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What a Bargain!
Jeff Pasternack
Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, everybody likes to think that the bargain they're getting is better than the bargain the next person found. Nothing like the feeling of superiority when it comes to shopping, my grandmother would say. And there's no better bargain-hunting tool than the Internet. Of course, there's also no tool that's more confusing, too.

Sure, there are many Web sites that offer discounts on things that they sell. And yes, some of those prices are better than what one might find elsewhere, but sometimes, when you consider shipping and the time delay, it turns out not to be such a good bargain after all. So my key criterion is that a site that has bargains needs to provide an extra bonus on top of an already low price.

SlickDeals is my all time favorite site. If you only choose to bargain hunt on only one site, it should be this one. For example, on March 24, SlickDeals reported a deal on a Cendyne 32x12x40 CDRW Drive. In English, this is a CD burner that works pretty quickly. The unit normally costs $110 at Office Max. Currently, the manufacturer has a $30 rebate on the product and Office Max has a $25 discount on purchases over $100. So the $110 CD burner now costs $55. Not bad.

Or maybe you like drinking Pepsi or Mountain Dew. SlickDeals provided me with this great offer. The list price for a 12-pack of Pepsi at Office Depot was $2.99. I activated the $15 off $50 coupon at SlickDeals. It automatically showed up in my shopping cart and dropped in 17 12-packs of Pepsi, bringing my total to $51. This qualified me for free shipping. It then applied the $15 off coupon, reducing my total to $36. I checked out and they delivered 204 cans of soda to my door. So I paid about 17 cents per can, as opposed to the 33 cents per can I would have paid had I gone to the store and bought it.

Another site that I am beginning to appreciate is Techbargains. Now, before you are quick to judge by the title, this site has deals on much more than technology. Simply click on the Coupons or Family Coupons links to gain access to deals on all sorts of merchandise. For example, let's say you gave your child an Xbox this past holiday and he or she wants a new game for an upcoming birthday. This site has a $10 off coupon for all new games purchased at Going to Office Depot to stock up on some print cartridges and paper? Grab the $20 off coupon for purchases of $70 or more. Preparing for a camping trip and need to pick up some supplies from REI? No problem, you can get a 20% off coupon with just a few clicks. Need to swing by Sports Authority for some new soccer cleats? Pick up the 15% off coupon.

This next site is only for those most comfortable with bare bones graphics and zen-minimalist user interfaces. Pricewatch has an enormous selection of products categorized by product type. Vendors, who appear to be mostly lean wholesale operators, list out their prices and product ids for all who choose to browse. This site is great for finding the lowest available prices, but it can be very confusing. I suggest that you use the site's search engine rather than trying to browse through the categories. For example, searching for a ViewSonic VG181 LCD monitor, which was rated top of the 18 inch class by PC World, I found a number of vendors offering them for $928, which saved me $100 off of the CompUSA price. Browsing through monitor selections was time consuming and confusing. I find it noteworthy to mention that when you see words like "Factory Sealed" or "New" or "Full Warranty", that these are the vendors you want to buy from, as opposed to those that may not list this information. Obviously, the vendor who lists a product at an abnormally low price has a refurbished unit or one not suitable for the US markets, i.e. may require different electricity flow, etc.

Clearly, there are times when online shopping needs help from a live visit to the store. For example, I recently went to CompUSA to check on some wireless equipment for my home haven. As I'm moving a computer out of the haven and into the den, and having a 16 month-old child to consider, shifting to wireless only makes sense. Running cables all over the house is so 1990's, anyway. At CompUSA, the three pieces of equipment I needed, a NetGear Router and two wireless network cards, cost about $300 plus tax. Conveniently, the store by me has dozens of computers hooked up to the Internet. I quickly went to Pricewatch, typed in the product names and found a vendor I'd used in the past was selling the same equipment for about $200 plus shipping. When it was all said and done, the equipment arrived at my door two days later for $224.

It is much easier to bargain hunt off and online when you know what you want. It is even easier when you have access to Web sites that add savings on top of bargains, regardless how you make your purchase.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at