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.
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.
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.
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.