Here at PCWorld, we do our best to keep you informed on great deals in tech, but sometimes that’s just not enough. We can’t possibly anticipate everything you might want to buy online, especially when the products are too niche or when they fall outside the realm of tech entirely.
That’s why rolling your own deal alerts is an invaluable skill for saving money online. By setting up alerts and reminders for just the products you actually care about, you’ll stand less chance of missing out when prices fall, and you’ll avoid getting duped by “sales” on products with inflated list prices.
With Amazon Prime Day set for June 21 and June 22, now’s the perfect time to get situated. Here are a handful of my favorite tools for tracking prices online, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
For Amazon in particular, CamelCamelCamel (pictured above) is a tool that no shopper should be without, as it allows you to view the price history of any product on the site and set up email alerts when prices fall.
To look up a product on CamelCamelCamel, either search for it by name or copy and paste the entire Amazon product page address into CamelCamelCamel’s search bar. You’ll see a line graph of the product’s price over time, along with an alert setup box for entering a desired price and your email address. You can also add the Camelizer extension to Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, letting you load the price history with one click from any Amazon listing.
Keep in mind that CamelCamelCamel tracks prices separately for third-party merchants and used products, so you’ll have to set up additional alerts for each of the listings, but there’s no limit on how many alerts you can set up.
Google Shopping for other retailers
For more price history insights on non-Amazon stores, give Google’s Shopping website a try, as it has a somewhat-hidden ability to get alerts from other retailers. Here’s how to find it:
Search for any product on the Shopping homepage.
Scroll past the initial list of “Sponsored” listings at the top
Click the name of the product you want to track
Click the blue “View product details” link in the expanded info box.
On the next page, look for the box showing a range of typical prices, and click the “Track price” toggle underneath.
Just one caveat: Google Shopping has a nasty habit of occasionally listing unscrupulous retailers alongside legitimate ones. If a price looks too good to be true on a site you’ve never heard of, ignore it.
Honey or Microsoft Edge for store-specific intel
While browsing the web on your desktop, you’ve also got a couple other tools at your disposal.
Honey is a free browser extension for Chrome or Firefox that acts like a smart shopping assistant. Once installed, you’ll see a little orange logo near the top-right of your browser on sites like Amazon or Best Buy. Hovering over it will show you the product’s 30-day price history, and if you click “See price history,” it’ll bring up a larger chart where you can view up to four months of data. If you want to get alerts for better prices, you can select “Add to Droplist” in the pop-up menu. (By default, the extension also automatically syncs any items you add to your Amazon wishlist.)
Occasionally, Honey can also save you money on the spot, either by finding coupons at checkout or letting you buy discounted gift cards equal to the price of the item in your cart.
If you’d rather not install another browser extension, Microsoft Edge has some similar shopping tools built in. Just click on the price tag icon in your address bar while shopping on popular retail sites, and you’ll see both a price history and any applicable coupons. It can also tell you if another site is selling the same product for less.
The downside with both of these tools is that their price histories only apply to one store at a time, so they don’t give you a full sense of what really counts as a great deal.
Slickdeals to cast a wider net
When you’re not sure exactly what you’re looking for, Slickdeals can send custom deal alerts across a wide range of retailers and products. While you can use it to get alerts on specific products, it’s also useful for searching across entire product categories, as Slickdeals’ community has a knack for digging up great discounts.
To get started, create a Slickdeals account, then head to the deal alerts page. Specify a keyword, category, store, or brand, then hit “More options,” and make sure you’ve selected “Email” for the notification method. You can also install the Slickdeals app for iOS or Android to get push notifications on your phone. Finally, consider adjusting the Rating slider to filter out deals of lesser quality. I suggest only getting alerts for deals that have at least one “fire” icon.
Now comes the hard part…
Even if you set up a whole bunch of deal alerts, it’ll probably be a while until prices drop to the level you’ve specified. Now, it’s just a matter of being patient, and resisting the urge to impulse-buy things that aren’t on your list already.
A version of this article first appeared in Advisorator, Jared’s weekly newsletter for making sense of technology. Sign up to get tips like this in your inbox.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.