How I Used the Internet to Save Time and Money While Shopping

As I believe I’ve stated on most (if not all) of my past articles, I am kind of lazy. I did not line up at 2:30am on Black Friday in hopes of scoring huge deals. In addition to that, I am in college, therefore I am, let’s say, not as financially well off as I would like to be. An obvious fix for this would be to become less lazy and stand in line on Black Friday and get things for cheap. Or, I could just shop online.

Shopping online has made bargain shopping not only easy, but almost hard not to do. In the past you drove to Best Buy to look at a TV, and if it was in your price range you probably picked it up. You did this because Wal-Mart was on the other end of town and you didn’t want to risk going all the way there only to find it was more expensive and have to drive back. What a pain.

Or, you could wait until Sunday and compare sales ads. These babies told you what the hot deals were, but really nothing else. Sure that TV is only $400, but how many HDMI input ports does it have? Does it even have HDMI? Is it HD as in anything that’s not 480p or is it true 1080p HD?

Add to all of this the fact the abysmal odds of two ads from different stores showing the exact same product on sale, and it’s pretty easy to see that shopping this way also had its drawbacks.

Then came the internet

(Insert angelic voices and rays of sunshine here)

Now, going to Best Buy only takes 5 seconds. Running over to Target to check their deals only takes another 5 seconds. In 15 minutes you have run all over town and checked out every deal available. All without having to put pants on.

This obviously has its advantages (seriously, who wants to put on pants on a Sunday?), but there’s more! Ever find it a bit coincidental that the floor salesman always recommends the most expensive of whatever you happen to be looking for and, that for whatever reason it is better from their place than it would be from another store? No more!

Probably one of the best things I like about shopping online is the customer reviews. I pay a lot of attention to customer reviews because they usually point out incredibly good aspects of the product I’m looking to buy, or some potential problems about them that I might otherwise miss. Some things I take into consideration are manufactures warranty and mail-in rebates. A website may list the price of an item as $20 off with mail in rebate, but if a look at the reviews informs me that getting said rebate is a hassle, I’ll try a different product.

Another way to save money is to take advantage of sites like Woot.com. If you haven’t Wooted yet, I would strongly recommend it. Woot sells one item a day (unless a Woot Off! is going on in which they sell a product until it runs out and then move to another one). This one item they sell is usually hugely discounted from what it normally runs.

The important thing to remember with Woot is that the only way you’re saving money is when you’re buying something that you would have had to buy anyway at a higher price. If you bought every good deal that was available on Woot.com you would probably make a purchase every day (and have about 394 Roombas). Another thing to note with Woot is that sometimes they will sell refurbished products (which accounts for a better-than-average deal). It is always stated on the product information if they are new or refurbished, so it might be worth checking if the warranty is still intact, etc.

Another great place to find deals is with Gizmodo’s Dealzmodo. Once a day, the Gizmodo team puts together a list of great deals from all around the internet. The deals come in all shapes and sizes: TV’s, game consoles, iPhone apps, etc.

Gain an advantage with research

One great, money-saving way to use the internet is to educate yourself. Exactly what about that laptop makes it so expensive? Maybe it’s because it has a dedicated graphics card and a quad-core processor. It doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out that you don’t need that if you’re just going on the internet and writing Techerator articles.

The same thing applies to almost any item. If you do some research, you can often find exactly what you need and not have to pay for extras you aren’t going to use.

Research can also let you in on some secrets such as how marked-up the prices of some products are in department stores.  For instance, talk to anyone that works at a Best Buy and ask them how much mark-up is added to cables and accessories. It’s ridiculous and might make you a bit nauseous. Online sites that make their own cables and sell them without ridiculous mark-ups can literally save you hundreds of dollars.

Last time I checked, the cheapest HDMI cable I could buy at my local Best Buy was around $25 (for a 6′ cable). I recently bought a 25’ HDMI cable to go from my Xbox 360 to my projector and paid $27 at www.monoprice.com. That same 6 foot cable you buy at Best Buy will cost you about $3 at monoprice.com.

Conclusion

The internet has saved my wallet over the years. I pride myself on getting good deals, especially on electronics, and I know I’ve saved hundreds of dollars just by buying all my cables online.

What are your online money-saving secrets? Do you have a site you like to frequent because of some great money-saving deals? Let us all know in the comments.