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Bargain hunter's guide to net shopping

For bargain hunters, the Internet means never having to pay full prices again thanks to countless special offers, one-time deals, closeout sales.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 13:21 IST

For bargain hunters, the Internet means never having to pay full prices again thanks to countless special offers, one-time deals, closeout sales, and outright giveaways in virtually every product category. The difficulty lies in finding great deals on the items you want when you want them.

Sure, you can always go to one of the Internet's big price comparison search engines to ferret out the best highly advertised prices. Well-known price comparison search engine such as Kelko.com, pricegrabber.com and Shopping.com make searching for the best prices as easy as using a search engine.

But these large price comparison sites have their limitations.

First, only participating vendors are listed by the major lowest-price engines. Second, these search engines do not list any money-saving coupons or special offers available online.

So serious bargain hunters need more - and they find it in a variety of online venues.

Fat Wallet (www.fatwallet.com/forums/) is all about consumers helping other consumers find the best deals. The site's motto, "We believe all consumers have a right to pursue great deals," underscores its mission. And to that end, the site's discussion and bargain sharing forums are filled with members who have hunted down great deals on products ranging from digital cameras to frying pans.

MoneySavingExpert.com is similar to Fat Wallet, and it aims to be a one-stop location for deal lovers of all stripes. A self-described "consumer revenge" portal, MoneySavingExpert is one of the Internet's fastest-growing consumer discussion sites, according to Big-Boards.com, which tracks activity on Internet chat boards.

The site offers free chat areas for shoppers to provide up-to-the-minute news to one another on deals and giveaways in forums with titles such as "shop but don't drop," "grab it while you can," and "freebies."

The news is disseminated quickly here. Thankfully, you can use the site's handy search feature to hone in quickly on deals for the type of products you're seeking.

Cyber-coupons are a great way to get deep discounts on products online. Online vendors have learned that Internet shoppers are inspired by online one-time use coupons - which offer limited-time savings to those who act quickly.

Computer maker Dell, for instance, often distributes special "coupon codes" to bargain-hunter Internet sites. When used at checkout, these codes can result in savings of as much as 50 per cent off on items such as notebook computers and flat panel displays.

That's why savvy bargain hunters are bookmarking a bunch of coupon sites these days. For tech bargains, there's the appropriately named Techbargains.com, which culls coupon codes and deals from the Internet's leading tech retailers, including Dell, Newegg.com, and ZipZoomFly.

You'll also find the latest special offers from the major hardware and software makers themselves - everything from deals on the iPod to Hewlett-Packard's latest discounts.

For general coupons for all types of merchandise, wow-coupons.com offers both traditional paper-based coupons and online coupons. Special categories include travel discounts and rebates.

Ableshoppers.com, another coupon site, makes it easy to browse for coupons by category. Categories include apparel, book and video, computers, health/beauty, sports, among many others.

Closeouts and overstocked items are another prime target of serious bargain hunters. Overstock.com is the undisputed champ of bargain sites that specialise in offering items that have been deemed "excess merchandise" by other merchants.

The portal takes care of listing and selling the items, which now include handcrafted goods from around the world as well as deals on flights, rental cars, and hotels.

Smartbargains.com, similar to Overstock.com, is another general discount and overstock site, with discounts posted for everything from MP3 players to jewelry.

You'll typically find items here that have already been discounted by 35 to 70 per cent from their retail prices. Join the site's SmartShopper Club, which features a free e-mail newsletter, and you'll receive first notification of new sales.

As you're bookmarking your favourites in a quest never to pay more than you have to, just remember the words of that famously frugal American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin: "a penny saved is a penny earned."