Use your imagination

Friday, February 10, 2006

How to get higher priced stuff cheaper

My family and I recently moved and in the process we sold most of our furniture and bulky items to make the move easier. We also had a lot of older furniture that we figured we'd just replace with new furniture after the move.

I had my own office in our old house in which I built my own "executive" computer desk. I designed the desk just for the space that it was placed and therefore left it when we moved. While I very much enjoyed creating my custom desk in our old house I didn't have the time to design and build another in our new house. I was now faced with buying all new furniture for my new office.

We looked around for about a week trying to find something nice, but everything that was somewhat nice (not particle board) was priced higher than we wanted to pay. While surfing the net one day I somehow stumbled across gift cards up for sale on eBay. I had also been looking at a specific desk at Office Depot that I was thinking might work. This lead me to my mission to see how much I could save on decking out my office on the cheap.

My first step in getting discounted furniture was to check the online deal/coupon sites to see if anyone was offering percentage or money off coupon codes. I was in luck. I found a coupon code at Techbargains for $30 off of $150 at Office Depot. Along with that I found another coupon code for a free five piece luggage set with any purchase over $300. Hey, it made a nice Christmas present for someone;) Another place I checked for coupon codes was xpCoupons.com and they had a lot of the same, but also had a couple that weren't on Techbargains.com. I suggest always checking for coupon codes online first before purchasing any big ticket item.

The desk I wanted to purchase along with three book cases originally came to a total of $509.96 without tax. Now minus the $30 coupon and we're at $479.96.

The next step I took was to go onto eBay and search for large dollar amount Office Depot gift cards on auction. The timeframe for this was just before Christmas, so I think I found a lot more than usual. I am attributing this to people buying gifts and getting promotional deals, like free gift cards, along with it or receiving the gift card as a gift, but they don't want anything at the store where the gift card must be used. They then decide to turn into cash they can use anywhere and post it on eBay.

I found that it is usually better to get the higher dollar value cards because you end up saving a larger percentage. I was looking for two $200 gift cards for at most $180 in order to save a total of $40 more. The only way to get what you want on eBay at the price you want is to use sniping software. In case you don't know what this is, it is software that runs on you're system and watches auctions that you specify. You can enter the maximum bid amount that you are willing to pay as a "Snipe" bid, meaning the software will wait until a user defined time before the auction is about to end, like 10 seconds, and then will "snipe" your bid into the auction for you. This is good because by not placing your bid onto the auction site until the auction end you don't drive the bid price up any more than it already is, which in turn increases your chances for winning the auction at the price you want.

There is a lot of good free and pay for bid sniping software out there. Just Google for "ebay sniping" or something along those lines. One of the features I suggest looking for is the ability to "group" or "multisnipe" auction bids. This will allow you to queue bids on a number of same item auctions and the software will place your max bids on each auction until you win one. One free package that I've used is JBidWatcher. I like this one again because it is written in Java which is what I know, and it has worked like a charm for many auction wins for me. Using this software I was able to score two $200 gift cards for $180 a piece. Note that I got free shipping on both, which is something you should always consider before bidding on an auction. One of the auctions originally stated $5.00 shipping, but after I won the auction I e-mailed the seller and asked them to just e-mail me the coupon code and requested a return for the shipping cost. The seller agreed to this, as I expect most will. Also, always buy from reputable sellers!

Now I had my two gift cards valuing $400 total and costing me only $360. That's another $40 saved bringing my total to $439.96, about 14% saved so far. I noticed there were more x dollars off of a certain dollar amount coupons on the coupon code sites, so I wondered if I could stack those on. The next coupon down was $20 off of $100. The Office Depot web site would not allow me to stack the dollar off coupons in a single order, so I ordered the desk in one order and the book cases in a second order. The book case costs added up to just over $100 and sure enough the $20 off coupon code worked for them. This now brings my savings to $90 off or $419.96, 17.5% saved.

I was happy with these savings, but then two days after ording it all I get a flyer in the mail and the desk is on sale for $65 less. I immediately called them up and requested a refund for the difference. Office Depot gave me no problems and sent a $65 check for the difference. Bringing my total saved now to $155 or 30%! It always pays to watch the sales flyers, even after you've already purchased something.

To sum up, check for coupon codes, check for gift cards on eBay, watch sales flyers. Another good tip if you ever buy anything from Dell, they always have coupon codes that anyone can get for free and sometimes codes that people have gotten in the mail and then sell on eBay on the cheap. I used this tactic to purchase my 37 inch Dell LCD TV that I mentioned in my last post and got about a $600 savings on it. You can often purchase Dell coupon codes on eBay for under a $1.00 and if it ends up saving you $20.00 I'd say it is worth it. However always check the coupon code sites first to make sure you aren't buying a freely available code.

Now go get a really nice dinner with that money you saved, or maybe a cheap burrito;)


  • At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yes indeed. i'm an addicted member at fatwallet.com so saving some cash is always on my mind. techbargains has some great deals and it is true that you basically need to check them all when you want to go out and purchase something large such as a desk.

    kudos on the savings. ;)

  • At 3:26 PM, Blogger WhoopJack said…

    A few people mentioned the time vs cost savings. Here is my estimate of how much time it took: Finding coupon codes - 10 minutes, Finding eBay auctions - 30 minutes (the automated sniping software does most of the work for you so I'm not counting the time it watches the auctions, just my actual work time), looking at sales flyer and calling for refund - 15 minutes. So about an hour overall for $155 saved. I think it's worth the effort.


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