Price Alerts Help You Save Money

February 2016

Raise your hand if you like to save money. Yep, it's unanimous. This month we have several tips for saving money when purchasing online.

The most obvious way to save is by using a price-comparison search engine to find which website has the lowest price. These have been around since the 1990s, and you have many options. I like Google Shopping. As on Amazon you can filter your searches by price range, brand, category, features, and more.

The most amazing trick I've come across is FreePriceAlerts.com. It offers a browser add-on for Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. When you're shopping and you've selected a product, the add-on is quietly searching other shopping sites in the background. A small window pops up showing you the same item but for a much lower price.

For example, I searched on Amazon for Wilson US Open tennis balls. It came up with a price of $5.39. Then a little window popped up with a link to a site selling the same item for $1.36.

I found the FreePriceAlerts site easy to use. You simply click on a large button that says CLICK TO ADD, and you're set. It worked great in my Chrome browser, but I kept getting an error message in Safari. It may be because FreePriceAlerts has apparently become Ziftr Alerts. And one downloads the Ziftr Alerts add-ons from the websites that contain repositories of add-ons for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.

A similar add-on for Chrome is InvisibleHand, which can be downloaded at www.google.com/chrome/webstore.

The most eye-opening site I've come across is the oddly named CamelCamelCamel.com. First you do a search on Amazon and find the product you want. Then you enter the URL for that specific product into the search bar on the Camel website. Do a search and the site shows you the pricing history for that item.

I'd heard about dynamic pricing online, but this is ridiculous. That $5.39 can of Wilson US Open tennis balls has fluctuated between $3.19 on Oct. 5, 2013, and $10.38 on Sept. 30, 2014. And just 10 days ago as I write this the price was $7.10.

What's the point of knowing this? Especially if it's a more expensive item, you get a sense for what a reasonable price might be. And you can sign up on the Camel website to track the price of the item in order to catch future low price points. Once you've done the above search, you can click on the Start Tracking link and specify what price you'd like to pay. I entered $3.50 for that can of tennis balls. Now when the price drops below that price point, I'll receive an email alert.

And while we're talking about dynamic pricing, try using different browsers when looking at a product. According to the New York Times, a person shopping for a Samsung TV on the Newegg website saw a price of $997 using a Chrome browser, but got a price of $1,399 using Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Another good site for price alerts is PriceGrabber.com. First, search for a specific product. (If you get a list, then narrow your search until you get one result.) Then to the right of the price you'll see Set Price Alert. Click on that, and as with the Camel site, you'll be able to set your target price. You'll then receive an email when the price falls below your target. The advantage of this site over Camel is that it searches over 2,000 retailers whereas Camel is focused on Amazon.

In addition, there are sites that focus on particular product categories. For example, if you're a bookworm, there are websites that will alert you to deals on books. BookBub.com lets you search for a particular title and bookmark it as a book you're interested in purchasing. You'll then receive an email alert if there's a special deal on this book.

eReaderIQ.com is similar but has many more features and is very easy to use. I'm interested in the book Written in Stone about the origin of modern language. A search on the site shows the price of $14.16, as well as the price history. The site also gives a recommendation that I track it, saying it's likely the price will drop below $10. As with other sites above, I can specify my target price and then receive an alert when the book reaches that price. Or I can specify a price drop of a specific amount or percent in order to trigger the alert.

I hope you find these and similar tools useful.

This month's hot tip:

Slice alerts you if a price drops AFTER you've bought an item and helps you get a refund.

© 2016 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen