Monday, November 17, 2008

Geeks guide to online discounts

With all of my posts about the economy, my faithful readers may feel that I am against shopping. That is not true! Shopping is one of my favorite recreational activities! Yet it is not something I can do in unlimited quantities, so I attempt to extend my fun by getting the best prices I can on many purchases. This has two benefits:
1. I get a blast out of looking for deals online, and the looking makes my shopping experiences last longer.
2. If I pay less for the things I buy, I have more money to buy other things.

So where do I go to find good deals, you ask? My first universal catch all e-store is amazon.com. I often go there first to get a good idea of what prices something is going for. I also buy a lot of books through their 4-for-3 deal, where if you buy 4 books, the lowest priced one is free. They extend the deal to movies and other items from time to time as well. Regular Amazon shoppers will also recognize that they change their prices regularly on many items. Make a wishlist and track the price of a few things over a month or so. They change prices weekly, sometimes more frequently like that. Websites such as MyListWatcher.com will watch your wishlist for you, and let you know when a price drops below the target price you have set.

In addition to Amazon I shop at a number of online e-tailers. I am also on the emailing lists for most of these places. I often have something in mind that I want, but I'm willing to wait for a good deal before I buy. This lets me keep an eye out for a sale, free shipping, or some other bonus. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not do all my shopping online. E-tailers which have a brick and mortar location will often email coupons which can be used in-store as well. Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Best Buy often do this, as well as a number of other stores that I can think of. To keep my email manageable, I have an address which I use specifically for online shopping and for receiving emails from retailers. Personal emails from my friends and family go elsewhere.

A number of sites also give discounts or list coupons for online and in-person shopping. Fatwallet is my favorite of these. They offer a percentage of cash back on purchases from many e-stores. They also have a lively forum where members post links to all sorts of deals and coupons. Last year I got a great tip that costco.com was selling the GPS I was interested in for $100 less than everywhere else from a Fatwallet forum.

Lastly, it's a great idea to check out major purchases at as many places as possible before pulling the trigger. Last fall my husband and I shopped for a HDTV for 3 months, before finally buying one on black Friday. We looked at TVs in a number of stores. We read about HDTVs online in general. We also searched online for reviews and comparison information about the models we were considering. The work paid off and we got a great TV, for a good price (particularly after we went back and got a further 10% discount through a price matching policy). We are still very happy with it today. And all my friends forgave me for talking about nothing but HDTVs for three months! Okay, I'm joking. My friends are geeks. They ate the HDTV talk up too! :)

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