Cables, converters and similar accessories are some of the most overpriced items you can buy in the electronics department at your local store.
When they break you really want a replacement fast so you can get back to using that cell phone or listening to that iPod. But it pays to wait. In some cases I've saved up to 90 percent. On a $30 cable that may sound like pocket change. But $20 here, $10 there and pretty soon you're talking about serious money. I saved over $100 in the last month and you can too. The best part is it really takes no time at all to find good deals online.
Cell phone cable
After our cat chewed through my daughter's cell phone charger cable we took a trip to the Verizon store to inquire about a replacement. The cost? $29.99. My teenage daughter, who wants instant gratification, was horrified when I said it was too much to pay for a tiny wire connected to an AC/DC converter. (Although not horrified enough to buy it for herself). Yes, I am cheap. But I told her that if I couldn't find a replacement online for significantly less than the Verizon price I'd go back and buy it for her.
I like to use Amazon.com and Google Search initially for generic items like cables. If I have more to go on, I'll give one or more shopping bot sites, like Pricegrabber.com, Shopzilla, and Shopping.com, a whirl.
Within minutes, I found a suitable replacement at cellphoneshop.com. The price: An astounding 90% off the Verizon price, or $2.99. Even with the $4.99 shipping we were ahead of the game. So I gave her a choice. Pay the difference or wait for the cable in the mail. She chose the latter. The package arrived, all the way from Hong Kong, four days later. It worked just fine.
Total savings: $22.01.
I needed a 25-foot S-video cable for watching Hulu programming from my laptop (Can we get by without Comcast?). Radio Shack price: $20. Price through Amazon.com affiliate BargainCell: $5.47 plus $2.98 shipping.
Total savings: $11.55
I also wanted a PC to TV (VGA to S-video) converter box. The cost at my local Radio Shack: $89. I found one from Amazon.com for $32. But I ended up buying a USB-powered unit from Amazon affiliate CablesOnline for $39.99 + $6.99 shipping.
Total savings: $42.02
VGA extension cable
When I needed a longer VGA cable for my external monitor I found a 10-foot high resolution male to male VGA monitor/audio cable from Amazon.com affiliate Eforcity for $6.53 + $2.98 shipping. Local price: $30.
Total savings: $20.49
iPod audio visual cable
I wanted to connect the iPod to a stereo receiver without spending $100 on a specialized dock. I needed an iPod A/V cable. Amazon.com affiliate BargainCell offered one for just $5.89 + $2.98 shipping. Think Walmart could beat it? Think again. Walmart price: $29.88.
Total savings: $21.01
Savings come to he who waits by the mailbox. My grand total for the last two months: $117.09 - enough to pay my electric bill for April.
The Amazon Factor
Notice a common thread here? It's Amazon.com. Thanks to its affiliates I ended up buying four of the five items I needed through Amazon.com over the past month. The prices were great. But there's another reason I went that direction: Reassurance. I don't know CablesOnline from a hole in the wall. But I'm more likely to buy from them when Amazon is backing up the transaction.
Every package arrived in working order within five business days of when I ordered it.
Items sold through Amazon don't always come up in the shopping bot results, so it's worth doing a separate Amazon search before making a decision. I'm finding that, as often as not, their network is very competitive.
This story, "How to Save Big on the Small Stuff" was originally published by Computerworld.