Fri, Feb 03, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Life, liberty, happiness and a bargain

The Internet is a great tool to save money and a number of new Web sites are making this easier

DPA , WASHINGTON

For bargain hunters, the Internet means never having to pay full price again. At any given time online, there are 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 (www.kelko.com) Pricegrabber (www.pricegrabber.com), and Shopping.com (www.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 -- hardly a comprehensive view of the prices and deals actually being offered by a large sampling of Internet vendors. 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.comforums) 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, out of the UK, 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.

Cyber-coupons 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 of hot items, including 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 (www.techbargains.com), which culls coupon codes and deals from the Internet's leading tech retailers, including Dell, Newegg.com, and ZipZoomFly.

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

It's true that getting acquainted with all of the bargain-hunting sites available will take some time -- but so does working extra hard to make the money necessary to pay full price. So as you're bookmarking your favorites in a quest never to pay more than you have to, just remember the words of that famously frugal US inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin: "A penny saved is a penny earned."

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