Price comparison apps come in different shapes and sizes. Some are straightforward web pages, while others are apps or browser extensions that you’ll need to install. Cash back apps can also be a good way to compare prices and find discounts. A lot depends on how you shop and what you are shopping for.
I tend to shop from my computer rather than my phone, especially for big-ticket items, so I prefer web pages and browser extensions. I do use my cellphone to check online prices when I’m in a physical store to see if I can get a better price, which is one area where cellphone apps can be useful. Some apps like ShopSavvy make this even easier as you can scan barcodes and price check that way. It’s worth experimenting to see what works for you.
We tested a few different apps by searching for a new pair of black adidas Gazelles — one of Vogue‘s top holiday gifts for 2023. The sneakers retail on the adidas site for $100.
Price.com searched a number of different stores to highlight the potential prices and any special offers. For example, the lowest-price Gazelles are available from Amazon at $79.85. It also shows a 10% cash back offer from the adidas website. Plus, if you’re not in a hurry, it lets you set a price alert so you can wait for the best deal.
Google came up with a few options, including the Amazon deal. It’s worth paying attention to the shipping costs, though — I thought I’d found a bargain with a pair at $66 until I saw the $20.90 delivery fee. Google also showed some that were a slightly different style from eBay, priced at $44.99.
Strictly speaking, Amazon isn’t a price comparison app. But given that all roads seemed to lead back to Amazon search-wise, it makes sense to include it. Amazon lists items from a huge range of vendors and is often where you’ll find the best deals. In this case, there are a couple of options around the $80 mark and a pair at $72.29.
While we’re on the topic of Amazon, it’s worth mentioning price apps like camelcamelcamel that have sprung up around the retail giant. Camelcamelcamel tracks prices on Amazon over time, and shows that the Gazelles were available for around $66 earlier this year. That doesn’t mean prices will sink that low again, but it’s a useful indicator.
I installed the ShopSavvy browser extension because — in theory — it will check prices while you are shopping. So, for example, from the webpage where I was looking at Gazelles on Amazon, I could click the ShopSavvy extension. It didn’t find any lower prices. It also slowed down my web searching, so I’m unlikely to keep it running.
In this particular search, Shopzilla was probably the least useful comparison app. It gave me several options for used adidas Gazelles, all from the same store. If I were in the market for used items, it might be a different story.
You can often save money by checking prices from different retailers, but it can also be a time-consuming exercise. Using apps can generate the same savings in seconds, so it’s worth finding out which ones work best for you. In this case, we’d have saved $20 on a pair of sneakers. If you’ve already made a list of holiday gifts, try getting in on the price app action to see how much you can save.
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