Do your homework—and get estimates

Do your homework—and get estimates

Nov 01, 2004

In the past year, I've learned that a little laziness and a lot of assuming can cost big bucks. First it was our radiology badges—I assumed we all paid about the same price for this service. But when an astute colleague asked about the going rate in our area, I learned I was paying four times more than some of my colleagues!

Next it was our printer—nice friendly company, very good work. Thanks to our purchasing agent, we discovered that another company charged half as much for the same work.

Of course, quality often justifies price. But in my examples, the service was as good or better with the lower cost provider, although I did goof with the brick pavers.

My real estate agent recommended a very inexpensive company, and I got what I paid for and less. I should have checked more references. My agent was trying to be helpful, but he sells houses; he doesn't build them!

The bottom line: Do your homework, don't be lazy, and get estimates —at least three—and references before you choose service providers. Then develop a schedule to recheck fees for key services such as phone, insurance, and Internet companies. Finally, don't be afraid to bargain a bit; if you don't, you won't get offered a deal. I guarantee that you'll save some money!