Online shopping isn't the future any more. It's now. To those grizzled veterans of the internet, many of these sites will be well-known, their shopping habits well-formed and informed. We're not just talking about eBay. These are both local and overseas stores that will save you significant amounts compared to going to your local shop.
What are the risks? You could always lose the package in transit, although most overseas services tend to use UPS or FedEx, which in our experience have provided tracking numbers, insurance and often delivered from overseas quicker than some services can between two capital cities in Australia. In saying that, expect some deliveries to take up to two weeks. And if items aren't in stock, it can take longer than usual to re-source them.
Keep an eye out for shipping costs too where applicable, as in some cases this could inflate the attractive discount price to near that of the local price. Warranty is another thing to look out for — some companies don't have international warranties and the very act of buying from overseas could mean you're not covered. Standards may not be supported in Australia that are in other parts of the world, in particular relating to TVs and many things wireless.
If you buy games from a digital distributor, you'll never be able to resell them. Finally, if you're buying electrical goods make sure they come with a switch-mode power supply (or are USB chargeable). Most bigger items like computers do, but if they don't your shiny new item could be damaged the moment you plug it in.
As a note, we haven't included coupon sites Cudo, Spreets, Scoopon, Jumponit or Ouffer purely because we've never used them — but we're interested to hear in the comments if people have had good experiences. There's also Zazz and Zizzle for deal sites, but we'd love to hear from readers first if the experience has been positive.
Warnings aside, if you're properly educated and ready to save a bundle, read on. This is by no means a complete list, simply a compilation of services that we've used and had good experiences with. Just because it's not listed here doesn't mean it isn't reputable. But you may wish to check out our guide for safe shopping online before you hit the big green "buy" button.
These sites offer bargains for a limited amount of time, across a wide array of categories. Always worth browsing and some may even be borderline addictive.
Once a day, a new deal, often at insanely cheap prices and in limited volume. Don't forget the "small fish" column currently in the left-hand side.
Best described as random cheap weird stuff, you'll likely find something on DealExtreme. Whether you actually need it is something different altogether.
While it doesn't always offer the best deals, you may just find a bargain here.
Dell's bargain site has gotten off to a slow start, but will hopefully build steam. A minimum number of people need to join a "swarm" to activate the low price, at which point people can purchase. The plan is eventually to move to daily deals, with Kogan, Belkin, Cisco and Canon also offering gear. If it takes off, we'll see stuff from other vendors too.
Deal alert sites
Want to know what the latest bargains are around? These sites will tip you off to the hottest deals of the moment.
EcoGamer is a fantastic site that lists all the current gaming discounts it can find. It not only wraps up the current deals online, but also lets you know when local stores have gaming deals by scanning catalogues.
OzBargain doesn't discriminate — it'll list any bargain it can currently find. Good to keep an eye on.
Books, DVDs, music, games and more, these sites offer great deals across a variety of products.
More than just books, Amazon's range is simply unrivalled. The shipping can really hurt the discount, but while the dollar rides high it's always worth a look.
Games, music, DVDs and books, CDWow offers an impressive range.
Often selling at prices ridiculously below that of Australia, Zavvi makes sense to buy from particularly as it's based in Britain, meaning you'll get PAL-based content for Xbox 360 and Blu-ray. Sorry kids, unless you've got a region free DVD player or something like AnyDVD, you'll need to get your region 4 DVDs elsewhere. Zavvi has recently started "Mega Monday" sales, where it offers up to 80 per cent off listed items.
Some stores in the US will only send to the US. Intermediaries exist that will give you a US address, buy the item in question for you and then ship it to Australia to get around this inconvenience. You can even have them collect multiple items from different stores, then send it as the one delivery to Australia to save on costs.
Owned by PayPal, HopShopGo not only offers the convenience of using your PayPal account (and if you do, you get 10 per cent of shipping), but offers up to 15 days of free warehousing so you can collect multiple deliveries and then save on final shipping to Australia. You'll be hit up with an insurance charge. And if you use the BuyForMe service rather than the ShipForMe service, you'll need to pay a service fee as well.
PriceUSA is a long running service in Australia, that makes its money by charging a five per cent fee on top of the final purchase plus delivery price.
Despite grey import laws being relaxed in many other categories, Australians pay through the nose for books locally. Apart from Amazon, there's pretty much one site that stands above the rest for deals...
While it may not have the range of Amazon, it does have a significant advantage: free worldwide delivery.
If you're the type of gamer that walks into Electronics Boutique and balks at the cost, here are some options to get your games at a more reasonable price, without that annoying excited guy screaming over the speakers in store.
Although you'll want to make sure first that you're not getting ripped off just because you live in Australia, PC games distributor Steam offers discounts every weekend and often mid-week as well. Its Christmas/New Year's sales are legendary And if you're a PC gamer, it's worth investigating.
Exactly as the title says. DRM free, old games that work on modern operating systems.
Far from a brand of deodorant, Impulse is an alternative digital distributor that often has titles on sale.
Not as good as the other digital distribution services, only because a large portion of the catalogue is walled off and available to US and UK customers only. It only allows you to add three titles to a cart too, which could ramp up currency exchange fees. Still, the occasional deal to be had here.
Sometimes things are plain cheaper from PlayAsia or hard-to-get items can be found here. Not very fun to navigate, but always a good option to have in your back-pocket.
Much the same as Zavvi, it offers great prices and as a bonus, allows you to pay in Australian dollars, avoiding conversion fees. Free shipping too!
There are a stack of disreputable vendors online when it comes to sunglasses, combining poor service with counterfeit products. FramesDirect not only deals in legit stock, but called us from the US to confirm our shipment was sent out. The genuine Ray Bans arrived quickly and in good condition, at a significant discount.
Don't know who's offering the best price? These price search engines can help you get the best deal.
Help find the cheapest books in Australia and overseas. While the search is seemingly broken for some of the sites, it attempts to figure shipping into the final price and is ultimately a very useful tool.
GameCafe currently indexes 62 video game stores in an attempt to find you the lowest price.
A brilliant search engine for computer components. Some search arguments that will help: a - in front of a word excludes it from search and you can limit your state by including state: followed by the abbreviation (NSW/QLD/SA/VIC/NT/WA). Spend some time in the advanced search and you'll find other options.
Generic price engine that can help you find things from technology to fashion, health and beauty to appliances.
Do you have a favourite web store that saves you money? Let us know in the comments below.