Dr. Mac: A word to penny pinchers

Dec. 14, 2009, 10:31PM

Attention Windows users: Almost everything in this week's column is cross-platform and operating system agnostic, so feel free to read on even if it is called “Dr. Mac.”

I like to think of myself as thrifty; my friends call me cheap. Either way, I like to get the best deal on everything I buy, and over the years I've found a number of ways to let technology assist me in finding the best products at the lowest prices.

I recently discovered an iPhone app that has saved me a bundle this holiday season. It's called RedLaser, and it uses your iPhone's camera to scan the barcode on most products, then searches the Web for that product and tells you what it would cost elsewhere. It even tells you when it's available for less at a nearby brick-and-mortar store. Best of all: it only costs $1.99, and I assure you it'll save you a lot more than that.

Now for those of you without an iPhone, here are some Web sites that help you find the best prices on products you know you want as well as products you didn't even know you needed.

One of my favorites is Overstock.com, a Web site that always offers a wide variety of name brand goods - jewelry, electronics, shoes, bedding and bath products, clothing, appliances, gifts, and much more - at rock bottom prices. (There is also a free Overstock.com iPhone app, which makes it easier to shop at the Overstock Web site with your iPhone or iPod touch.)

Another great place to find bargains is Woot.com, an online store that offers a killer deal on one cool item a day. A few weeks ago I bought one of those Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners for about half of what it cost elsewhere.

I love Offers.com, a site chock-full of coupons and codes for products and stores you know and love. For example, last Thursday's offers included $20 off any Dell product priced at $225 or more; 20 percent off anything ordered from FTD florists; $7 off any purchase of $70 or more at Target, plus free shipping at Target.com; and 15 percent off your entire order at Kohl's.com. Some days are better than others, but it's usually worth a visit.

Finally, Ebates.com is totally awesome. Sign up for a free account and receive cash back for all of your purchases at member stores, which include Borders (6 percent cash back), Steve Madden (4 percent), Barnes and Noble (8 percent), Macy's (5 percent), Target (5 percent) and many, many more. Ebates also offers coupons and codes such as last week's 30 percent off any item at Borders, 20 percent to 40 percent off selected items at Bloomingdales, and 10 percent off any order at Gordon's Jewelers.

Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS X, the author of more than 50 books, including iPhone for Dummies 3rd Edition, and a Mac consultant, troubleshooter and trainer.

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