How To Get the Best Deals on the Internets


Johnny and I cringe when one of us brings up wanting to get a big ticket item (e.g., a computer, TV, camera, or PS3 *coughJohnnycough*). But just this weekend, it was yours truly who brought it up. I’ve decided that we need a new camera. Our current camera can’t record videos, and I’m pretty set on recording decent looking vids of Baby Girl. When I brought it up to Johnny, he agreed with my sentiment (amazing!!) because he treasures his family’s home video collection. But just because he agreed doesn’t mean we’ll drive to the store and buy one tomorrow. He needs to find a deal. That’s when things start getting carayzeee. And why do things get crazy? Well, because our deal finding mission commences.

How It Works

Well, let me start with our last camera purchase. It was Christmas 2010, and I wanted a DSLR camera. I mean, realllly wanted. The only thing holding me back from getting it was the price, which was over $600. So Christmas 2010 came and went without getting a camera. Little did I know that Johnny was secretly doing our deal finding method without me. And so six months later (on our anniversary no less!), he surprised me with a DSLR camera.

It was a refurbished Canon Rebel XSi (an older model) with an 18-55mm lens. It was $500 on Canon’s website. The promotion he got it with also included an $80 bag and $20 2 GB memory card for free. And on top of all that, Canon was also running a 30% sale with a promo code, so subtract $150 from that total. And he got $10 cash back from Ebates, which I’ll explain in a bit. So the total? Only $340. At regular price on Amazon TODAY, just the Canon Rebel kit (without the bag and SD card) costs $700. Johnny done good.

This is me testing out our camera the day we got it. 🙂

For every big purchase we make, we wait to buy until the perfect deal comes along. So for the new camera I’m eyeing, we’ll go through the same song and dance we went through with the other camera. Here are the deets of the method we use for finding deals online.

Finding the Deal

If you’re into deals, you’re probably already a regular here. Slickdeals is a user-generated community of deal hunters that lists the best deals they find on the Internet. Johnny subscribes to their Popular Deals RSS feed. He also sets up a deal alert so that he gets an email as soon as the wanted product has a deal added.

Once you get over their weird site name, this is a great place to start. CamelCamelCamel keeps track of a product’s historical cost on Amazon. For the camera I want, I can check its price history and see its all-time lowest price. This gives me a baseline for deal hunting. I can also set up deal alerts so that if the camera ever goes below a certain price, I’ll be notified.

Buying the Deal

The fun doesn’t stop once we’ve found the deal. There’s still money to be saved!

Ebates is a site that gives you cash back when you shop or use a coupon through their site at most online stores. For instance, when Johnny bought my camera, he visited Ebates, found Canon’s store on their site and clicked the link. After the purchase, we got 3% ($10) cash back. Since  joining the site (which is totally freeeeee), we’ve pocketed an extra $78 for just clicking their link before shopping. It’s pretty much awesome. *FYI, this is an affiliate link, so if you sign up from us, we get some Diet Coke money (not buy-a-house money).

We also always check RetailMeNot before we make any (big or small) online purchase to see if there are any coupons or promo codes for the site we’re purchasing from. If there’s a coupon code or deal to be had, they’ve usually got it.

Honorable Mention

We buy refurbished. A lot. We buy all of our Apple products refurbished. It’s like a brand new product with warranty and all, except a few hundred dollars less. Many online stores have a refurbished section, so poke around.

We buy from sites that offer free shipping. I pay for shipping about 1 in every 100 purchases we make online. Free shipping is increasingly available, so look for it!

So that’s the song and dance we’ll follow before I get my next camera body. Johnny’s already set up the deal alerts on SlickDeals and CamelCamelCamel. And another perk of getting a good deal on a big ticket item? When we go to sell that item (such as our current camera) we’ll be able to get what we paid for it, if not more!

What’s the method to your madness for finding deals? Any special sauce you’re willing to share? After reading this, do you think we’re nuts (cause I DO!)?

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies March 25, 2013 at 7:49 am

    For big things, we like to buy through our credit card’s online bonus mall (Chase and Discover are the ones we use). We usually end up with between 5-10% additional off our online purchase in the form of bonus rewards on our credit card… but on big stuff (like our refurb Apple products!) it adds up. =)

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      That’s a great idea. We use our main credit card for sky miles, but I’d like one of my own for bonus rewards!

  • Reply Johnny Moneyseed March 25, 2013 at 7:51 am

    We tend to buy a lot of things refurbished as well. Our best purchase was through Amazon. It was a Dyson vacuum cleaner that retailed at $600. We snatched that sucka for $300. Ohhh yeaaa!

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Wow! That’s a great deal. Dyson is to vacuums as Apple is to computers — the best, in our book anyway. That’s an item we’d love to find a deal on!

  • Reply Emory March 25, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I drive my husband crazy because a purchase just isn’t as attractive to me if I don’t get at least 40% off the retail price on it. He is a shopper of convenience where I am a shopper of savings. And I mean BIG savings. I can’t name a single big ticket item we have paid full price for yet. When shopping online we typically will wait for something to come up via groupon or livingsocial. We were able to purchase a new mattress for about 30% of the market value. It was quite the steal and so much more satisfying to sleep on knowing we saved a ton of money.

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:21 pm

      I hear ya, Emory! You’re so right about the satisfaction factor of getting a great deal. Getting a nice item for a steal makes it 1000x better. Way to be a savvy shopper! I especially love when someone tells me they like a piece of clothing that I got for cheap. It takes all my willpower not to burst out, “THANKS! It was only $4!!!!!!!” 😀

  • Reply Brian March 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Depending on where I buy something I always try to double dip. Basically you buy an e-gift card through a shopping portal (I use Chase alot, but i usually check to see who has the highest payout) and then I go back through the portal and make the purchase with my e-gift card. Sometimes you can get 20X points for this. Of course you have to follow the terms and conditions but for the most part this works more than it doesn’t.

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Oooh, very smart. I’ve actually never tried that, but I really want to now. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t currently have a shopping rewards CC. I would have way too much fun with double dipping!!

  • Reply Chris March 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for sharing. I think this is a good strategy for big ticket purchases. I think this kind of strategy fights that impulsive urge to BUY immediately. Good things come to those who wait, right?

    I’m in the market for a new laptop and have considered the refurbished route, but would rather seek out the deal of a new one instead. I guess it’s important to know your threshold on what you’re willing to spend on something refurbished.

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Yeah, we have friends who would never, ever buy an electronic item refurbished. They just don’t trust it unless it’s brand new. So far Johnny have had good experiences going the refurbished route, so I think we’ll continue on that path. Good luck with your quest in getting a laptop! Keep an eye out, and a deal WILL pop up!

  • Reply Katie @ AdventuringAtHome March 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Hi Joanna!
    I found you guys last week through NiceGirlNotes, and I’m loving going through your archives. I’ve been thinking about investing in a DSLR, but I know nothing about photography (besides that the camera on my phone isn’t cutting it!). Was it hard to choose and learn how to use your first one, or is it totally worth the learning curve? I’ll probably be using some of these tips to start shopping for one soon…Unless perhaps I could just buy yours? 🙂 Ha!

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Welcome, Katie! Thanks for reading.

      When I got my camera, a few of my close friends had DSLRs, so I was able to figure out what brand/model I wanted from them. And there are a ton of resources online where people compare/review different DSLRs, so just search what you’re wondering in Google (e.g., one model/brand vs another model/brand).

      As far as the learning curve goes, I watched a TON of YouTube videos with tutorials on using a DSLR. And until you get the hang of Manual, you can always shoot in Auto, which is basically just focusing and shooting. But by learning how to shoot in Manual, you can manipulate the settings to get the exact photo you want. I forced myself to only shoot in Manual for a couple months until I knew how to use the camera without having to think about it. There’s a lot to learn in the beginning, but I had a lot of fun with it, and I think you will, too!

      Knowing Johnny and how meticulous he is with finding deals, it will probably be at least a few months before we get our new camera, haha. But if he happens to find a deal soon, and we’re about to sell our current one, I’ll let you know!

      I have a post in the works about how I learned to use our DSLR (without paying any money!), which I should be posting in the next week or two, so I’ll have more details there (as if this comment isn’t detailed enough, haha!). 😀

  • Reply Chris March 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I always Google coupon codes. That’s about as far as I get. But I really don’t buy things online that much. I will have to try this method next time I need an iDevice or some other big electronic item. Do you ever go check eBay or some other auction type website before making the purchase?

    • Reply Joanna March 25, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      We haven’t used eBay for anything for a few years, but we still use Craigslist pretty often. But when it comes to electronics, we definitely prefer buying refurbished from a retailer so we can know that there’s a certain quality assurance that we can expect. If it’s a high quality company (such as Apple or Canon), their refurbished items are as good as new.

  • Reply Sara March 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Gotta love Ebates! I do most of my Christmas shopping online and this was the first year in which I used Ebates before every purchase. You might think that 2-3% isn’t much but I quickly earned about $10. I have Ebates bookmarked on my toolbar so I see it all the time because if I didn’t I would totally forget about it!

    • Reply Joanna March 26, 2013 at 12:41 am

      Isn’t it great? I buy the majority of our stuff online, especially now that going shopping is even more inconvenient with a baby. Ebates makes it a little more fun.

      We have it on our toolbar, too! 🙂

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt RoundUp March 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    My wife leaves deal hunting tasks up to me. She tells me what she wants and lets me go. I do very similar things as you. I look, I wait, I pounce. There is nothing wrong with it and it has saved me quite a bit.

    • Reply Joanna March 26, 2013 at 12:45 am

      I leave deal hunting up to Johnny a lot of the time, too. Luckily, he loves it and sees it as a fun challenge. He’s much more patient than I am, too… if it were solely up to me, we would rarely find great deals. 🙂

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey March 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I am in desperate need of a new laptop. I’ll have to give Apple’s refurbished section a look. Thanks for the tip.

    • Reply Joanna March 26, 2013 at 12:46 am

      It’s never let us down yet! Good luck in your search!

  • Reply jrm March 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Lots of good stuff here. Instead of ebates I use a similar program through Delta airline frequent flier miles program. Rather than a % of cash back, I earn miles for shopping theough them. It’s not Skymall. – lots of everyday stores. Up 500 miles since December.

    • Reply Joanna March 26, 2013 at 12:50 am

      That’s cool! I know there are opportunities to maximize our airline credit card reward points, but we’ve yet to look into it. We earn points for every purchase, but I’m definitely gonna get on the shopping aspect ASAP! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls March 26, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Ebates. Is. Awesome. I have been an avid user for about 18 months and have earned $150! I always deposit the funds to my girls’ savings accounts. I treat it the same as my change. It all goes in their piggies! I love the toolbar that automatically tells me the site I’m on gives cash back so I never miss out. I also use my perkstreet card to get additional 1-2% cash back and those earnings are cashed out for Christmas spending. We had about $500 this past Christmas and we spent very little out of pocket.

    • Reply Johnny March 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Shoooot, you’ve racked those savings up! Good for you. And thanks for the heads up on the toolbar. My greatest frustration is forgetting to go through their site first.

  • Reply March 28, 2013 at 12:33 am

    This is so great! We also got a new camera for Christmas 2012 and it has HD video. So great! My husband and I spend about 3 days solid scouring for the best deal and we came out with a pretty great camera at a stinkin good price. Wish we had read this article before we purchased though. Would have saved us some time! We’ll know for next time though.

    • Reply Johnny March 29, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      The best deals have to be found. They’re almost never the first one you stumble across. Since this will be one of our biggest ticket items yet in our marriage, you better believe we’ll be taking our sweet time on finding the needle in the haystack deal.

  • Reply Sorryifthisisannoying April 23, 2013 at 5:48 am

    You’re holding the camera lens wrong… sorry the photographer in me is bothered. But then again, it’s a 55mm lens so it’s relatively light so I don’t think it matters and I’m just being ridiculous here. Sorry if this is rude/annoying/insulting/remindsyouoftherudecommentersonblogs! Let’s just say holding the camera wrong is one of my weird idiosyncracies (: I apologise deeply!

    • Reply Joanna April 23, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Well, like the post says, that was the first day holding our camera. But it’s a heck of a lot better than how I held it when it first came out of the box! 😀

      • Reply Sorryifthisisannoying April 23, 2013 at 8:57 pm

        It’s amazing how many new things we learn everyday, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Reply Kendal @HassleFreeSaver April 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Great post! I’m a big fan of Amazon and use or for coupon codes (similar to RTMN). I also sign up for those annoying promotional emails so I can get new member offers and see what sales are coming up. Based on this post and other comments, I need to check out Ebates!

  • Reply Dave Gibbons April 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    If you want price history, you should try It allows you to do price comparison (with full price history) across many dozens of websites, not just Amazon.

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