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.
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.