I mentioned earlier this week that my digital camera finally bit the dust. It was six years old. I think I got great use out of it so I'm not at all bitter. I paid to it repaired a few years ago (around $100) mostly because I didn't want the hassle of replacing it. Now I see a new digital camera that I want costs $150. It seems like a no brainer: it's time to buy a digital camera.

Now I know nothing about digital cameras. I know more mega pixels is better and there is some definite brand loyalty out there but that's it. It can be a very frustrating exercise to buy something you know nothing about but there are a few ways to make the process a little easier. You don't want to walk into a store (or go onto that website) cold. They can smell a sucker coming a mile away but that sucker will so not be you if you follow these ideas:

1) Ask your friends, family, coworkers…well, ask everyone what they think. I asked around the office and found out what a couple different specs mean as well as what kinds of cameras other people had.

2) Search online for comparison websites. The more comparison websites you look at, the better idea you'll get. I've been very specific in digital camera searches (especially in terms of price) then I write the top five from every site. A pattern began to emerge.

3) Pay attention to things you hated in the past and learn from them. An old digital camera I had ate batteries and while my last camera had a rechargable lithium battery, it took crappy indoor shots. Bonus points if you find out why it didn't work well (online forums are good for that). Learn from the past; this is when it pays to hold onto a grudge!

4) If you have no clue (and don't know anyone else who has one), pay $5.95 for the Consumer Reports website trial membership. (Don't forget to cancel it immediately upon getting the info you need; it autorenews monthly.) There is a reason Consumer Reports is such a trusted source.

5) Recruit a buddy to go with for the transaction. A smooth talking salesman will have much more trouble selling you something you don't need if you have your brutally honest buddy telling you like it is.

So I've got my information ready to go and tomorrow I'm going to walk into that store, buy my camera, and not be a sucker. If you have any tips about buying things while clueless or cameras specifically, do jump in!