Five Things You Should Always Buy Online

As a companion piece to last week’s Five, I’ve decided to basically explain the five most common items on which you should never spend a lot of money, especially when they’re being bought online.

Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.

This week…

Five Things You Should Always Buy Online

As a companion piece to last week’s Five, I’ve decided to basically explain the five most common items on which you should never spend a lot of money, especially when they’re being bought online.

Now, the Internet is great for a lot of things, as I’ve explained before, but there are certain specific items that really should be bought exclusively online due to the massive amounts of money that can be saved via the Internet.

5. Books

Amazon is the obvious leader of the large pack but don’t sleep on Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Books-a-Million. With massive inventories, prices far lower than retail, and an endless section of unbelievable bargains, if you can’t find what you want from any of those four big boys, it probably doesn’t exist (or you shouldn’t want it).

Here’s an even better tip, though: Powell’s Books. If you don’t know Powell’s, it is a Portland, Oregon-based juggernaut of an independent bookstore (the largest new-and-used of its kind on Earth). Even if you were aware of them… did you know they sell stuff online, now? New and used books for exceedingly low prices plus really cool exclusives like really reasonably priced signed editions (which would be great gift ideas, by the way) and a section dedicated just to books which qualify as “rare and collectible” (priced accordingly, of course). Further, they buy books! You can pass your tomes on to others and get paid for it! If nothing else, everyone reading this list can support that system.

Whether you go with the big chains or the biggest non-chain there is, books are never cheaper than when they’re bought on the device that is simultaneously destroying their sales figures.

4. Anything you see on an infomercial

Now, you might pay just as much for a Snuggie or Slap Chop or a bucket of Oxi Clean online as you do over the phone or at the drug store… but at least you don’t have to directly interact with another human being (either face-to-face or over the phone) when making such an embarrassing purchase on the Internet.

(Admittedly, this one saves more face than money but whatever.)

3. Plane tickets

Unless you live under a rock or have somehow not watched television in the last ten years, you’re more than aware of places like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Priceline to save a whole bunch of cabbage on plane tickets (in addition to hotels, rental cars, cruises, etc.). However, there are a few sites that are not affiliated with any airline (see: sites that are free to drop real, unfettered “this is the biggest deal you’re going to find” science on you) that you may not even know about; add Kayak, Yapta, FareCompare, Sidestep, and Farecast to your bookmarks to stay informed about all the deals, out there.

Additionally, there is something that even the best of websites and commercials won’t tell you: the ideal money-saving timeframes in which you should make your purchase. While it’s not an exact science, generally you want to buy tickets that arrive/depart on a Tuesday or Wednesday (if you can swing it) and buy them between two and eight weeks before you aim to take to the skies (unless it’s for a flight around a busy travel period like Thanksgiving or Christmas in which case, you should buy them as early as you possibly can).

A final note: if you’re booking a flight last-minute, sites like Travelocity will usually offer substantial discounts on the fare if you book in conjunction with a hotel reservation. Even in the case of a cheap motel like Super 8, Travelocity/the selected airline will knock hundreds of dollars off the plane fare as long as you also reserve a room (at whatever cost). You don’t even have to plan to stay at the hotel, just pay for the small “fee” to reserve it and you’ll save big on the flight.

It’s like buying an expensive watch and the salesman says he’ll give you 50% off if you just spend $15 more in his store – you’re going to buy that ugly pair of socks that you will never wear just because that unnecessary purchase will lead to you saving a bundle on the watch that you actually want.

2. DVDs

Whether it’s the aforementioned Amazon, DVD Empire, or the legendary DeepDiscount (free shipping, remember?), the prices of DVDs sold by stores that operate exclusively online are always substantially lower than MSRP. Additionally, even in the case of a place like Wal-Mart or Best Buy, their prices online are usually lower than the stickers in the store and all online stores offer way more ’2-for-1′ types of deals than retail locations.

If you’re overwhelmed by options and minuscule differences in pricing, simply do a Google Shopping search on a specific movie and everything will be laid out nicely for you. You will always come out way ahead if you buy your movies online.

1. Prescription eyeglasses

Zenni Opitcal. Frames Direct. Eyeglasses.com. Goggles4U. 39 Dollar Glasses. Do these names mean anything to you? If you wear glasses, they should. There’s no logical reason to pay $200+ for prescription frames at a place like Lenscrafters or Pearle Vision, anymore (same goes for the chic “oh, it’s so indie!” places like Moscot). In what universe would someone pay 1000% more for the same product? Zenni’s prices start at $8 for frames. EIGHT DOLLARS. In other words: what 9 ounces of plastic should cost. Sure, their products don’t say “Gucci” or “D&G” on the side but guess what? You weren’t going to be on Jezebel any time soon, with or without the brand name.

Some people may have an issue with ordering glasses that they can’t physically try on in a mirror or repeatedly take back for “tweaking” at their local optometrist but when you’re saving as much as you will at any of the stores listed above (and there are even more), the potential of a “eh, I don’t like these, I think I will return them as soon as I’m done counting the hundreds of dollars I saved by not going to that place at the mall“-situation is a classy problem to have.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

  • http://twitter.com/everythingok Omar Kholeif

    Uk readers should also consider these following options.

    Books (http://www.bookdepository.co.uk)
    DVDs (www.play.com)

    And lot’s not forget Ebay, Come on!

  • http://twitter.com/everythingok Omar Kholeif

    *lets

  • http://jackbusch.com jack

    Half.com! Half.com for books. I’ve bought approximately half a crore of books from betterworldbooks for under two dollars. Biggest cost – shipping at $3.50 for the first one and then $1.89 for each additional item.

    I realize half.com is just a front end for eBay, but I feel like it’s smoother.

  • thomas paciello

    Yahoo FareChase is a great travel web site. It has great flexibility plus it includes JetBlue and Southwest in their choices while most other sites do not. This is a hidden gem that is definitely worth a look.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    I would submit technology too…New Egg and Tiger Direct have prices on computers, monitors, peripherals, etc. that can’t be beat by retail chains. Anyone know of the best place to get Blu-rays?

  • Dan

    This is really really bad advice about books. First off, the price is relative based on where you live. In New York State, they charge tax now on book purchases online. If there’s a shipping charge, you actually pay more.

    Amazon is slightly better than Barnes&Noble because they don’t have the distributor problems that B&N does. B&N doesn’t warehouse every book from every publisher, and they’ve often told me something is out of print, when it’s in print, simply because they don’t stock it. So that’s bad advice to say a book doesn’t exist if they don’t have it or that you shouldn’t want it.

    I get regular discounts at my local independent bookstore where the people who work there know every book in the store intimately, and when I need something, i talk to them and they give me great guidance. Online bookbuying is not the place to go for that sort of thing.

  • DK

    @ Dan : You want book advice? Try a library. You want a great deal on a book? Use the internet.

  • VS

    No.

    Don’t buy prescription spectacles online. Buy them in Asia in person and push for a better price.

    In most of Asia, top grade frames and lenses are about one fifth of the price in UK, EU, USA and AU.

    I bought three pairs of top brand name frames with Japanese lenses for the price that one pair of crap frames and low-grade lenses would have cost in Sydney, AU.

  • http://jackbusch.com jack

    Somehow, I feel like the plane ticket to Japan might be a bit pricier than the shipping and handling from Goggles4U….

    But that’s a good tip for the next time I’m in the area. I’m gonna buy out the joint and hope that my prescription doesn’t change.
    .-= jack´s last blog ..How to Bust Open an iPod Touch =-.

  • http://www.asseenontvpromo.com TV Fan

    I don’t know about the infomercial products. They really charge you an arm and a land for shipping when you order online or over the phone. Plus they usually try to upsell you a whole lot of stuff too.
    .-= TV Fan´s last blog ..Resmedin =-.

  • http://www.hiphoptrade.com hip hop

    one place you should buy online

  • Vijay Sharma

    I have been using price comparison sites like http://www.thecollegetextbooks.net for buying my textbooks. It is better than going for standalone stores. As you can save on lot of money using them.

  • Steven

    As for books most people are now buying ebooks and Amazon has a huge selection of $2.99 books. I picked up some great titles last week.

    I disagree about glasses for two reasons. First since I wear them all the time I want to make sure they fit me and look good. Second I have owned the same pair of RayBans for almost five years and they are in like new condition. Sometimes it pays to go name brand.

  • louis

    yes, books are important and how about the brand sunglasses? It can be very cheap price for them.

    http://www.buybrandsunglass.com/

  • louis

    yes, how about to buy the brand sunglass from here?
    http://www.buybrandsunglass.com/

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