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The Simple Dollar

How Facebook can save you money

Social media networks can provide a wealth of useful, trustworthy information that can help you make smarter purchases, Hamm writes.

By Guest blogger / October 23, 2012

Bonnie Burton, director of social media strategy for Revision3, works at her cubicle in San Francisco, Calif., in this October 2012 file photo. Social media is a great way to find out about discounts on products, Hamm writes.

Noah Berger/Reuters/File

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Whenever Sarah and I think about a purchase of any kind above roughly $100, the first thing we do is turn to our social network.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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I’ll put out a message on Facebook to my personal friends asking them if they know anything about, say, point-and-shoot digital cameras. The next time I see some friends face-to-face, I’ll ask them about the item as well.

What do I usually get in return? I usually get a lot of useful information that ends up making a huge impact on my purchase and often saves me a lot of money.

Usually, I’ll get direct and honest reviews of items similar to the one I’m looking at. I’ll hear directly from people I know and trust about their camera, what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and so on.

This is really different than looking at, say, Amazon reviews of items, because I don’t always know how many of those reviews were simply posted by people who are employees of the company making the product (or employees of competitors). I know I can trust my friends.

I’ll also find out about specific things I should be looking for in my own shopping. What features really made a difference to them?

For example, were they mostly annoyed by low battery life? If so, then I know I should really look at the battery life of models I’m considering. Do they talk a lot about the clarity of the pictures? The resolution? The things that matter to my friends in their usage are likely to be the features that I’m affected by.

Perhaps best of all, my friends serve as additional eyeballs when looking for discounts. If one of them knows about a big sale on a product, they’re going to mention it when I ask about that product.

I’ve had friends point out big sales to me. I’ve had other friends use their employee discounts to help me get an item very inexpensively. I’ve had friends hand me coupons, too.

All of these things add up to significant savings as well as a route straight to the maximum “bang for the buck” on the item I ask about.

Of course, part of the equation here is cultivating your friends to help. If a friend ever asks me about anything I know something about, I share everything I know and I’ll even look for discounts and sales for that friend. If you have friends that you consistently do this for, they’ll all help you when you ask for help.

That’s what friends are for.

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. 

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on www.thesimpledollar.com.

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