How to score great deals on tech

For gadget lovers, there's often a discrepancy between what we want to buy and what we can afford.

After all, many of us would love a new flat-panel television to mount on the wall, a powerful new digital camera or the latest tablet computer — but buying the latest tech toys can be a costly hobby.

So, what to do?

The following are 10 different ways tech can help you get a better deal on your purchases -- be they gadgets, games or non-tech products. Some are common sense tips (perhaps from the "duh" department), but hopefully you'll find some useful suggestions to try out.

1. Research rules

Whether or not you shop online, do your research on the web by reading professional (and customer) reviews so you don't buy a lemon. There are thousands of columnists, bloggers and organizations (like Consumer Reports) that critically evaluate products, but also read feedback from people who actually bought the products; online retailers like Amazon list customer reviews along with the official ones. Or use social networks like Twitter and Facebook to ask if anyone has the such-and-such and if it's any good.

2. Compare prices, social 'coupon' services

Speaking of the web, there are a few handy websites that can cross-reference a product for you — say, the Garmin Nuvi 3760T GPS navigation unit — and find the best price across 25 or so online and brick-and-mortar retailers. And in some cases, these sites can even figure out shipping costs and other fees if coming from the U.S., and so on. Check out RedFlagDeals.com, Wishabi.ca and tech.smartcanucks.ca. On a related note, signing up for services like Groupon, DealFind, LivingSocial, and WagJag can also help you save cash.

3. Auction sites, classifieds

Consider online marketplaces, such as eBay, or online classifieds sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Contrary to popular belief, not all goods on eBay are "previously enjoyed" (about half are brand new, says eBay) and if you don't want to bid for something, many items can be purchased outright. But if you're buying from another country, be sure to factor in shipping costs and currency exchanges. If you prefer to buy local (and avoid shipping charges altogether), try visiting the aforementioned classifieds sites.

4. Ask about price guarantees

When you go to your favourite retailer, be sure to ask if they'll match or beat advertised prices from rival stores. Chances are you'll find they will. Be sure to bring the flyer or printed website special with you, though. Some will match or beat the other guy's price up front and others might honour a price drop after your purchase for a period of time (say, a month or so). It doesn't hurt to ask — the store doesn't want you to walk out their doors and purchase it elsewhere.

5. Cross-border shopping

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, if you live somewhat near the U.S. border (and most Canadians do) then you might consider taking advantage of our stronger dollar. Remember a few things, though: you may need to stay in the U.S. for a couple of days to allow for bigger purchases; you might have to pay for duties and taxes when you cross the border back into Canada; and returning an item could be a pain.

6. Can it wait?

Those who buy technology products are likely aware of "early adopters" who pay a premium to be the first on the block with the new gear. Gamers, for example, might've paid up to $659 for a PlayStation 3 console when it debuted a few years back, but it can be found today for under $250 (with a game or two). If you can wait, wait. Prices always drop and it also gives time to fix glitches and such (no one wants to be the guinea pig).

7. Be specific

When it comes to electronics, we often buy more than we'll ever use, be it a high-end computer you only want for email, a big-screen iPod touch you just need for music or a professional-grade digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) camera for simple point-and-shoot images of your pets for Facebook. If you're looking to cut costs, consider products with more modest features. Do you really need Internet connectivity on a Blu-ray disc player? Wouldn't your 6-year-old be just as happy with last year's video games (at $20 a pop) as he would a $60 current hit?

8. Let's get digital

While many still prefer media that's tangible — such as a video game, DVD, Blu-ray disc, book or music CD — remember prices are generally better if you buy that media digitally. Therefore, if you're shopping for a murder-mystery lover who owns a Kobo eBook reader, gift a digital best-seller they can download via a code. Or what about an iTunes gift card to download the latest Pixar animated flick instead of buying it on disc? You get the idea.

9. App it up

If you're tech savvy enough to have a smartphone, there are a number of shopping-based applications that let you take a picture of the product (or its bar code). These apps will find you the best price online or near you (using the phone's built-in GPS). SnapTell, for example, is great for entertainment-based media (video games, movies, books and music CDs) while RedLaser can snap bar codes. All the major app stores — such as those for iPhone, Android devices and BlackBerry — all offer these free apps you can use to sniff out great deals, while you're on the go. A new Toronto-based app, ShopCatch, taps into your smartphone's GPS to establish your location, and then shows you deals within a few kilometres.

10. Trade it in

Some electronics retailers will let you bring in your old gadgets or media (such as video games and movies) and use it as a store credit to buy something new. If you're not enjoying it anymore, this can be a convenient way to clear some clutter and pocket some cash at the same time. If you prefer, sell your old stuff on an auction or classifieds site (see #3) and put the money towards a purchase for something new.

Yahoo! Canada readers, any other tips on getting deals you can share with us?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting