Let me tell you about my buddy Marc. He's a cheapskate. He'll use any legal means to save moola. Like, you know, get paid to drink beer.
No, really. About a decade ago -- 1994, to be precise -- I received a letter from Marc at work. Inside was a photocopy of a coupon for a 12-pack of Olympia beer. If you've been to college, you probably know Oly. Especially if you went to college on the West Coast, as I did.
Anyway, back to the letter. As I read, I realized that Marc had, through a combination of coupons and in-store rebates, found a way to get paid to drink a 12-pack of Oly. Let me say that again: Marc got paid to drink beer, and he wasn't at a frat party or a monster truck rally or on the set of a Bud Light commercial.
Un-freaking-real, I thought. And, of course, I vowed to do the same. But I've yet to live up to the challenge. (And yes, am I still bitter about it.)
Almost as important as beer
Believe it or not, there's a lesson here: Anything is possible when you shop for the best deal. Take appliances, for example. You could call a retailer like Sears if you need a new dishwasher. But that'll cost you. Sears.com shows various models selling for between $199 and well in excess of $1,000.
A better result might be had from comparison-shopping sites. Surprised? Don't be. It's become a huge business. Last year, for example, eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) purchased Shopping.com for $620 million. Since then, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , and others have been tweaking their own offerings to include new features, such as user ratings and local listings. In doing so, they hope to become a substantial channel to retailers.
But are they really useful to you? Maybe, but I'm a bit more interested in the lesser-known sites. Here's what came up when I searched for a dishwasher deal using the more obscure domains:
- EDeals.com found 1,414 possibilities, including a stainless-steel Whirlpool model for $389. Sweet.
- Become.com found 1,248 models with many for less than $310, including the same stainless-steel Whirlpool model -- for $110 less.
- Smarter.com also brought up a huge list. And though the layout was a little more confusing than the other two engines, I liked how Smarter.com included new models from Home Depot, which is where I'd probably shop anyway.
A side dish for your beer
Maybe you don't need a dishwasher, or any other appliances for that matter. That's fine. If you are in the market, however, great sites such as Ebates.com are simple to use and offer cash back on everyday purchases when you use their coupons.
You can also use the Web to comparison-shop for sundries. Consider ShopLocal.com, which displays offers by ZIP code. Though hardly a perfect service -- the site seems to play favorites with vendors -- it could prove helpful in creating a price book for items you need regularly. Amazon's new grocery service could also prove promising for those willing to buy in bulk.
Get it done!
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This article was originally published on June 14, 2006. It has been updated.
Fool contributorTim Beyerslikes beer and Blue Collar TV. Oh, yeah, and he likes to save moola, too. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. eBay and Amazon are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Home Depot is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.