Remember the days of driving from store to store all over town to find the best price on that computer or television that you've had your eye on? It wasn't long ago that we spent the afternoon burning gas (it was so cheap!) and talking to sleazy salesmen (they were so sleazy!) to find the perfect model and to save a buck. Now you can just boot up your computer, go to one of the many popular shopping websites, add that item to your cart, and wait for it to show up at your doorstep in a few short (or long, depending on how exciting the item is) days. You could even do it in your underwear...or so I'm told. The problem is that there are quite a few more shopping websites than there are Best Buys, Circuit Cities (R.I.P. stores), and Costcos in the immediate area. So how do you know where to shop? Here's a list of my five favorite sites to shop for electronics and why I like them.
1) Crucial.com: Crucial is crucial (ha!) when upgrading the RAM (Random Access Memory) on your computer. If your computer is running slow but you still have plenty of hard drive space and the rest of the hardware is still relatively recent, a memory upgrade may be all you need. You tell Crucial the make and model of your computer, and it will tell you how much memory it came with and what possible upgrades you can make. You buy your memory upgrade directly from Crucial, which offers affordable options and products which are generally of great quality. There are even videos and tutorials on how to install the memory yourself if you are daring enough to poke around inside your computer. If you want to shop around for your RAM, or if you maybe want to go ahead and just get a whole new computer, I would recommend looking at...
2) Newegg.com: While it sells all kinds of electronics, Newegg is probably best known for selling computers and computer parts and accessories. This website gives the user the ability to narrow down exactly what they are looking for and offers intelligent, comprehensive user reviews to help in the decision process. The prices are always fair, and there are often special daily deals to be had on great products. If all that isn't enough for you, I've heard story after story about how great their customer service is and how quickly they ship things out.
3) Amazon.com: If you haven't heard of or used Amazon.com then you must have been living under a rock (and one without wi-fi, to make matters worse). I probably don't need to sell you on Amazon, but perhaps I can turn you onto the Amazon Marketplace. When you find a product on Amazon that you like you may notice that there are a number of new or used ones found toward the top of the page. This is where other people or businesses can sell that product for whatever price they choose. I have found that this is an excellent place to shop for a lot of things, including books, DVDs, and especially CABLES. For whatever reason, cables are one of the most overpriced pieces of technology, but they do not have to be. Most cables can be found on Amazon for under $0.50, while products that deliver the same EXACT quality can be found for $50 at Best Buy (I'm looking at you, HDMI cables). Amazon also has great customer service, so if you have a problem with a seller (which I have encountered maybe once in the last five years) it can be dealt with swiftly. Of course, if you're keen on buying new and used products from other people there's always...
4) eBay.com: Again, you probably already know all about eBay, but some people forget that it isn't just about selling your "I Love Lucy" novelty plates or NASCAR bobbleheads. While I wouldn't START my shopping on eBay, if you are not too worried about receiving a used product or one that wasn't shipped directly from the safety of a warehouse, it's worth checking out. Some of the best deals on just about any product, including computer parts, TVs, Blu Ray players, cell phones, and other electronics can be found on eBay if you are willing to participate in the bidding process and you read the description carefully.
5) Google Product Search: What kind of blog post would this be if we didn't mention Google? Google Product Search (formerly known as Froogle) is a bit different from the previous four websites mentioned. This is more of a shopping aggregator, collecting the prices and reviews of the same product from multiple stores. If you know what product you are looking for you can search it here and compare prices to find the best deal and read reviews from around the web, all on one page.
While online shopping is an invaluable tool, one must admit that there is nothing like going into the store and getting your hands on the actual product. Many people prefer to shop this way, but it is important to think about the resources you have online which could save you a considerable amount of time and money. These sites can also be used with store-shopping, as research done online can help you pick out which item to buy in the store. Last night actually, my family was about to buy a small TV for the kitchen from Amazon when I looked on Google Product Search to find more reviews. I saw that the reviews were very positive, but then I noticed that Wal Mart was selling the same TV in stores for the same price. Now we have the TV set up on the counter and we didn't have to pay and wait for shipping. While online shopping doesn't need to totally replace stores, you can still use these sites listed above as tools to help you shop smarter.