Nov 302010
 
The holiday season is the time of the year where a lot of us finally make the splurge on new tech products and gadgets, and quite often the tech market can be quite overwhelming. New tech gadgets and features appear on the market constantly, and it can often be difficult to figure out what product is the best. Before spending a lot of money on your holiday tech shopping, there are a few steps you should take to ensure you buy the right product for you at the right price. Living a frugal life is not just about getting a cheap price, but it is about getting the best quality at the best price. I would like to share five tips for frugal holiday tech shopping with, and I hope that it will make tech shopping a little easier and a little more frugal for all of you.

1. Do your research. Find out what features you actually need, what features are recommended, and which ones will be useless to the needs you have. Do you really need the newest version of a product, or is last season’s tech product enough for your own needs. The price difference between buying last season’s version and this season’s version can be enormous. Read the consumer magazines and expert reviews to see, which product features they recommend and the reasons behind their recommendations. 
2. Read consumer reviews. While expert reviews are great, they do not give you the whole picture. The best reviews are those from consumers, who actually own the products, and preferably reviews for those who have had their products for more than a week or so. Do not make your focus too narrow, use several different sites to make sure you have reviews from many different sources. Besides doing a search engine search on the specific product that you are researching, I also recommend checking out the following sites for consumer reviews on tech gadgets and products: amazon.com, staples,com, epinions.com, cnsstores.com, bestbuy,com, target.com and buy.com.

3. Use your time wisely. Once you have narrowed down your choices, create accounts at the different stores that sell the product, add the products to your shopping cart and give it a week or two. You will likely see a drop in price on a few of the sites, because you have the product in your shopping carts. I have done this on numerous occasions, and I have learned that time is always on my side. The longer I have the item in the cart, the better the deals the stores seem to offer me. Give it a try!
4. Find the best price. Make sure to take advantage of price guarantees, and do not forget to include shipping, handling and taxes in the final price. Once you have narrowed down your product to one or two that you are interested in purchasing, do a simple search engine search for the exact product name. I prefer to use Google, because they give you a comparison check listing prices from numerous stores. Some stores will try to lure you in by giving you a cheaper price than other stores up front, but then they will add on a high shipping cost, special taxes and handling fees. When you comparison shop, always make sure to find the real price of the product before you make your final decision. Finally, when it comes to online shopping, you might already have an account somewhere, or you earn special bonus points from buying through a certain store. Make sure to check your favorite stores’ price guarantee policy, as you might just be able to get the best price at your favorite store by sending them an email with links to a cheaper price. Take screen shots, and save the links, so that you can back up your request, if they take a few days to get back to you.


5. Shop through a shopping rewards site. If you are a seasoned online shopper, you probably already have your favorite online shopping rewards site, but even then you should still look around to make sure that you get your best reward back. You should shop around the rewards sites just like when you shop around for the best product price. A few of my favorite rewards sites are Mypoints, ebates, send earnings, swagbucks and inboxdollars. These are just a few of the sites offering shopping rewards, so once again make sure to do your research.
6. Bundle up. Quite often you can find a great deal by buying accessories at the same time that you are buying your main tech product or tech gadget. Once again do your research, compare prices, and finally make sure that you actually need the accessories that is offered in the bundle.
7. Shop the quick sales. Shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other great quick deals, but do so with a lot of planning. Quite often planning ahead for a sale can be difficult, but there are sites that list the ads in advance such as bfads.net. You can also use forums such as fatwallet.com, dealseaker.com and We Use Coupons to scout out the deals in advance. Most of the quick sales, such as Amazon.com’s lightning deals are successful, because they tempt and cater to your impulsive side. If you have done enough research in advance, you can take advantage of these sales without getting buyer’s remorse later on.  
8. Use coupon codes. Using coupon codes, is a great way to get the price down on any product. Many sites have unadvertised coupon codes, and in some cases you can stack them to get an even better price. They might have a free shipping coupon code and a 20 percent off computer products etc., and if you can stack them with an already low price, you might very well be able to find a fantastic deal instead of a great deal. One of my favorite sites for finding coupon codes is retailmenot.com, but I also make sure to do a general search engine search before I make any final purchases. 
9. Send in your rebates. While you are out shopping, do not forget to look for rebates on products. Some stores do rebates more than others, and if you do your research you might be able to get the product almost free, when you combine all the rewards with a rebate. One of my favorite rebate programs is the Staples Rebate Progam, because it they list many of their rebate deals in their weekly ads, but they also have an rebate site, where you can search for rebates on specific brands and products.
10. Store Rewards. Finally, do not forget that some store offer their own store rewards, on top of rewards you might already get from shopping through an online rewards site and your credit card company. If you play your cards right, you might just get a lot of points back from several different sources at the same time.
Whether you are spending $100 or $1000 on a new tech product, it is always important to have time on your side whenever you are looking to do some frugal tech shopping. The more time you have, the more research you can do, and the more knowledgeable you become about the product you intend to buy. The more knowledge you have, the easier holiday tech shopping become, the less overwhelming it feels, and the more money you save. It is all a big circle, and it always comes down to time, knowledge and research.
About Staples:
Staples, the world’s largest office products company, is committed to making it easy for customers to buy a wide range of office products and services. Our broad selection of office supplies, electronics, technology and office furniture as well as business services, including computer repair and copying and printing, helps our customers run their offices efficiently. With 2009 sales of $24 billion and 91,000 associates worldwide, Staples operates in 26 countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia serving businesses of all sizes and consumers. Staples invented the office superstore concept in 1986 and today ranks second worldwide in e-commerce sales. The company is headquartered outside Boston.

More info: www.staples.com
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Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible for a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.
*The About Staples information is from TwitterMoms.

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