7 uncommon online purchases that’ll save you time and money

April 15, 2008 by Jared Goralnick

amazon_dogThere’s nothing easier than entering your credit card information and clicking Buy It Now. But there’s more to online shopping than books and electronics. Here are some purchases you might consider making online. As a special bonus, I’ve also listed some of the tricks I use when making regular purchases.

A Note about Amazon Prime

While Amazon Prime is not necessary for the advice in the rest of this article, it’s what has helped me to buy more without leaving the house. For $79/year, Amazon Prime allows you to receive most items on their site at no additional charge. No need to purchase a minimum of $25 and wait a week.

Before Amazon Prime I was either heading out to buy small purchases or adding items to my Amazon orders that I didn’t really need…in order to meet the minimum amount required for free shipping. I earn back the $79 in time saved, in Amazon’s discounts, and in lack of sales tax. It’s a convenience to which I’ve become happily addicted.

Everyday Items You Might Try Purchasing Online

For years I mostly bought electronics, books, and office supplies online. Here are some things I’m happy to now buy online. Some of these might be old-hat for you, but hopefully a few will be new:

  1. zapposthreadlessToiletries – I now buy my toiletries in bulk (for instance, 5 shaving creams instead of one). Often at CVS.com you can not only get free shipping but often save $5-10 off a $50 purchase. On eBay I’ve also bought large quantities of razor blades and fancy hair gel there for less than half the price of buying them retail!
  2. Drugs – I don’t get many prescriptions but I’ve heard you can buy larger quantities for the same insurance copayment online. @markzero recommends drugstore.com
  3. Specialty food – there are some foods I like a very specific brand, and I’ve liked it long enough that I don’t mind hunting for it. Many are hard to find or aren’t available locally. Some of my regular online purchases include Maypo oatmeal, organic Costa Rican coffee, Swee-Touch-Nee tea, and various loose leaf teas from Tealuxe and Seven Cups
  4. Cables – we’ve all heard that it’s the accessories where retailers make their money. My favorite accessory to buy online is cables. Cable Wholesale and eBay usually save me 75% over Radio Shack, Best Buy, or the like
  5. Shoes – my biggest problem finding shoes was always selection, not cost. But between Zappos, Amazon, and Eastbay, I can find exactly what I want. Note that Zappos shipping and return options are unparalleled…and take care of the whole “what if I order the wrong size” with their free return shipping
  6. Clothing – my friends have better luck than I do with clothing online. They swear by the clearance sections of sites like Banana Republic. I’ve had very good luck buying vintage clothing (and Halloween costumes!) on eBay. And if you want a fun T-shirt, nothing beats Threadless, CafePress, and the like
  7. Mainstream artwork – if you’re at a museum or poster store and you see a reprint of a famous piece, you can probably get it framed and shipped to you for half the price online. I’ve mostly used AllPosters.com, but bear in mind that you can usually get 25% off if you wait for a sale there.

Bonus Recommendations

Since I only made it to 7 in the list above, here are a few sites I use for some more regular online purchases:

  • Kayak.com for all flight purchases, especially since it lets me know if I’m buying at the right time
  • Amazon Affiliates for Amazon purchases – may as well get a percent or two back on your Amazon purchases
  • MPix.com for photo prints (really love both the quality and the size of prints they’ll do — just wish they didn’t ditch the photos after a few months)
  • Compuchecks.com for checks and deposit slips
  • Actionenvelope.com for awesome colored and custom-printed envelopes

Got Tips for Technotheory Readers?

Are there things you buy online that most people don’t? Online retailers you recommend? Let folks know in the comments!

This article is the second in a series on Everyday Productivity. You’ll find at least three more posts in April on using your everyday time wisely. If you enjoyed this, I’d love if you subscribed via RSS or email.

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Photo credit for Amazon capture: daveschappell

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14 Responses to “7 uncommon online purchases that’ll save you time and money”

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  1. Elizabeth

    Just made my first threadless purchase. Can’t wait until it comes!

  2. Jared Goralnick

    Their stuff rocks–hope it’s awesome!

  3. Dean

    Very nice article I’m a big Amazon.com Prime fan myself, quick add, you can get a $10 off Drugstore.com coupon here:


  4. Ron Friedmann

    Two online shopping tips:

    1. GENERAL: Check google products (formerly froogle) or other price comparison web sites. I am always amazed at the significant price variations I find on everything from high tech electronics to everyday household items.

    2. PRESCRIPTIONS: If you are a member of Costco, try the Costco pharmacy for prescriptions. The interface is a nightmare but prices are low. On one prescription, I pay 1/3 (one third) the price on costco v. drugstore.com

    3. BONUS: shop for specialty food items on the web. It’s the only place I can find Autocrat Coffee syrup to feed my coffee egg cream addiction.

  5. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Ron! These are really great tips…especially the Costco one :-)

  6. Josh

    Although they tend to focus more so on electronics, I’ve found that some of the savings you can find on http://www.slickdeals.net are great. You can also do a search for products and see if there are any current deals at various retailers.

    For the hands-on type, they also seem to have quite a few deals on power tools!

  7. Tim

    How about autographed sports memorabilia?? Sites like EXLSports.com and even Amazon.com have a huge selection of autographed and unsigned sports collectibles. I’m not talking about the “rare” autographs or the cheapies on e-bay that you can’t verify and come from Joe Collector… there’s a ton of reputable dealers out there who authenticate and verify. I got my brother an autographed Johnny Unitas photo last year for Christmas, and the kid went nuts! EXLSports.com’s my favorite because of their tracking policy – they send you the UPS tracking number the day it ships so you don’t have to sit by the door and guess.

  8. JEodynemodeni

    Hello, I can’t understand how to add your blog in my rss reader

  9. Jared Goralnick

    Hi JEody, just click here and add it:

    Hope that helps!

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