‘Tis the Season for Savings

November 21, 2009

As Black Friday, the shopping extravaganza after Thanksgiving, comes once again. I have some tips and tricks for getting you through this time of year with the most savings.

The first tip is to read every flyer and advertisement carefully. As CNN’s Money site points out, many stores will try to  lure you in with incredible deals in extremely limited quantities. So unless you plan on being in front of the store hours before it opens, you are probably best off avoiding those situations.

Some stores, like Wal-Mart, have decided in order to avoid those mad rushes for bargains to open stores 24 hours, but activate the sales at 5am. In this situation, you may be able to grab the item you want and just wait to checkout at the appropriate time. While this may not work in every Wal-Mart, it may be worth a shot if you want to grab the best bargains.

One site that I mentioned in my last post was BlackFriday.info, but if you prefer more of a blog format to the layout of that site you can check out BFAds.net. I also prefer this site’s search function, but both sites are worth checking out.

However, for online shoppers, it’s even better if you don’t have to leave your house. That’s where sites like DealNews and Ben’s Bargains come in. These sites will have update on online offers and coupon codes, many of which include free shipping. However, most of the deals are in the technology market, so if you are getting gifts for people who don’t like electronics these might not be the perfect sites for you.

One other thing to keep in mind is that after the Black Friday rush marketers have come up with a new way for online stores to get some attention by creating “Cyber Monday.” The theory is that everyone is  coming back to work after the holiday weekend will be working on their holiday shopping list instead of working at their job. However, as tends to happen with these things, perception has become reality and “Cyber Monday” has become a real phenomenon with increased sales and deals to attract those sales. Make sure you check those websites on that Monday for the good bargains that can be available.

Do you have an inside track for deals in this season? Make a note in the comments.

The Rise and Fall of Gimmicky Retail

February 15, 2009

As I’m out looking for the best deals, I’m often intrigued by all of the gimmicks that are out there to entice shoppers to use their service.

What led me to develop this concept into an update for all of you is the new website Wujwuj, which I found out about here through the great blog TechCrunch. While the site is not operational yet, they work on a very interesting “Group Buy” system. The idea is that a retailer offers an item for sale and as more people agree to buy that item all of the members get a discount on it. It’s basically buying in bulk on a bigger scale.

The interesting development that this site plans to implement is a set of social networking tools that will allow you to tell your friends about what you want to Group Buy on things like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The user’s goal is to get more people to buy the same item to drive the price lower. Obviously, the store gets greater revenue and more sales. It also allows them to have viral marketing work for them with very little effort on their side. The users are doing all the work.

It will be interesting to see if this will catch on or if it will close down like the ill-fated Jellyfish.com. Jellyfish.com worked on a reverse auction system. Their would be a series of “shows” in a variety of product areas, like video games, clothing or sporting goods. They would start the item at its retail price, and the price would slowly come down overtime. Eventually, people lock in their price, and when the item has sold the allotted amount, the next item would come. This was an interesting concept, but I found the prices were never low enough for me to justify a purchase. I would also be worried about missing the best price by jumping the gun and buying the item too soon.

The last item I’ll mention are the copious “Deal of the Day” sites. These sites, Woot.com is probably the most famous offer one item at a time, usually in daily intervals, but not always. However, it can be difficult to track the large numbers of these sites. One good tool that I use for doing just that is DODTracker. (I actually prefer this link that gives you all of the items on a long list.) You can simply scroll down and see what site is offering what items that day. I find that there are some good deals, but there is also a lot of junk that most people would not be interested in. (I’m looking at you USB Foot Warmer)

It will be interesting to see if sites like these manage to flourish in this tough economy or whether they will go extinct like the Jellyfish.

‘Tis the Season

December 11, 2008

Even in these tough economic times, where people are cutting back, it is the season for holiday shopping.

Since you’ll be cutting back, but still want to get the best value for your buck here are some of the places that I frequent to get the best deals possible.

The first is http://www.slickdeals.net this site is a little bare-bones in that you just get a list of items that are on sale, but the advantage is that the items here are significantly on-sale. Discounts of over 60% are very common and sometimes you’ll see even better deals. This one I check almost every day.

My next tip is http://dodtracker.com/deals/. This site will track all of those “Deal of the Day” sites like Woot.com and others that only offer one item at a time, usually at a significant discount. Here you’ll find a lot of electronics and then some other very obscure or strange items like a USB foot warmer.

http://shoppingnotes.com/ is an interesting idea, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with yet. The basic idea is that you enter a page on Amazon or other shopping site for it to track. You also give them your e-mail so they can send you alerts when the price goes down. It is a great concept, but I haven’t actually had any luck with it yet. We’ll see how it develops.

For more great shopping sites, that I haven’t gotten the chance to try yet, check out this Lifehacker article.

Happy holidays and keep it Techeap.

Learn to Spell eBay

August 27, 2008

Sometimes you misspell something. In the era of spell check that we’re in, it usually isn’t a big deal. Sites like Google will make “suggestions” on what you really meant and you just go on your way.

There are some areas though where misspelling words costs you money, and one of those places is on eBay. While eBay does now help you with some misspellings to find what you meant to type, but if the original listing is misspelled, that item will never get found and never get bids until now.

At http://www.typobuddy.com/, you can find these little gems of poor spelling. Just type in the name of an item that you are interested in correctly, and Typo Buddy will plug in all of the most likely misspellings into an eBay search and link to the results. Typo Buddy makes money on referrals to eBay, so it is free to use.

I found one very interesting auction looking for “PSP games” and found this lot http://cgi.ebay.com/Sony-
. This is a relatively low price for this sort of auction. While there isn’t a lot of description or detail on the lot, the fact that you found this gem that will likely go unnoticed could net you a real bargain.

Sadly, the initial searches will give you a lot more hits than when you actually click the links, giving you a little bit of false hope, but in the grand scheme of things that’s kind of a minor nitpick.

I should also mention that this site also searches Craigslist, but Craigslist does have a history of shutting down anything that searches its system.

In any case, if you’re are searching eBay and want a deal you might want to check out Typo Buddy.

Buying Refurbished

July 8, 2008

I wanted some TiVo-like functionality, but I hate paying monthly fees if I can avoid it, so I decided to try a DVD recorder that can pause live TV and is programmable. I shopped around for a while before I found something that was in the price range I thought was reasonable (about $100).

I ended up going with a refurbished model from Amazon, which at the time was about a third of the price for a new unit.


It turned out to be a good, but not great choice. It does work pretty much how I wanted it to, but I’mmissing the integration that a TiVo or dedicated cable DVR would bring.

I hope to talk more about this item as I get to use it a little more, but I want to talk about the risks of buying refurbished. For those who aren’t aware, refurbished products are generally those that have been returned to a retail store for any number of reasons. Some of them just didn’t work, but some of them just weren’t what the customer expected. After the return, the company retests the unit, fixes it if necessary and resells it, usually at a significant discount.

Sometimes a unit will come out of this process and still not work. This varies from company to company, so you’ll want to be very careful on how the return process works.

In most cases, you will have to assume the cost of shipping the unit back to the company for additional repairs or for a replacement.

My general rule of thumb is that you should assume that the first unit you get is going to be bad, if your item is still a good deal, you can pick it up. Most of the time this means you are probably not going to buy low-ticket items on a refurbished basis, which makes a good deal of sense. Clearly in my case this was a safe risk to take, and it has definitely paid off.