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How to Find Bargains on Tech and Electronics Purchases

Shopping online for tech bargains

Why pay the full retail price when you can get a much better deal on your next electronics purchase? When shopping for the latest technology, gadgets and electronics, there are some key strategies to keep in mind in order to pay the lowest possible price. This includes shopping for laptops, MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, headphones, cameras, video game systems and much more.

The Importance of Comparison Shopping

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is just that: suggested. Many retailers are competing for your business. It doesn't really matter whether you buy the exact same product from one store or another as long as the retailer is reputable and you still get a good return policy and warranty.

To this end, don't assume that every store will be selling the latest tablet for the same price. Do your homework with some comparison shopping.

Major Retailers

After you've decided on the product that you would like to buy, check the price (and any promotions) at some of the major retailers that sell electronics. You'll also want to keep in mind that the online price and the in-store price may not necessarily be the same.

  • Amazon: The world's largest online retailer not only sells and ships products itself, but it also allows for a number of third-party sellers to list their products too. This results in a very large selection at very competitive prices.
  • Best Buy: A very popular retailer that sells both online and via its brick-and-mortar stores, Best Buy sells a broad range of electronics across numerous categories. Pricing is typically very good, especially with sales and promotions.
  • Fry's Electronics: While it may not have as many physical stores as some of its competitors, Fry's Electronics can oftentimes beat the big box stores when it comes to price and with harder to find items.
  • Walmart: Known for having among the lowest prices in the business, Walmart is also home to many lesser-known and less expensive discount brands that can be just as functional and useful as their name brand counterparts.

Price Comparison Engines

Going to the website of each individual retailer can be incredibly time-consuming. That's why there are several comparison shopping websites that automatically look up the prices of products across several retailers and e-tailers for you.

  • Pricegrabber: In addition to being a price comparison engine, Pricegrabber also offers weekly specials and coupons, as well as lists for top searches. Prices are brought up from stores like B&H, Beach Camera, Sony, and Tiger Direct.
  • Shopbot: Canadians need price comparisons too, as pricing in Canadian stores may be different from American stores. Price comparisons here include retailers like Direct Canada, NCIX and Newegg.ca.

Mobile Apps

In addition to websites that allow for quick price comparisons, there are also several mobile apps that let you look up the price of products based on a product search or even with scanning the barcode when you're in the store.

  • Amazon (Android and iOS): The accompanying app to the online retailer has an integrated barcode scanner that can then bring up the price comparisons for that product in the store, as well as customer reviews and product recommendations.
  • ShopSavvy (Android and iOS): Another shopping comparison app, ShopSavvy allows you to scan or search for the lowest prices on a range of products, including electronics. The "price alert" feature is very useful too.
  • ScanLife (Android and iOS): One of the key advantages of this app over other scanner apps is ScanLife is among the fastest in bringing up prices, deals, reviews and more from such retailers as Macy's, Target and Home Depot.

Timing Your Purchase

Generally speaking, the best time to buy a new car is toward the end of the year when dealerships are trying to clear out their existing stock to make room for the new models. A similar kind of philosophy can be applied to electronics, although the product refresh cycle can vary from company to company and from product to product. Buying last year's model can result in major savings. For example, new versions of the iPhone have traditionally been released in September, so older models may become cheaper in the weeks that follow. Many new televisions are released in the fall, so the previous generation may also go on sale toward the end of the summer and into autumn.

Major Sales Periods

It is also worthwhile to key in on major sales periods, like Black Friday in the United States and Boxing Day in other parts of the world. There tend to be fewer sales on electronics and computers in the early part of the year, so you are less likely to find the best possible deal if you buy a new TV or smartphone in January or February.

Reward Points, Coupons and Rebates

Some retailers may not place the exact product on sale, but they may have promotions where you receive a value back in the form of a gift card for a future purchase. Target is one such example, known for giving out up to $50 or more in gift cards with the purchase of an eligible iPad. These sales can be seasonal -- like Black Friday or the holiday shopping period -- so it's best to pay attention to the local flyers and website for information.

Get Extras

Even when the electronics that you want aren't on sale, it is still possible to get a discount through other means. There may be instant or mail-in rebates available and these can be found through the manufacturer's website or through the retailer's flyers. It is also possible to use store or credit card reward points to get a discount on the product of your choosing. Best Buy, for instance, has a program called My Best Buy. When paired with a My Best Buy credit card, members can receive up to 6% back in rewards. The standard program provides a $5 reward certificate for every 250 points redeemed.

There are also websites and mobile apps dedicated to finding the best coupons. RetailMeNot is a popular example, including both a robust website and apps for iOS and Android, or the Coupon Sherpa iPhone app.

Consider Used and Refurbished

While there is an obvious temptation to want the newest gadget, this line of thinking rarely ever leads to getting the best possible deal. Instead, in addition to considering last year's model purchased from a more conventional retail store, it is also worthwhile to consider buying used and refurbished products instead. Substantial savings can be enjoyed as the other people may be selling their old electronics to help finance their new purchases. There is an inherent risk with buying used products, as they may be damaged, faulty or out of warranty, so it is best to proceed with caution.

Some sites and stores to visit include:

  • Craigslist: Buying used products directly from other consumers allows you to cut out the middleman and potentially reap significant savings.
  • eBay: Reaching a far larger number of sellers, both private individuals and online retailers, eBay has a massive selection of electronics and other products available for auction and as "buy it now" sales.
  • Apple Certified: A special section on the Apple online store lists a number of Apple certified refurbished products like MacBooks, iPads and iPods at discount prices. They go through a rigorous testing process to ensure like-new functionality.

Get a Good Deal on Your Electronics

Whether you are shopping for an MP3 player for your child, a new laptop for work, or the best digital camera, it pays to do your homework if you want to get the best bargain on your purchase. By comparing prices across retailers, being mindful of product cycles, capitalizing on potential discounts, and thinking about alternative or older models, a substantial amount of money can be saved while still buying some excellent electronics.

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How to Find Bargains on Tech and Electronics Purchases