How to shop and find amazing deals using RSS

Written by Sam on November 24, 2009 – 11:23 pm -

Yesterday I wrote several posts containing video tutorials on how to use RSS. Today the fun begins! I’ll show you how to use the same technology to be notified of amazing deals online. But even better, you can use RSS to be instantly notified when the EXACT ITEMS you want to buy go on sale or get discounted. The techniques I’ll be showing you in this post could literally save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over time.

As an example, my sister bought a Yamaha piano – the digital kind that will play itself – using these techniques and saved thousands of dollars. She paid $2,500 for a piano that sells used on the market for $8,000. I wrote about her experience in a post about using RSS to buy items on craigslist.

Even if you use RSS all the time, I would encourage you to look at the 2nd and 3rd videos. They might just blow your mind and are only a couple minutes each.

What is RSS?

If you don’t know what RSS is, please view these posts from yesterday:

How to shop via RSS using preset feeds

In this video you’ll learn about using preset RSS feeds to find great discounts and sales. In this video I refer to a post post I wrote called RSS shopping site guide containing a list of shopping sites with RSS capability as well as links to their preset feeds. In this example I use the sites and

How to shop for the EXACT items you want using a customized RSS feed

In this video I show you how to create a CUSTOMIZED RSS feed that will instantly show you when the exact item(s) you’re looking for go on sale or are discounted. If you’re looking to buy a specific item at a great price, this is a MUST WATCH video. In this example I use the RSS feed builder from

How to shop for the EXACT items you want on Craigslist using a customized RSS feed

In this video I show you how to create an RSS feed from a specific search on Craigslist. Looking for a great deal from someone selling an ipod? You’ll get an instant update within seconds when someone posts an ipod for sale in your area.

How to receive instant notifications about discounts on item from your Amazon wishlist

In this video I show you how to create a customized feed using RSStalker to give you instant updates whenever there’s a price change on an item in your Amazon Wishlists.

Additional Resources

Lazy Man and Money also wrote about this topic and has a list of some additional deal sites you can check out.

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3 ways to avoid emotional spending during the holidays

Written by Sam on November 20, 2009 – 11:04 am -

Holiday spending is on my mind right now. I’m trying to take measures to ensure our family spending stays under control and I know that the holidays are a very dangerous time for many financially. Too many people experience the debt hangover once the bills start coming in during January.

A couple years ago I wrote about 10 ways to save money this Christmas. I even added a bonus 11th way to save money. In fact, during the next week (before Black Friday hits) I’m going to be expanding upon tips #3 and #4 with video tutorials on how to supercharge your deal-hunting expertise. I’ll show you how to use the internet to find unbelievable savings. So stay tuned for that.

But I digress. One of the reasons people overspend is because of emotional spending. The sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas can induce people into a spending frenzy. Here are a few ways to avoid emotional spending this holiday season.

1. Order your gifts online

Ordering gifts online is a great way not only to save money and avoid overspending, but it’s also really fast and easy. By avoiding the stores as much as possible, you’ll be able to avoid the marketing stimulation that exists in malls and retail stores that lures you to buy more and more. You can much more objectively create your list and buy ONLY what you intend to buy and no more. Plus, you can typically find items at lower prices on the internet which can create significant savings.

When to order gifts online to make sure you get them by Christmas

I recently came across a page on Deal Hack that has a comprehensive list of online retailers and when you need to order from them to get your gifts delivered in time for Christmas. View the list here.

Sites where you can find great deals

A while back I posted a couple of articles explaining how to find deals and shop using RSS technology. Doing so allows you to be notified when the exact item you want goes on sale. I also posted a list of sites that allow you to use RSS for your shopping. These same sites also happen to be some of my favorites for finding great deals. Some of the links in the list may be outdated. I’ll try to make sure the list is updated.

2. Buy what you want and then return the items that are over your budget

One approach my wife and I have taken when buying gifts during the holidays is to not worry too much about how we’re spending. If we happen to see an impulse item and it’s a great deal, we go ahead and buy it. Then, before we wrap all the gifts we review which ones are inside our budget and which ones we want the most. Then we return the rest.

This has worked particularly well when shopping for our son. It is somewhat liberating be able to take advantage of great deals or impulse shop even if you know you’ll be returning items. It also allows you to shop more efficiently because you don’t have to return to the store later if you decide to purchase an item while running the risk they’ll be sold out.

Once you’re considering all the gifts together and deciding which to return, the choice is much easier because you’re making comparisons rather than looking at each gift individually. For example, I might really think my son will love the card game when I see it in the store, but comparing against the transformer that he’s dying to have, the choice of which to return is much easier.

I will admit that this requires some work to return the gifts. I recommend trying to return them before Christmas is over because the post-Christmas lines can be a nightmare for a week or more after Christmas.

3. Get your shopping done before Black Friday

I recommended in my last post to get your shopping done before Black Friday. The pre-Thanksgiving shopping environment is a little less emotionally charged. The holiday promotions aren’t quite into full swing and the crowds are lighter. It’s easier to buy what you intend and it’s a more pleasant, less hectic experience. One Thanksgiving is over hold on to your seat and prepare for a crazy ride.

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The secret to saving money on holiday shopping: do it early!

Written by Sam on November 18, 2009 – 10:08 pm -

I’m a shopper. I love shopping, particularly during the holidays. There’s something about the sights and sounds and smells of the holidays. And, yes, I’m a male. The fact is I’m the shopper and my wife hates shopping. The sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday create for her a sensory overload and usually lead to a headache. So I end up doing most of the holiday shopping alone or with my mom, who is also a big holiday shopper.

The fact is, it’s somewhat of a blessing to have an aversion to holiday shopping like my wife. You save money. The holiday spirit for me is a recipe to spend money. You get caught up in the moment and lose track of reality a little bit…sometimes a lot. It’s just so easy to buy one more thing; easy to lose track of what has been spent on whom; easy to forget about your budget with an attitude of “it’s ok, it’s Christmas after all” or “it’s such a great deal how can I pass it up?”

So what am I suggesting, that you DON’T SHOP during the holidays? That’s blasphemy! Well, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Instead of doing your shopping after Thanksgiving, get your holiday shopping done BEFORE the holidays.

Now, I realize this advice may come a little too late. For many, the holidays being after Halloween. Certainly retailers want to extend the holiday shopping season so it starts a soon as possible. The sooner you enter that alternate reality the better from their perspective. However, while the holiday shopping season has kind of already begun, it doesn’t go into full swing until Black Friday. There’s time left! One week left!

Why is shopping before the holidays effective?

If you’re serious about spending within your holiday budget this year GET YOUR SHOPPING DONE NOW! By doing your shopping before Black Friday you’ll be able to keep a rational frame of mind. Here are some ways getting your shopping done early will save you money:

You avoid emotional buying

How many of you make a clear list of what to buy your loved ones within your budget and then go out and buy those things and only those things? This rarely happens because, despite good intentions, you inevitably come across an item that just cries out to you “so-and-so would love this” or “that’s such a great deal I’ll buy it for so-and-so.” This emotional buying will happen much less before the holidays hit full swing. I don’t know what it is, but when my wife and I have done much of our shopping before the holidays it just feels so much more stable. We buy what we intend to buy and nothing more.

You avoid the notion of the ultimate deal

The idea of the ultimate deal is really an illusion. People justify spending over their budget just because they are getting a great deal. Sure, there are some incredible deals during the holidays and if you’ve been waiting to buy a certain gadget or gift and have the budget for it, go ahead and take advantage of these deals. However, be careful to differentiate between those items that you really want and those items that you think you want because it’s such a great deal.

You avoid purchases due to competition or scarcity

Retailers love to create a sense of scarcity. Take the Wii for example. It seems like the Wii was hard to find in stores for 2 years. You can’t tell me that Nintendo couldn’t ramp up production to meet demand. Nintendo instead purposefully released only a certain amount of Wiis at a time so that there was scarcity. This was an effective ploy because people would snatch up Wiis without even thinking.

Retail promotions work the same way creating a sense of urgency. There’s a sense that you NEED to purchase right now. If you don’t, someone else might and you’ll lose your chance.

Getting your shopping done early largely removes this sense of competition and scarcity. You can more easily make rational decisions based on what gifts people truly want in spite of sales and promotions.

But what if I feel like shopping is a part of my holiday tradtion?

For many people shopping probably DOES feel like a holiday tradition. How can the holidays be the same without that last minute shopping on Christmas Eve? One way to solve this problem is to create new traditions. Instead of going on a last-minute splurge, try taking the family ice skating. Go to a holiday movie. See what local musical performances are happening.

If you still feel you can’t stay away from the stores, go ahead and go with a friend or family member but leave your wallet or purse at home. For some people you can get 95% of the excitement and holiday spirit just by being in the festive shopping atmosphere. You can vicariously experience the fun of shopping when your friend makes a purchase. A large part of the fun of holiday shopping is simply social anyway. It’s about being with friends and family, having a bite to eat or a cup of hot chocolate for a break. You can experience these without spending money on more “stuff.”

Why I avoid Black Friday like the plague

I few years back I wrote about my experience participating in the Black Friday hoopla. To make a long story short I spent a miserable morning at around 3:15AM standing in the freezing cold in a line that wrapped all the way around Best Buy only to find that the item I wanted was gone by the time I got in the store.

Black Friday is just not worth it. Most of the really incredible deals are there to obviously get people into the store. What they don’t mention in the ads is that they will often have a very small supply of the super-deal items in stock so they sell out almost instantly. Do yourself a favor and sleep in.

You have one week left before the craziness begins

If you’re able to get your shopping done in the next week, do it! If not, I wish you the best and hope you fare well during the holiday craziness. It’s the rare person who can survive the emotional thrill-ride that is holiday shopping. Hopefully you’re like my wife and it gives you a headache. If not, we’ll see you on the other side.

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Get Free Books From

Written by Sam on August 28, 2009 – 11:08 am -

I recently learned about the site that allows you to swap books with others via mail. They have a nice system with some checks and balances that facilitate trust and honesty between traders. The site works on a credit system. When you sign up, if you immediately list 10 books you’re willing to trade, they give you 2 credits. Each credit allows you to receive one book. Audio books can also be traded and require 2 credits to receive. Every time you send a book you get a credit. You’re basically trading a book for a book.

How does the shipping part work? Once someone requests one of your books you have two options. The first option is to go to the post office and send the book. Once the person receives the book, they login to the site and mark it as received and you get your credit. The second option is to use PaperBackSwap’s built in system to pay for the postage and print out the needed labels at home. Using this system allows you to avoid a trip to the post office since you can just drop the book in your mailbox. Using this system also gives you your credit immediately so you don’t have to wait for the person receiving the book to mark it as received to get your credit. There’s a small additional fee to use this service, but it’s typically less than a dollar and probably cheaper than paying for the gas to go to the post office.

So far I’ve sent three books and have yet to request any. The selection of books posted looks decent, but not overly comprehensive. I found a few books I was interested in. If a book you want isn’t listed as available, you can reserve a copy and once someone has one available, you’ll be notified. The jury is still out for me on this site. I’ve spent an average of about $3.00 per book for each book I’ve sent. That’s less that half the price of buying a book new so if I end up getting some books I want through the service, I’ll consider it a success. If nothing else, it’s good to get rid of some books I no longer needs and reduce my clutter.

PaperBackSwap also has two sister sites; one for trading CDs and one for trading DVDs. I haven’t looked at them closely yet, but assume they work on the same system. If you want to refresh your collections, take a look.

Have any readers used these services? Let us know how you liked them in the comments.

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