My bargain hunting philosophy, things that matter

When I started this blog. I decided that I will write about things related to online shopping and in particular will talk about how to save money while shopping.

While shopping related events and news come and go, there are certain fundamental ideas that never get old. This blog post pretty much summarizes the principles that I try to follow in my quest to smart shopping.

Don’t buy what you don’t need

The temptation might be high but the most important principle of my bargain hunting philosophy is not to buy stuff I won’t use. There might be exceptions, and that is if you are sure it will make a good gift for someone you know, or if you are confident you can sell it for profit on eBay. The general rule however is that before you buy that flash drive for $5 after rebate, answer to yourself, why do you need 3-4-5 of these flash drives?

Buy used if it makes sense

Buying things used actually satisfies two sides of me, one I save money, two I give the thing second life. This is especially true of books and toys for kids which I never buy new. is where I usually end up buying books and garage sales is the main source of toys for my kids. I have previously discussed this subject and you might want to take a look at my list of things you should never buy new.

Don’t be afraid to buy in bulk

This of course doesn’t apply to everything however there is a certain class of things you can buy in bulk and save. Paying $$$ up front might look scary to some but don’t let your feelings confuse you — use the math. Here are some things I always buy in numbers:

  • napkins, toilet paper, paper towels
  • toothpaste, toothbrushes
  • canned food
  • batteries

Go DIY whenever it works

Doing things yourself might not always be the best option (check out the oil change discussion in the comments to this post) but there are many cases when it can save you money and you might learn something useful in the process. In addition there might be some other side benefits you didn’t expect.

For example I resist to the temptation to hire someone to mow my yard grass. I feel I need that bit of workout (applies to snow shoveling too). Also, I found I can save a lot by replacing the printer toner instead of entire cartridge, somewhat around $100 savings per fill up.

Consider hidden costs

Use your brains and view your new gadget or utility from all perspectives. If you buy a printer look at the per print costs. If you buy a car, consider insurance, maintenance, repair, and gas costs. These can be huge factors affecting the cost of ownership/use. This is exactly why I replaced my ink jet printer with a laser one long time ago, and why I switched to CFL lights as soon as I moved into our home.

Don’t run after the latest and greatest

I am sure many of you enjoy owning that latest gadget. This however may be very costly and if you wait a few months, the price may well go down by 50% or more. This is the nature of marketing. People want new stuff and merchants play on their feelings by jacking up prices. Resist the urge and wait it out. Buy two gadgets for the price of one later, give one to your younger sister/brother as a gift, and enjoy the feeling of giving!

Search and compare

I never buy a more or less expensive thing without first visiting a few other stores to compare alternatives. For online shopping, use this list of price comparison sites as a reference. For off line, call FruCall, or just visit a few competitors. Don’t go overboard though and weigh what is more important to you, the opportunity to save, or the chance of wasting time and effort.

Don’t forget to haggle

Remember that prices on big-ticket items are almost always negotiable. While there are some things we all know about (car, house, furniture) there are other things that are less obvious (bed mattress, household electronics). Here are a few haggling tricks to get you started. Negotiate your new car price via email if haggling face to face is not your thing.

Use credit cards with cash back

Credit cards with a cash back option are the easiest way to save while shopping. They require minimum effort and savings can be up to 5% on top of any other discount you find. Credit cards have been one of my favorite money savings tools. Read this blog post for an overview of how I use them.

The only challenge with credit cards is to remember that all your savings will evaporate if you don’t pay your balance in full. Once you get that part right — just rip the benefits. For optimal credit card rewards, make sure your cards are tuned up.

Visit deal sites

Once in a while I entertain myself or my close ones to a gift. Gifts are twice more entertaining if I don’t have to pay for them my arm and leg. Free gifts are especially enjoying. Deal sites is what I use for my gifts. I usually give them a visit once every other day and see if anything really hot pops up. In addition to deal sites from my monthly list I can recommend deal aggregators (reviewed here and here).

Read my blog

This list will not be complete without a shameless plug like this. ;-) I have been noticing lately that I use my blog as a reference to all things I know about online shopping and bargain hunting (well, this is one of the reasons why I started it). To organize things a little bit, I have collected the most valuable pieces in the Links section for easy reference. For other things I just use blog search.

What is your shopping philosophy? Do you have some bargain hunting tips you would like to share?

See also:

10 Responses to “My bargain hunting philosophy, things that matter”

  1. 1 Dean May 22nd, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Nice quality article, I have to agree with you on many of your points.

    Quick question, how long does it take you to complete a post like this?

  2. 2 Yan May 22nd, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    It took me almost 2 hours. I am a slow writer. :-(

  3. 3 XynamaX May 22nd, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    One important rule I try to follow:

    Review recurring costs every year. Look at your phone, cable, electric, gas, auto insurance, etc bill atleast once a year to see if you can save money by reducing service and/or switching to a competitor.

    Insurance companies are notorious for charging you more and more each statement. Check competing companies to see if you can save a few bux.

    You might have extra “features” on your phone bill that you’re paying for- that you might not use. Drop’em. Switch to VOIP if you have a cable-modem, VOIP carriers are much cheaper then POTS lines… (POTS = plain old telephone service for those of you who don’t know)…


  4. 4 Sun May 22nd, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Lately, I bought lot of stuff (after rebate) that I don’t really need because I want to re-sell them on Amazon. With good deals, some items are really cheap and I usually get some if the after rebate price is around or below $10, so even if I can’t sell it, it won’t hurt too much as long as I get the rebate.

    Speaking of flash drives, I sold nearly 10 on Amazon already :)

  5. 5 Yan May 22nd, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Richie: (I can’t make myself call you that strange nickname you use ;-) )

    Good tips. I was mostly focusing on shopping however keeping the tabs on your other day to day expenses is just as important.

    I use Sunrocket for my phone service and Canopy (wireless broadband) for my internet access. Both help me save money.


    While I did buy some stuff for resale in the past, I notice that between my job, my blog, and my family I don’t have time for it any longer. I guess my priorities have slightly changed.

  6. 6 Mike G. May 22nd, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    I will be negotiating our car purchase via email.. Thanks for the tips Yan!

  7. 7 XynamaX May 23rd, 2007 at 6:36 am

    Buying stuff for resale (ebay) was lucrative a couple of years ago when coupons/rebates were plentiful and there were a limited number of “ebay resellers”.

    Over the years, the market became saturated and thousands of other people joined the bandwagon and started listing items that they found on deal sites.

    Also, eBay and PayPal have significantly raised fees which makes it even harder to make a decent profit for the time invested.

    Think about all the time you spend looking for deals, buying them, filling out the rebates, sending them in, checking their status, posting them for resale, re-packing them, mailing them. If you have a rebate you have to call in about, that in itself wastes 30 minutes of your time.

    Then take your profits, and divide by the number of hours you spent. That’s your hourly wage for doing all that work. The time adds up, you might actually be better getting a part time job to match that.

  8. 8 Ben May 28th, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Buying used is smart. But sometimes if you ask around friends and family you can get used stuff they don’t need anymore for free!

  9. 9 Mike G. May 28th, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Sounds great! Ben, can I be an honorary family member?

  1. 1 Money Smart Life » Musical Money - Carnival of Personal Finance #102 Pingback on May 29th, 2007 at 7:57 am

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