I'm slowly becoming my family's assigned "internet go-fer"; I guess I find internet shopping fairly painless, and I love the satisfaction of a great deal. At the risk of patronizing those of you already net-savvy shoppers, I wanted to pass on one of the most efficient processes I've picked up on in hopes that it will help some of you save a little moola this summer!
1. On http://www.google.com/, enter the item you're looking for--for example, "wooden toy box". But to get more results, you don't just want wooden--you'd want "wood", too. To gather words with any ending, type "wood* toy box".
2. Up in the left-hand corner, select "shopping".
3. You'll see a lot of results for what you were looking for, along with their prices. On the right hand side's drop-down menu, organize the results by "Price: low to high". In some cases, this will bring up a lot of irrelevant results to your search, so you'll want to go back to sorting by "Relevance". But the former will put your search results immediately showing the lowest price. As a hint--once you know the manufacturer's name for the precise item you're searching for, you'll be able to search for that specifically ("Kidkraft Austin Toybox"), and sort them by price quickly without irrelevant results.
4. When you click on an individual result, if more than one store offers that item, often you can sort by Price + tax and shipping.
5. Google offers related search terms at the bottom of the page (when I looked up 12" bicycle, it suggested "12 inch bicycle" as well). Don't forget to search with synonyms of what you're looking for. In this example, you'd want to look for "wood* toy chest", too. If you're looking for "bike", do another search using "bicycle".
If this is hard to follow, please submit your questions in the comments section! And I'd love your tips for easily locating the best deals online.