Online shopping has a reputation for amazing deals. We’ve all heard stories of how someone’s friend or relative managed to buy this or that for a fraction of its normal retail price. Such things do happen – but, in truth, most online deals are only marginally better than those in retail shops. And some aren’t great at all.
The real benefit of online shopping is information. All the price comparison data in the world is at your fingertips if you know how to access it. With some careful and quick research it’s possible to consistently snag excellent prices.
Is That a Good Price?
Price is the key to any good deal and is the place all online shopping research should begin. There are literally thousands of stores to buy from. The big ones, like Amazon, often have the best prices. But that’s not always the case.
If you need to search, where’s the first place to turn? Google, of course. Google Shopping remains an excellent go-to for bargain shoppers because it lists a large number of stores and it requires that stores list both an item’s base cost and its shipping cost. Sellers offering a low base price don’t always offer the lowest out-the-door price.
There are several other major names in this business. They include Pricegrabber, BizRate and Nextag. I prefer to use Google Shopping, but I must admit its interface is a bit busy and its search function isn’t always as accurate as I’d like. The dedicated price-comparison sites can be more intuitive.
Will The Price Go Down Soon?
Once you’ve figured out if a price is good right now it’s worth thinking about if a price is historically competitive. Some items fluctuate up and down over time. Winter coats, for example, tend to be more expensive in winter than in summer.
That’s where price tracking comes in. Some sites are able to provide detailed price history graphs of certain stores. This will help you decide if buying now is wise or if waiting a few months could save a few bucks.
My favorite price tracking site is Camelcamelcamel. This site works for Amazon, Best Buy and Newegg and can provide detailed price histories for items listed on each. On Amazon it also tracks third-party vendor and used item pricing. Better still, the site offers an extension for Chrome and Firefox called the Camelizer.
There are a lot of other competitors in this space, but most only watch Amazon and are frankly inferior to Camelcamelcamel. The only alternative I recommend is The Tracktor, which has a constantly updated list of items on Amazon ranked by the how much their price has recently dropped.
Where Can I Find Awesome Deals?
If you’d like to find an awesome price, yet you’re not looking for a specific product, deal sites are the way to go. Shoppers can find some incredible value on them. Here are my personal favorites.
Fatwallet - This site has been around for years and is the benchmark other deal sites aspire to. It has an excellent selection of products and also lists both coupon deals and cash-back offers. Most shoppers could browse this site alone and be happy with what they find.
Slickdeals - Like Fatwallet, Slickdeals uses a thumbnail-based design on most of its pages. It actually manages to fit more on a page, however, and is easier to navigate thanks to a larger header with more navigation options. I prefer to use Slickdeals if I’m on a PC with 1600×900 resolution or greater.
TechBargains - This is the place to go if you’re interested only in electronics. It tends to focus on big-ticket items like tablets, laptops and televisions. The site is simple, easy to navigate and tends to focus on deals more than coupons (though it does have a coupon section).
Amazon Gold Box - This sub-section of the Amazon website constantly lists new deals that are available for a limited time. Some of them are quite good and it’s possible to browse deals by category.
Warehouse & Outlet Deals Can Rock Too
Most of the major online retailers, including some original manufacturers with online stores, now have an outlet or warehouse store. Amazon has a Warehouse Deals sub-site, Newegg commonly lists open-box and refurbished items, and Overstock.com is basically dedicated to this sort of stuff. Electronic companies like Lenovo, Dell and Sony maintain outlet sites, as well.
These are awesome places to find good deals. Most of the products listed are returns that have nothing wrong with them at all. These aren’t marketed off significantly, but they’re essentially the same as a brand new-product and sold for 10% to 25% less.
Scratch and dent items are where the real savings can be found. A television with a small scratch in the screen may be hundreds less than the same brand-new. Buyers who don’t mind a small imperfection can save a lot of money – and these deals are consistently available.
Remember that a the online shopping tools listed here are not either/or alternatives. You’ll find the best deals if you use a wide variety of sources to gain information about what’s hot and what’s not. It only takes a second to open another deal site or check prices on Camelcamelcamel. Take the time and you’ll save a ton.
Buyers who love Amazon should check out our Amazon shopping guide. It’s currently in the works and provides even more information about how to save money when shopping on the world’s largest retailer.