Black Friday isn’t too far away and the gifting season is almost upon us so wouldn’t it be great if it was possible to stay up to date on deals and the prices of products that you’re interested in? That’s what we’ll cover this week. But first let me warn you about clicking on links in emails, text messages and, well, links in general.
Just because a link says it goes to a particular website doesn’t mean that it really links to that site. And for shortened links like I use and other link shorteners like bit.ly, there’s no way to know where they’ll really take you. There are sites that are specifically made to unshorten links. https://checkshorturl.com/ is one such site (note that I’m giving you the actual URL rather than shortening it with a ttot.link URL). Have a look at https://go.ttot.link/UnshortenURLs for details on how to verify links. In light of this advice I won’t use many short links in this column. Feel free to verify my short links before using them.
There are lots of sites out there that aggregate bargains in all sorts of categories. Some will watch a particular product for you and let you know when it’s selling for a lower price, others just have lists of sales or promotions often divided into searchable categories. I have a few sites that I like to use and I’ll cover those. And there are browser plug-ins and extensions that can see the product you’re viewing and tell you if you can get it for a lower price elsewhere. In this case, though, you should be aware that the extension will see all of the sites you visit, not just Amazon or Best Buy, and send that information to a site that checks to see if you’re looking at a product that they track. In other words you’re opening yourself up to more tracking. If you use the Chrome browser on a desktop (i.e. MacBook, Laptop, Chromebook) you can mark the extension so it won’t have access to any site unless you click on the extensions icon in its Button or ToolBar (read more about the ToolBar at https://go.ttot.link/ChromeToolBar including how to only show certain extensions in the bar).
I’ll list a few Chrome extensions I use.
First up is my favorite price tracker — https://www.camelcamelcamel.com/. Sign up for a free account and you can have it track products for you on Amazon, complete with a price history. You can search for a product or give it Amazon’s URL for the product and it will show you the product’s price history and give you the option to track it, sending you an email when the price goes below a threshold you specify. They have a browser extension but I don’t track very many items so I’m happy just using the site.
A site I like to visit every so often is https://www.pcmag.com/deals. It has categorized the deals by brand, and also has a list of all the latest deals. But I generally prefer to read their Tech Deals email newsletter every day. Sign up at https://www.pcmag.com/newsletter_manage.
The site https://www.cnet.com/deals/ shows the latest deals and can also show deals by category. It also has links to reviews, their “best” products, comparisons (called Versus), a gift guide, and coupons from all sorts of retailers. CNet also has newsletters including the CNet deals and promotions newsletter. You can sign up for newsletters at https://www.cnet.com/newsletters/.
MakeUseOf is a site I visit often for tech news and how-tos, but they also have a pretty good list of deals and promotions at https://www.makeuseof.com/category/best-deals/ and a newsletter that encompasses everything they track including news and deals. You can sign up for their daily newsletter at https://www.makeuseof.com/subscribe/.
Ben’s Bargains (https://bensbargains.com/) is another really good site to visit for deals of all sorts. Their main page can show their hottest deals or their newest deals but they can also show them by store at https://bensbargains.com/s/ (e.g. amazon, best buy, target), by category at https://bensbargains.com/c/ (e.g.mobile, pets, electronics and tech), by brand at https://bensbargains.com/b/ (e.g. Apple, Craftsman, Samsung), and you can get alerts by keyword and price range at https://bensbargains.com/alert-manager/.
Tech Bargains at https://www.techbargains.com/ and Slick Deals at https://slickdeals.net/ are two more sites that I use on occasion. Tech Bargains lists current deals on their main page but they have also categorized deals so you can select certain categories to only see those deals. They also have a search and you can sign up for their newsletter. Slick deals has categories at https://slickdeals.net/deal-categories/ as well as search and a lot of different ways to set up and receive alerts for deals that you’re interested in. See https://slickdeals.net/deal-alerts/.
I love Wirecutter deals (at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/deals/). You can specify category and percent off but I also use their main page at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/ for all sorts of things including their “best” products in all sorts of categories. They have a daily email newsletter which you can get at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/newsletters/wirecutter-daily/. They also have a paid subscription at https://www.nytimes.com/subscription/wirecutter.
Three browser extensions I’ve used are CNet Shopping (https://www.cnet.com/shopping/), Honey from Paypal (https://joinhoney.com) and Rakuten. The first two do pretty much what you’d expect — they inspect the page you’re on (re-read my caution at the beginning of this column) to see if they can find a better price or coupons to help reduce the price. Rakuten is a bit different in that they pay you to shop at certain sites. That’s right, they will send you a check. Their Chrome extension will tell you if the site you’re visiting is eligible for cash back or you can start at https://www.rakuten.com/ and click on a store. You’ll be redirected to that store after seeing how much you can get back in cash. Some stores give you 1%, others as much as 10% and others occasionally much much more. They rotate promotions which can increase how much you’ll get back. I’ve gotten about $50 from them so far.
Feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at t[email protected] or just drop me a quick note and say hi!
Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.