How to save money on back-to-work business supplies

Inform your shopping

When I say “save money” I’m really talking about two things: Actually saving money and buying better quality stuff at the same time. We tend to have a strong focus — especially when it’s time to go back to work — on the saving money while shopping, but forget about the second part of a great deal: Buying better quality.

For me, at least, there is little point saving money with poor-quality back-to-work office supplies. I’d rather spend smarter in order to save money buying products that are genuinely a great value for the money.

What shopping like this means

As it turns out, in order for you to save money AND buy better products, you need two things. This same strategy can be used to save money on any type of shopping, including back to work (for you) or off to college (for the kids). Here’s what I mean:

  1. Price history — Decide if the product is currently priced better or worse than it has been in the past.
  2. Price comparison — Compare how well the product is priced in comparison to similar products. (For this you need a price tracker/price comparison combo service; I’ll show examples a bit later.)

Knowing that an office chair, for example, is currently 20-percent off sounds great, right? It might even look better if you check a price tracker to see the price history and find out that it’s currently priced lower than usual. This can really help when your heading back to work and things are hectic.

Even still, that doesn’t tell you if a similar (possibly better) office chair is currently, say, 30-percent off.

Compare prices for back-to-work supplies

A price tracker by itself doesn’t give you context to make a smart shopping decision because it can’t compare deals on similar products at the same time.

For that you have to have a price comparison of price histories between products. And not only that, but you have to use a service that tracks Amazon prices hourly because otherwise huge short-lived deals and discounts could come and go without even being noticed.

Don’t believe me?

Before you head back to work, check out this hourly price history chart for a pair of Logitech stereo speakers:

Back To Work Logitech Price Chart
Photo: Logitech S120 price history chart, courtesy of RankTracer’s Amazon price tracker.

As you can see, prices can fluctuate from hour to hour. Many products experience far more price volatility than this, so it’s vital to make use of a fast and accurate tool that can surface deals other sites miss. Otherwise, setting a price-drop alert becomes pointless, because the price tracker doesn’t capture new data fast enough.

The importance of shopping around

Accurate price histories give you a starting point as you stock up for going back to work. But it’s price comparisons that really help you spend wisely. For example, check out this robot vacuums price comparison list that compares price histories in an interactive table:

Back To Work Comparison Table
Photo: Ranktracer.com

Using this table, you are able to reorder the top selling robot vacuums by their best historical price, current price, Saving ($), Saving (%) and Rating.

The rating is actually an analysis of the price history of that product and takes into account the highest price, lowest price, average price, price volatility and more in order to come up with one of four recommendations for your back to work shopping:

  1. Fantastic Deal
  2. Good Deal
  3. OK Deal
  4. Wait

From the above table, ordered by savings in dollars, you can see that the iRobot Roomba 650 comes out on top, with a huge discount of $342.20.

But is this the best deal?

The Neato Botvac D80, for example, is currently selling at its best historical price of $328.99 (taken over the previous month) and is discounted 34 percent, much the same as the iRobot.

Let’s compare their price history charts:

Back To Work Roomba Price Chart
Photo: IRobot Roomba price history chart, courtesy of RankTracer’s Amazon price tracker.

From the above chart you can see that the current price of the iRobot is actually higher than its average price of around $550, despite having recently dropped down from a high of about $970. So, the current price for this item is not fantastic even though the discount is high.

By contrast, the Neato Botvac is at its lowest price, down from nearly $500:

Back To Work Neato Price Chart
Photo: Neato Botvac price history chart, courtesy of RankTracer’s Amazon price tracker.

If you look back up to the price comparison table you’ll see that the Neato Botvac was rated as a fantastic buy — even though it’s not discounted by quite as much as the iRobot.

So which one would you buy for back to work?

As you prepare to head back to work, the decision is still up to you. And remember that since these prices update on the hour every hour, the price will change all the time — meaning that sometimes it is better to buy one product over another, and vice versa.

The trick is to always combine price histories with price comparisons to make better buying decisions.

Ultimately empowering yourself to spend less buying better quality stuff is going to leave more money in your pocket when you do you back-to-work shopping. You’ll end up with less hassle and frustration by ensuring you always know when you’re getting a fantastic deal, and when you might be overpaying.

Aside from robot vacuums (that could clean your home office while you work), here are a few price history and price comparison lists that will help you find genuinely awesome deals as you start getting back to work after the summer break:

It’s simple, easy to do and free to use.

David Mercer
David Mercer contributes to SME Pals a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with books translated into over 13 languages worldwide and used as recommended reading at places like MIT.