• Savings Mom Answers: Save on Electronics

Answering Viewer Question: How to Buy Electronics
by Stephanie Nelson, GMA Savings Mom  
March  2006  

Viewer question:  “I would like to know how I can find the best deals on electronics products that I need to buy. I am looking for an MP3 player, a new monitor for my computer and a laptop.”  

I will admit, I am not an expert at electronics.  In fact, my 12- year-old son is the only one in our house who knows how to work everything, and I’m not sure what I’ll do when he goes to college!  In spite of this handicap, I have been able to buy good quality electronics at competitive prices by taking advantage of readily available research on the Internet.  Most of us buy electronics at some time or another and very few of us are experts.  Therefore, knowing where to find basic information will help make buying electronics easier.   

Understand what you are looking for:  Although I know you want to buy as soon as possible, it pays to take a little time to do research and find special promotions when you are buying electronics and high-ticket items.  To understand the basics, you can find easy-to-understand buying guides for all categories of electronics on most electronics retailers’ websites (look for a “product guide” or “buying guide” link).  For example, when I looked at the MP3 player buying guide on Walmart.com, its simple format explained the four types of MP3 players available and what I need to understand about file formats and memory.  You can also find good reviews of current products on the market from http://www.pcmag.com/ and http://reviews-zdnet.com.com/.  

Finding the right product and brand to meet your needs:  When it comes to electronics, another good source of research is the opinions of other people who have already purchased the product.  Websites like www.epinions.com and www.amazon.com are good places to look for consumer product reviews.  If you have a particular product model and brand in mind, you can look for their reviews on these sites.  If you aren’t sure which brand or model you need within a category, you can search a product category and find out which brands and models have the best reviews.  Both sites provide a wealth of information on products and allow you to search and sort by brand name, price, average rating based on a five star system, and features.  Amazon gives you the ability to sort by popularity (“bestselling”) which makes it easy to find good products at competitive prices.  

Getting the best deal:  Once you have narrowed down your search to acceptable brands and models, you can compare prices for items on price comparison websites like www.shoplocal.com or www.shopzilla.com.  Prices of the same item can vary dramatically.  For example, I saw a MP3 player listed on a bargain website, so I copied and pasted the specific item description into the search box at www.shopzilla.com.  It gave me a list of 12 retailers who carried that specific item, and the price for the same item ranged from $85 to $150.  Always check a price comparison site before making a final purchase online.  

If you decide to buy the product at a brick and mortar store, you will want to be aware of pricing policies such as price matching and price guarantees.  If you find in your price comparisons that a nearby store price matches and a store that is further away offers a lower price, simply showing the website printout or store circular from the newspaper to the closer store will help you get a lower price without driving across town.  When a store has a price guarantee,  that means if you see a lower advertised price on that item within a specific timeframe after you have made your purchase, you can get a refund.  So pay attention to prices after you’ve bought the product!  

Save more with coupons and rebates:  If you are buying the products online, there is a good chance you will be able to use an online coupon code and/or a rebate to save.  You can find online coupon codes at coupon sites like CouponMom.com.  Sign up for the bargain alerts with coupon code websites.  If you have a specific retailer in mind, it makes sense to subscribe to their email newsletter so that you will be sent their coupon offers and promotions as soon as they are available.  Amazon.com does a good job of listing special coupon and rebate offers on the same page as its featured sale items, so be sure to read the entire page to take advantage of extra savings.  

Know retailers’ bargain tricks:  For example, Apple.com gives teachers and school system employees a 10% discount on Apple products, which includes Ipods.  Walmart matches the advertised sale prices of other retailers.  Bargain websites like overstock.com, buy.com and amazon.com offer free or very low cost shipping on many items.  J&R Computer World offers price-matching policies at jr.com.  Circuit City at circuitcity.com offers a low price guarantee, promising to refund the difference in price if a customer finds a lower price advertised by a local store in your market stocking the same new item, plus 10 percent of the difference.  

Timing is everything:  The best way to save on electronics is to buy when they have been out awhile.  Early adopters are the shoppers who stand in line for hours to buy the latest gadget the day it comes out.  Late adopters (like me) wait a year or longer to buy the same item and pay half the amount.  Or we buy it used because the people who bought it the year before sell it in order to stand in line to buy the next hot new item!  

Hot new electronics tend to come out during the holidays, which means retailers need to clear out this year’s models to make room in their inventory for new models.  Look for bargain-basement prices on last year’s electronics from mid-summer to early fall.  Last year we found a high quality DVD recorder for 75% off in August, which was reduced to $200 from its $600 original price earlier in the year.   It pays to be a late adopter! 

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