Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

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

Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

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. [imgclear]

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

Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

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.


Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

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.


Stuff You Should Never Pay Full Price For

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.


  • It’s worth pointing out that the Mac 10% off sales at the likes of JB / HN/ DSE usually don’t include built-to-order models.
    Sometimes, they also coincide with an imminent update to one or more of the Apple product lines – so it pays to check the rumour sites etc to see if this is the case.

    10% is not to be scoffed at though, given the small margins most retailers have to work with on Apple gear.

  • Massive +1 for pets, though it only really applies to cats and dogs.
    For anything else, no matter how common (fish, birds etc) it doesn’t apply… though if anyone can prove me wrong here, I’m all ears.

    • If you call WIRES or the RSPCA (or some other animal refuge-type place) they very often have other animals brought in. I’m sure if you left your details with enough places, you’d either find something, or get a call when something came in. I know my wifes cousin has all sorts of snakes, goannas, blue-tongues, birds, possums, and a squirrel. He’s in WIRES, but you get the idea….

    • Cats and dogs have been bred and roaming around killing our native wildlife. So I recommend “adopting” and rearing native animals instead. (which are not endangered ofcourse)

        • Yes, you have to have a permit/license/be a certified wild life carer.

          Don’t go picking up random native animals people! And with native animals the goal is to get them back to nature, not have them as pets. So K, you are a moron. The only contact any qualified person should have is to rehabilitate the animal, not to have it as a pet.

    • +1
      Easily the best for buying books. It checks all the online Australian book site and lists it by price+postage.
      Great for expensive books, like the architecture books I buy. Usually retailing for about $175, I almost always get it for less that $120.

    • (accidentally pressed submit)
      They’re show dogs though (pets first), so that’s why. I like knowing the full life of the dog and not having any potential temperament or behavioral issues that you can get in abandoned dogs. It’s great training them yourself.

    • My dog cost £40 ten years ago. Nine months old from the pound. Could not have wished for a finer pet and companion. No behavioural or tempermant issues, despite he addition of two babies to our family over the years. To think he would have been dispatched had he not been rehomed is terrible.

  • Huge points for the pets part at the end 🙂 All the cats I’ve gotten as an adult I’ve picked up from a cat rescue section at my regular vet (sept one that came from a litter that would have gone to the cat haven had it not been housed). Not only are you rescuing a kitten rather than encouraging more to be needlessly bred but you also get much more human friendly pets (the kittens get hand raised by the vets and are extremely affectionate). Plus (at least for the vet I went through in balcatta) they actually cost negative money 😛 what you pay for the kitten includes it’s needed vaccines, worming, chipping, sterilization and some food and toys and costs less than you’d pay for just the vaccines and sterilization (which are *not* optional if your a cat owner) for a cat you simply brought in, it’s an awesome setup ^_^

  • Just on the subject of xbox live: is pretty good! They do sell other cards (itunes / wii / PSN) but the Live cards are one of the only ones not for particular regions.

  • Apple stuff… depending on your attitude your best bet is looking at Apple’s site and the refurbished stuff. Still comes with the 1 yr warranty and can still have Applecare added to it. Decent saving too; well beyond 10%.

    • I’m with you, Christopher. I’m always amazed at how cheap (and quickly) you can get reasonable quality small tech out of Hong Kong via eBay. Including postage, for just a couple of dollars (and a week’s wait) you can find pretty much any phone cover, screen protector, cabling, mini-tool kit (torx, etc).
      The quality normally isn’t quite at the same level as some of the brand name stuff, but at about 95% of that level, it’s definitely worth the price.

  • Car audio. Most of the mainstream brands are terrible value, but if mainstream is all your after JB does 30% off sales on a regular basis. Try and stick with a proper car audio store though and not a “jack of all trades” type store and the installers will likely recommend something that’s worth using.

  • I relocated to Oz from the UK in 2002, and was immediately struck by the aggressive advertising on free to air TV in general. The stand out advert was for Rugs-A-Million. the guy was saying ‘Bank says No More’, ‘We are finished’, ‘We are bankrupt’, ‘Closing Down’, ‘Final Sale’ ‘Slashing prices by 80%’…. etc..
    This carried on for a few weeks, then a lull, then the ads would start again, as if you were stupid and had forgotten the previous ads from a month ago.

    Rugs-A-Million should have been shut down back then, solely based on their spurious tales of bankruptcy, liquidation or insolvency, whichever they chose to portrait at the time.

  • Paying more than 20 buck per year for access to Gizmodo..the guy from Nigeria that offers it will initially ask for 200buck but you can easily talk them down to 20bucks as long as you send him the money via western union…

  • – Myer and its ilk tend to have cyclical sales on practically every one of their product ranges. If you miss the last “40% off kitchenware” sale, just wait 6 weeks and it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be another one. In this vein, you pretty much shouldn’t be paying full price for *anything*.

  • Watches and ski clothes/gear. I buy all mine from the northern hemisphere. Watches that are being passed off here as premium luxury items here are convenience discount models overseas. The net is full of watch sites but you can get Seiko models direct from Japan with a full global warranty for a fraction of their price at the local shopping centre. Ski stuff is being liquidated during the northern summer, just about the time our season is starting. For what you pay for a dodgy jacket here in a disposals shop, you can get a proper technical jacket mail order that will actually keep you warm and dry..

    • Watch I got actually costs more in a lot of countries overseas…. 10% more in HK, Europe etc… Only place that was cheaper was the US, but even then I was able to haggle down to almost the same price.

  • I wouldn’t pay discount prices at Rugs a Million as I know, they well have the same prices years later even those the prices are only supposed to be that weekend.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!