The largest mistake you can make when shopping for something, namely your home utilities, is not knowing fully what you need for utilities, what your options are and what each option fully entails.

I think a lot of people make the mistake of not doing their research and making a decision on a lack of (or poor) information, or just rush the process to be done with it.

Both are clear mistakes.

Consequences of Not Understanding What You’re Buying

First and foremost, if you don’t know what utilities you want or need to buy, chances are that you’ll buy a service that doesn’t quite fit what you and your family needs. Worse yet, you might overcompensate and buy too much of a service and end up paying too much money in the long run.

For example, internet service providers do nothing but advertise the speeds of their internet connections, so it’s all that you, the consumer, sees. As a result, you might feel compelled to get the highest speeds you can afford, but it’s very possible (and likely) that you don’t need them. Many households can do just fine with 5 or 10 Mbps.

But if you didn’t do your research you wouldn’t know this, and might end up spending $10, $20, $30 or more per month, ultimately costing you several hundred dollars per year.

What’s worse is that if you buy the wrong plan, depending on the service you might be committed to a 1 or 2 year contract. You might be able to switch your plan around later on for free or a nominal fee, but you’re out of luck if you don’t like your provider. Unless you don’t mind paying the early termination fees.

What You Need to Do

To make sure you buy the service or utility that will best fit you and your families demands, follow these tips:

1. Write Down What You Need From Your Service or Utility

The first step is to figure out what you want or need, and to write these things down:

Be sure to write this stuff down. You’ll want to have it when you research your different utility options, and have it handy when you’re comparing your different options.

2. Do Some Research

Once you know what you’re looking for out of your utilities, spend some time doing research to see what options you have and how each option will meet your needs.

For example, if you know you want to play games online, in your research you’ll find that dialup and satellite are two connections that you want to avoid. You’ll also find that internet speeds don’t matter as much. So when comparing providers and services, you’ll know to stick to cable or fiber optics internet connections, and any speeds over 3 Mbps is sufficient.

This is a very important step, so don’t take it lightly. It can literally be the difference between spending or saving a couple hundred dollars per year, or more.

3. Ask Questions

If you’re still not sure what you need, ask questions. You can ask family members, friends or co-workers that you think might use similar services. Ask what provider they’re using, the plan and any pros/cons.

You can also check out forums and message boards online.

Our inbox is open too.

The bottom line is that if you take a little bit of time to figure out what you need, what options are out there that will meet those needs and ask a few questions, you’ll more than likely signup to a service that does and costs exactly what you expect it to.