When looking for on-line bargains, especially for low-ticket items, the two starting points should be eBay and Amazon. In fact, it’s quite likely that you will be able to fulfil a great proportion of your gift buying tasks on one of those sites.
eBay is much more than an auction site now – the majority of items sold there are new, and you can buy everything (apart from food and items of adult nature) there. eBay is particularly brilliant if you are looking for something of a less usual or niche nature: obscure hobbies, strange collections, unusual activities and objects that you would search in vain for in a local shopping mall can be found on eBay at a click of a mouse – and often keenly priced. But it’s also great for mass-produced, popular items, simply because it often offers the best prices. From electronics to video games, from fragrance (though this usually goes beyond “cheap”) to craft supplies, scented candles to scarves, eBay is the first place to check, and often (but not always) the one that will offer the best value. If buying for a long list of people, it’s worth checking any postage discounts eBay merchants might offer for multiple purchases. In case of small items, any additional items might carry a very low or even zero postage.
AmazonAmazonAmazon started as an on-line book store, but now sells a seemingly exponentially increasing range of items. It’s in 98 cases out of 100 the best place to buy books, both new and second hand; and it offers bargains and very competitive prices in its range of DVDs, video games, music CDs, kitchen supplies (from novelty mugs to the best le Creuset) and many electronics. Cameras, DVD players and many computer accessories can be bought on Amazon at great prices. Considering the free postage on pretty much anything (but beware – only if bought from Amazon proper, not many of their associated merchants), Amazon is the first choice for many of the most popular on-line purchases.
In addition to these two mainstays, there are some UK sites that are worth checking out before buying some items on Amazon: if buying books, especially newer and popular titles, have a look at the Book People who have particularly good value bumper packs of books for children – split one into its constituent parts and you will have ready gifts for a bunch of children at a fraction of a price anywhere else.
Play.com can sometimes beat Amazon prices on entertainment – especially new release DVDs and video games.
And finally, for novelty gifts, bizzare and wonderful nostalgia items and the best jokes and stocking fillers ot there, often under 5GBP apiece, there is no better place than Hawkin’s Bazaar
There are a few things to bear in mind when searching for on-line bargains:
1) Postage costs. Some websites offer free postage, either altogether or over certain spend. For cheap gifts, it’s a major consideration and a bit of planning (ie, doing all your purchases from the one site in one fell swoop) will substantially reduce your postage costs, and might make away with them altogether.
2) Delivery timelines. Shop well enough in advance, so you can take advantage of the cheapest delivery option and make sure you get the items in time to pack and give them, or you can query anything if there is a delivery problem.
3) Return policies and guarantees. These are less applicable to cheap gifts, but it’s still worth checking in case of anything that might need to be returned. Returns should be free for problem items.