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