In-store purchasing of electronics is going the way of the horse and buggy.
Best Buy recently announced the closure of 50 stores and experts are speculating the inevitable demise of the big-box company, thanks to stiff competition from e-retailers like Amazon. In 2011, Amazon's revenue rose 69 percent in electronics and general merchandise sales alone, according to the Associated Press. And Circuit City accepted its fate years ago when it closed its brick-and-mortar locations and now operates exclusively online.
Convenience and better prices are the name of the online-purchasing game, but that doesn't mean there aren't pitfalls to the practice. Before you invest in your next pricey gadget, consider these dos and don'ts before clicking "purchase."
DO Compare Prices
Most people know to consult online prices when shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, but the same diligence should be applied when purchasing something online. Though Amazon offers competitive prices, it behooves you to look at other sites and take advantage of sales and promotions.
DON'T Skip the Promo Code Box
If you notice a space for "coupon code" or "promo code" upon checkout, that means there's likely a code lurking out there to save you even more. Sites like FreeShipping.org make it easy to search for current deals from trusted electronics e-retailers like Tiger Direct.
DO Track Price History
Knowing the price history of an item helps you determine the best time to buy it. The aptly named Decide.com provides a quick "buy" or "wait" recommendation when you enter the product you covet, based on the item's price history.
DON'T Forget About Open Box
You may think open box items are reserved for physical store locations, but think again. Popular electronics e-retailer Newegg has a page dedicated to open-box items, all guaranteed in quality by the company and available for a fraction of the original price.
DO Consider Used or Refurbished
Just like open-box items, used or refurbished electronics are a great alternative to pricey new items. If you just can't swing the cost of a new TV, there's no need to abandon your dream of owning one when refurbished sets often come with a warranty and include new parts and accessories.
DON'T Buy Extended Warranties
Shopping online helps you avoid the annoying song-and-dance about extended warranties at checkout, but that doesn't mean online retailers won't try to sell you on the extra. Don't let their reasoning talk you into an unnecessary purchase; The warranty offered by the manufacturer is almost always sufficient. For other ways sellers try to pitch extended warranties, check out this article from The Consumerist.
DO Shop Safely
Online shopping offers convenience unparalleled by physical stores, but it's not without its perils. To avoid being victim to identity theft, make sure your anti-virus software is up to date and don't make purchases on public networks. Use your credit card for extra security and always look for "https" in the checkout URL.
DON'T Leave it On Your Doorstep
Once you determine the best time to buy, the best website from which to purchase, and the most secure payment method, don't allow your new gadget to sit unprotected on your doorstep. If your workplace allows it, send it to the office or to a trusted friend or family member who will be home during delivery time.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!