A Clever Trick for Automatically Finding Deals You Want at Amazon

Is there a sale on? @ Lowestoft, Suffolk by timparkinson on Flickr!Lately, I’ve been working on my Christmas shopping list, trying to get (way) ahead of the curve. I have a lot of great ideas in mind for the people around me, but I know that unless I’m diligent, the gifts will either wind up being too expensive or will simply slip through my fingers. Add to that the fact that there’s usually an item or two that I’m looking for on heavy discount, and it’s unsurprising that I often spend my time eyeing flyers and other places for huge markdowns on specific items.

Until recently, I’ve been doing the drudgework of visiting Amazon on a daily basis to check for some of these items. But, after doing a bit of careful thinking and some clever hacking, I’ve found an easy way to get Amazon to automatically report those deals to me. Here’s the trick in its step-by-step glory.

Step 1: Get the Feed!
Amazon has a feature called Gold Box, where they collect a bunch of hugely discounted items from across their site each day. The deals are a mixed bag of stuff – one might be a software sale, another might be a watch, another one might be glass tumblers, and so on.

The point of the page is to attract people who are “bargain” hunters – the people who will buy anything provided it has a pretty good discount. It also entices people who are actual bargain hunters in the hopes that once they have an item or two in their cart, they’ll add a few more items. Plus, there’s the “temptation” folks – the people who randomly find the page and buy something they really don’t need. Add it all together and you get a lot of additional sales (and happy customers) for Amazon.

The only problem is that if you’re living cheap, this is just a giant temptation to spend money you shouldn’t. If only there were a way to filter all these deals just for the relevant ones…

There is.

Amazon makes the vast majority of these deals available via their Gold Box RSS feed. It’s basically a single page view of most of the available Gold Box deals, all on one page:

http://rssfeeds.s3.amazonaws.com/goldbox

This makes it convenient to stop at one page for a giant list. Or if you have a feed reader, you can subscribe to that feed to get the deals. But that’s just the start of it.

Step 2: Filter the Feed!
Now, head over to FeedSifter.com, a brilliant little tool if I’ve ever seen one. It lets you put in a RSS feed URL (like the one above), then filter it for any list of terms you put in, then gives you an output feed that contains only the items that match the terms you listed.

Let’s see this in play. Let’s say I’m trying to find a couple of older games for my Wii on a huge discount, plus I’m looking for a cheap Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable for Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews. While I’m at it, I’m also interested in any bargain cookbooks they might put up, plus any grocery deals or deals related to my Mac computer.

I’d fill out Feed Sifter like this:

feed filter sample

A quick note: search terms fewer than three characters match everything, so use ones longer than that.

The actual list I’m using is much longer than this one – I’d share it with you, but I’m worried I’d reveal a good chunk of the Christmas gifts I’m looking for.

Anyway, when you click on the “Filter my Feed” button, you’ll get an option to subscribe to that new feed. Click on that and you’ll find that the Amazon feed is now filtered for those search terms. For my list, I found that it had only left one item – and I actually went ahead and purchased that single item, as a Christmas gift! Hooray – one down, a big bundle to go!

Step 3: Remember the Filtered Feed!
Obviously, with most of these sales having an extremely limited time frame, you’ll need to check it regularly. Since many people have Google as their home page, it’s very easy to integrate this filtered Amazon sales search right into the home page on their browser.

Just pop over to http://www.google.com/ig and click on the “Add stuff” link over on the right hand side of the page…

igoogle

… then click on the “Add feed or gadget” link on the right.

igoogle

Then, paste in the URL of the feed you created in step two.

Wham! Your filtered feed is now on your Google homepage. Whenever you fire up your browser and visit Google, you’ll see a list of the sales over at Amazon that match the terms you put in. Click on the link to an interesting one, and you’ll go right over to Amazon.

Whenever you want to create a new search, just follow all these steps again – easy as pie.

Bonus tip: If you’ve found your item and are ready to check out, but have found yourself a few dollars short of getting free Super Saver Shipping (Wait! Add $4.32 to your order to qualify for FREE Super Saver Shipping), use FillerItem.com to find a cheap item to just barely push you over the top. I used to regularly get a pack of AA batteries here, but since moving to rechargeables, I often usually get a “stocking stuffer” type item and hold onto it for later.

This technique has saved me quite a bit of money on gifts I intended to purchase anyway with almost no effort after the initial setup. Give it a try today.

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  1. TJ says:

    This is a great idea! I never thought to use the feed that way. I’ve actually finished the shopping for both of my nieces. Grand total: $3.75 each. I bought holiday items on clearance last year. So they will each get a character bath set and a cute long sleeve holiday t-shirt.

    I’ll do this for my parents, who are a little bit more difficult to find what I want at a great price.

  2. Amazon is really cool. I love them as company. They have never failed me with their customer service and their site is truly the best online retailer out there. I would recommend them for anything and use them to promote products on my site. Thanks for the tips….RSS feeds are very manly… :)

  3. Wow. That is a great idea, if I’ve ever heard one. I’m a pretty tough sell, so I’m not too worried about the temptation of seeing daily sales prices. But it sounds like a good way to catch a few bargains here and there throughout the years for gifts and such.

    Thanks!

  4. Ryan McLean says:

    Wow that is really cool, I never knew you could do that.
    Your blog is really great, I also run a financial blog and some of your content is great for stirring me up and helping me think of ideas.
    So do you buy things off amazon.com?
    Do you think you could buy cheap things off amazon.com and resell them?

  5. Sara says:

    Just like getting emails for items on Craigslist, I’d have to make sure any items I filtered in were things I reeeeeally needed or wanted. It would be hard to turn down a deal on something I kinda wanted but still didn’t need.

    I do love the idea of scoping out presents early–great frugal use of this capability.

  6. Carlos says:

    I gotta give you credit, Trent, this is is one very cool trick…

  7. Laura says:

    Do you know if there’s a similar system on Ebay? It might require even more patience, though! I’ve found that if I have patience and don’t need something right away, I can wait until the perfect deal comes along on Ebay. Many sellers now offer free shipping, too.

  8. Mike L says:

    Uh oh. I smell over indulgence on items I don’t really need, but a damn good sale!

    Very cool post, Trent, thanks for the heads up. Thanks!

  9. Brian G. says:

    Smashing tip Trent! I have never thought of using RSS feeds like that. Fantastic idea! What else could I use a feedfilter for? Hmm…

  10. Mark Nelson says:

    Holy cow starting to do you Christmas shopping. I used to own a retail store and we would buy our merchandise for Christmas in early April. That always seemed weird.

  11. Wow. Feed Sifter is great! I used to subscribe to a couple of tech deal sites (which I’ll have to find again), but quit because they were too overwhelming. Now I can narrow in on my interests and save a lot of $$.

    This can also work for subscribing to sites like Lifehacker that put out way too much stuff for anyone but an alpha geek to keep up on.

  12. Dan says:

    Awesome trick!

    I also use jangle.net to find great deals from Amazon.

    They show the best buys and let you google every item.

    http://www.jangle.net

  13. Jamie says:

    Another tip!

    After you’ve made your purchase on Amazon, watch for price declines over the next 30 days. If you purchased your item directly from Amazon (not an affiliate) they will refund you the difference. If the price drops multiple times, you can be refunded every time! All it takes is an email:
    http://snipurl.com/2s6p6 [www_amazon_com]

  14. Matt says:

    great idea, you could also filter the feeds for sites like slickdeals.net and bensbargains.net

  15. jrh says:

    A very similar technique, but MUCH more powerful if you have the tech know-how – Yahoo! Pipes. Lifehacker did a great piece on it and craigslist. You can search almost anything you like and have Yahoo! Pipes do the monitoring and send you an email if it finds something.

    Lifehacker article:
    http://lifehacker.com/software/search-techniques/more-useful-craigslist-searches-with-yahoo-pipes-317841.php

  16. Griffin says:

    I had never heard of filler item before! :D It drives me nuts when I can’t find something small to fill that space and have to either pau shipping or buy another item (about the same as I’d pay for shipping, usually!)

    This will really help when it comes to finding used copies of textbooks.

    Thanks a bunch!

  17. Chiara says:

    Awesome!! I love Amazon and this is fantastic!

  18. Matt says:

    RSStalker.com…just put the items in your wishlist and this site will create a feed with any price changes.

  19. Jessica D says:

    Thanks! I’ve now added two feeds to my Google Reader. Very kewl!

  20. Dan says:

    I much prefer http://camelcamelcamel.com/ . It’s probably the best Amazon tracker you’ll ever use.

  21. Kartik says:

    Trent,

    Have you tried the ‘Buy It Later’ Firefox plugin which keeps track of price drops on Amazon items and sends notifications via e-mail or Twitter? Find it here: http://www.buylatr.com/

  22. Sean says:

    Do forget you can save even more with an amazon promotional discount code, just search google for one.

  23. Chris says:

    Has anyone else had any issues trying to add feeds to either Feed Sifter or to Google?

    For example, I’m trying to add a Western Digital feed from Amazon and each time I try it I get ‘Not Found.’

  24. Joe says:

    WARNING: I just added this feed to search for a few items. After a couple of minutes it is clear that Amazon lies about the original price of many of these items to make them appear as a “steal”. For example they list a $500 watch on 80% discount for $100 and a quick internet search reveals that $80-$100 is the market value of the watch. Similarly an $8 pair of sunglasses was supposedly marked down from $188… but comparable items sold for under $10.

    This is a cool tool indeed, but double check any of these “AMAZING AMAZON DISCOUNTS” because many of them of falsely advertised as luxury items. NEXTAG.com seems like a very good place to check the going market price of an item (and they show how the internet market price has changed over the past few months!)

  25. Wiley says:

    Is there an anti-sifter program somewhere? Feedsifter doesn’t seem to believe in minus being doesn’t include and I would love to have an amazon gold feed that has terms -jewelry -necklace -watch. Any of you tech types know how to do this?

  26. Marc says:

    There are just so many more options now adays. You cna use codes, comparison engines, cashback…it is endless

  27. I used to use Froogle before I would ever go to Amazon, search around for a few mins, then google the website for scam protection. Simple as that.

  28. Randy says:

    Cool tip! You can do something very similiar with deallinker.com, except it monitors about two dozen bargain and retail sites in addition to Amazon.

    To monitor for a specific item, simply perform a search; and then save the search results as a live bookmark in firefox.

    I recently did this for after-christmas sales by performing a search for ‘christmas’; and ended up running across sales at Crate & Barrel and Walgreens that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

  29. Nokia N79 says:

    Hi dan,

    I also use jangle.net to find great deals from Amazon

  30. Mr Voucher says:

    As Marc says, the best way to save is to use a combination of discount code, price comparison sites and cashback. Find the cheapest price, then use a code plus a cash back site and you will save loads.

  31. Some decent tips on hunting out deals on Amazon, equally applicable to the UK market aswell as the US.

  32. reviewazon says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I use the reviewazon plugin. Reviewazon is the easy and simple way to add amazon affiliate product to your website.

  33. Feeds are a wonderful thing and very useful. It’s always good to see another clever use for them. Thanks for posting the tip.

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