Automatic product comparisons

When researching a product online, type in the item in Google and then add “vs”. Google will auto-complete with the most popular, and highly rated, alternatives, and the top link will educate you quickly. Then “vs” autocomplete the new item and you’ll have a good sense of the field. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Spotting fakes on Amazon

We’ve previously recommended Fakespot, a website that grades Amazon products for their shill, fake review, or fraud factors. These grades are not foolproof, but are extremely useful. What’s new is their Fakespot extension for the Chrome browser, which overlays your Amazon pages with their grades for all the related and recommended products shown on a page. This means you don’t have to leave the Amazon page to see the grades, and it also means you will see product grades before you click on them. It’s behavior changing. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Basic gift-wrapping videos

I always need a refresher course when it comes time to wrapping gifts, and there are a lot of instructional videos on Youtube, but most are too complicated for me. This basic gift wrapping video is helpful and I learned that all this time I was forgetting to fold over the edges before I taped them down. Also helpful is this video on how to tie a bow perfectly. I start at minute 1:11 and watch at 1.5x speed to get through it. — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Nerdy kit gifts

I spent a weekend assembling some cool kits that would make fun gifts for nerdy people like me. Mostly laser-cut parts with lots of gears or moving parts. My recommendations of the best kits are here. But the neatest cool and unusual kit is this small version of the 24-footed Strandbeest, which walks powered by a blast of air. At only $15, it’s a bargain. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Engineering gift guide

When it comes to giving gifts to the kids in my life, I prefer to not buy toys that are trending now but will become junk in a few months. For the holidays, I’m planning on buying from the Engineering Gift Guide from Purdue, which has a lot of inspiration-inducing gifts for boys and girls ages 3-18. — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Summarize Amazon reviews

TheReviewIndex finds recurring patterns in Amazon Reviews and then makes sense of it for you. It displays positive/negative ratings for things like “ease of use,” “quality,” “reliability,” and much more depending on the item. You can click through further to see snippets from user reviews pertaining to one particular aspect of the product. Right now the website only supports Electronics, Gadgets and Appliances. Worth bookmarking to make your shopping decisions a little easier. — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Estate sale marketplace

I have great childhood memories of going to estate sales with my mother in rich neighborhoods. Everything but the House is estate sale hunting without the effort. It’s like a more refined eBay. I’ve already spent way too much time bookmarking things and imagining the history of each item. — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Shopping research

When I’m in shopping mode I check out BestReviews. Modeled after Wirecutter and Cool Tools, it tests, compares and recommends a huge variety of products, from ATV ramps, to kiddie pools, to pressure washers. It carries no ads, relying on Amazon links for revenue. While its range is vast, the depth of reviews is uneven, but I find their simple summaries of the best stuff worthwhile to check out. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Shopping must

A great hack to know during shopping days is to always check out RetailMeNot before purchasing anything online, outside of Amazon. There is a high chance I’ll find a discount coupon for a retail purchase I am considering. RetailMeNot will give you the coupon code, and the rate of success others have recently had in using it (the codes are crowdsourced). Discounts of 10, 20, or 30% are not uncommon in my experience. I don’t shop without it. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Best holiday gift guide

For my tastes, the best holiday gift guide is the annual catalog of cool books, games, toys, and DIY tools put together by The Kid Should See This website. Ordinarily the site hosts the best video clips your kids should see, but during the holidays they compile this long and annotated list of cool stuff that is aimed at active kids, but also works for adults with young minds. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Getting good stuff on Craigslist

This brief, succinct blog post has great advice on how to find what you want (at least with used furniture) on Craigslist. For instance, don’t forget to search for common misspellings of your target. These tips match my experience in buying used tools on Craigslist. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Tailored shopping

When I have an idea of what I want, but don’t want to go searching for it at the mall, I use my ShopStyle app (iOS, Android). I can filter my search according to keyword description, color, size, price, brand, department store, etc. The “Tailored Shop” updates daily and personalizes a store based on past searches and favorites — perfect for virtual “window shopping.” — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Get fast quotes

I take full advantage of the Request a Quote option on Yelp. Once you type out your request, Yelp gives you the option to submit the same message to similar businesses nearby. I click the max amount available (up to 10), and find that most people start responding right away! I’ve used this recently to find the cheapest and fastest phone screen repair. — CD

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Lowest Amazon prices

Prices on Amazon oscillate week to week far more than you might think. Paste an Amazon url into Camelcamelcamel.com to see the chart of an item’s price history. If you are not in a hurry, you can use the chart to set a plausible low target price and Camel will send you an alert and buy button when (if) it reaches that price. — KK

ShoppingClaudia Dawson
Spot fake reviews

Before buying something on Amazon enter the URL for the product at fakespot.com. This free service will analyze how many shill reviewers have rated a product, and award a “Fakespot Grade” from A to F. A low grade doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad, it just means you shouldn’t take the reviews and user ratings into consideration when making your decision to buy something. — MF 

ShoppingClaudia Dawson