Love bargains? There’s plenty of them online – if you know how to find them. This week in Aging With Geekitude, Erica offers her tips. See more tech advice from Erica on Senior Planet by clicking here.
My official attitude on compulsive shopping, online or off, is that it’s a pastime for materialistic, empty-headed morons who care nothing for intellect and culture.
Unfortunately, I come from the gene pool of a Klein’s lady (that’s S. Klein on Union Square, the ultimate 1950s mecca for bargain-hunters). I spent a happy childhood helping mom paw through bins and racks, elbowing the competition. A warm and fuzzy feeling spreads through me now when think of her watching approvingly from that great clearance sale in the sky as I paw through websites searching for incredible deals.
Before the era of online shopping, if I wanted to indulge my addiction I had to deal with stores – large box stores that make you walk for miles to find what you want. My arthritic knees can only go so far without collapsing, and I’m too embarrassed to take one of those little motorized carts. Shopping online has saved me.
I believe online shopping also saves me money (I may be in denial about this). It allows me to hone in what I actually want without passing through the Scylla and Charybdis of merchandise – women’s clothes. If I have to pass the cute, dirt-cheap t-shirts on the way from groceries to shampoo and they’re on sale for $5, I’ll buy three. They’re just too cheap to pass up.
Plus online, I can know almost with certainty that I’ve nailed the best price.
I will share some of my shopping tips if you promise not to use them against me, especially when bidding on EBay.
Auction Sniper for eBay
I love eBay because it really is bargain hunting at its purest. I usually shop first on Amazon, look at the reviews, and then see if I can get the same item cheaper on eBay. I’ve bagged great deals on just about everything on eBay, including smartphones and tablets, cell phone batteries, even sandals. When Keen discontinued my favorite sandal, I was devastated until I found them on eBay. After losing some bids during the last five seconds when someone outbid me by a dollar or two I found Auctionsniper.com. You put the maximum price you’re willing to pay for an EBay item in Auction Sniper and it places last minute bids electronically so you can be the one winning by a buck or two. Ebay has an automatic bidding system but it doesn’t “snipe” at the last minute. You may be reluctant to shop on EBay because you don’t know who you’re dealing with. However, EBay leans over backward to protect buyers. Your money is held until you’ve received the item and had time to return it, or enter a dispute on the EBay website. I’ve disputed a couple of EBay purchases and got my money back both times.
Amazon for Pros
Amazon is for much more than books and electronics. I regularly order vitamins, hearing aid supplies, even chairs, plus everything else I can think of. Amazon usually sells stuff for less than the stores and you have the huge advantage of reading the reviews before buying and returning just about anything for free. I get fast shipping for free on Amazon because I’m a member of Amazon Prime, but is it worth it now that it went up from $75 to $99 a year? According to Lifehacker.com you’ll benefit from joining Prime if you purchase from Amazon 10 to 20 times per year, average under $25 per order and care about getting your stuff in less than a week. You’ll also benefit if you want to get Amazon’s alternative to Netflix – Amazon Instant Streaming, which lets you stream movies to your computer or tablet as a membership benefit. My favorite Amazon tip is to check out the non-Amazon sellers in the “used” area under the item you want, to see if there’s a cheaper alternative. Amazon does fulfillment for some of these private sellers which means you get access to Prime shipping and free returns. Sometimes the merchandise it’s just as new as you’ll get on Amazon itself.
More Bargain-Hunting Tips
Use coupons Before buying, Google “coupon” plus the site or the product, and chances are you’ll find a discount. For example, you might Google: “coupon + lands end” or “coupon + percale fitted sheets”
Get business cards and stationery online I use Vistaprint, which always offers coupons. If you don’t get seduced by all their offers for additional merchandise you can save a bundle.
Use store sites Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Sears, Staples and some other stores offer free shipping right to your home, or for pickup at the store. They have discount offers on their sites that you won’t find in their stores. If you sign up for the store emails or check their Facebook page you may find deals, but I always surf the sites for whatever item I want to buy to see what’s available. For instance, if you’re looking for a cheap computer, Wal-mart has deals on refurbished computers on their site that you won’t find in stores. Don’t bother with the big box home stores like Loews and Home Depot. Their websites are a nightmare.
Use price-comparison tactics When you search for a product, Google automatically displays what it has found are the best prices on the right, and I often click on one of those sites to compare the prices to Amazon. I don’t bother with sites like Nextag or Shopzilla because they’re not always accurate or up to date, can be misleading (for instance might not tell you that the pair of shoes you’re looking for are only in size 6 at that low price) and don’t include ebay. That said, it can’t hurt to use them if you’re tracking down something hard to find at a good price. Here’s a list of the best shopping search engines from Consumer Reports.
Get pet supplies online I buy all my pet supplies from Hoof and Hound in Australia. They are reliable, cheaper than the U.S. and sell items that you have to buy here with a prescription or from the vet for a big markup. The merchandise comes remarkably quickly, as well. The best thing about online shopping is instant gratification. Snapping up a deal is a great mood-enhancer on a blah day. So go for it. Happy bargain-surfing.
What are your online bargain hunting tips?
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.