I'm a stickler for getting the best price. And while the Internet has made it quick and easy to compare and shop online for many purchases — especially travel, music and books — most of us still walk into stores, browse what's for sale and, occasionally, shell out actual cash on the spot.

But do you really know if you're getting a good price?

One thing you can do is use the search power of the Web on your trips to the mall. That can mean researching online the retail price of a product, say running shoes, before heading to a store to pick out a particular style or model you like.

Or it can mean the opposite: playing around with digital cameras in the shop until you've settled on one and then heading home to find the best price out there.

A quick way to combine the two is with www.shoplocal.com, which gives you prices for items at nearby stores, along with addresses and telephone numbers. Google's (GOOG) shopping search engine, Froogal, also lets you compare prices and displays store locations on a map.

Amazon.com, the popular online purveyor of books, has branched out rapidly into electronics, toys, home furnishing and more and will credit your account if the price of an item drops after you buy it.

Rather than keeping track yourself, www.refundplease.com will do it for you for free just by entering the product code and purchase price. The site currently tracks only Amazon purchases but promises to add other online retailers soon.

When making spot purchases, you can use Google's mobile phone service for a handy reality check that doesn't involve running home to your DSL connection. Send a text message with the name of a product or its UPC code to 46645. The service, which is free, will give you the item's online price there and then, although the search engine can be fickle. For information on how to use it, go to www.google.com/sms/.

Copyright (c) 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.