Money

Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

Some items go on “special” so often that paying full price for them makes no sense. This is our definitive guide to technologies and other goods that you should always be able to score at a discount, no bargaining required.

Picture by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

We ran a post on this topic way back in 2009, but enough has changed in the local market that I figure an update is due.

With that said, I’m not going to talk about group deal sites (one obvious change that has kicked in since then) in this listing. You can say in a general sense that you’ll be able to find cheap spa sessions, restaurants and the like on those sites, but consistently scoring discounts on a given, reliable product is another matter. That’s what we’re concentrating on here. I’m also not going to talk about regular grocery items either, as that’s a bigger topic deserving of its own separate discussion.

It’s one thing to know which products go on special, but how can you know when those specials are happening? We regularly highlight many of these bargains via our Dealhacker posts. Online forums such as OzBargain are a great resource, and sites such as Lasoo and staticICE can help you search through current specials.


Mac hardware

JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and Harvey Norman very regularly have 10 per cent off sales on Mac notebooks and iMacs. If you’re thinking of going Mac, it makes sense to wait for that option rather than paying full price. Picture by Travis Isaacs

It’s worth pointing out that while Apple now has a Black Friday sale in Australia as well as the US, its hardware discounts last year didn’t actually beat that 10 per cent level. You’ll do just as well or better at one of the chain retailers, and you won’t have to wait for a once-a-year opportunity.


Basic mobile broadband dongles

If you want the latest in mobile broadband technology (such as the recent Telstra 4G hotspot), you’ll pay a premium for its superior performance. But if all you need is a backup prepaid dongle for an occasional road trip or as emergency insurance if your ADSL goes out, the hardware is much, much cheaper. Dongles that are only a generation or two older routinely sell through supermarkets and variety stores for a fraction of their original price. Virgin’s dongle is half-price so often I’d be astonished if anyone had bought it at full price in recent years.


Prepaid SIM starter kits

In a similar vein, basic prepaid SIM kits also routinely go on special at supermarkets. Telstra charges $30 for its kit with $30 of credit, for instance, but it’s often on sale for $10. (The majority of SIM providers in Australia are much cheaper, with sub-$10 prices very much the norm, though these deals don’t usually have any credit on them.)


iTunes cards

We constantly highlight deals on iTunes cards here at Lifehacker (while Gift Cards On Sale does that as a near-full-time mission). As well as making handy emergency gifts, iTunes cards effectively can give you savings on every app, tune or TV show you buy.

The best-value deal that recurs regularly is two $20 cards for $30, which is a 25 per cent total saving. (Don’t confuse this with 25 per cent off a second iTunes card, which also comes up regularly; that’s still a saving, but overall it only saves you 12.5 per cent.) Discounts also pop up occasionally for other media cards (BigPond Music, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network), but iTunes bargains are definitely more frequent.


Wi-Fi

With phones able to act as tethered hotspots and mobile broadband massively popular, the need for Wi-Fi is arguably lower than it used to be. For general purposes, your best bet remains McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s, both of which offer free in-store Wi-Fi. It also pops up in other retail locations (Officeworks and IKEA), and in many independent cafes. It’s not exactly free if you buy a coffee, but in practice there’s nothing to stop you pulling up in the car park of the nearest Maccas and grabbing some emergency bandwidth.


Pets

Yes, my own biases are clearly showing here. I don’t see why most people would pay thousands of dollars for a purebred animal from a breeder when you can get one from the RSPCA or a shelter for a fraction of that. Unless you’re planning to show or breed, save the money — and save an animal’s life.


What other goods and services would you never pay full price for? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.