by Kevin Purdy - Wouldn't it be nice if your hard drives halted, your smartphones shattered, and your gadget lust intensified only right after your tax refund arrived? Nice thought, but we all have to buy new computer hardware and accessories whenever we need them. These sites and downloads help you keep an eye on great deals and save money on all kinds of gear, computer and otherwise.
If you have a general idea of what kind of gear you need and what you can spend, start out at the web's best deal hunter sites. Slickdeals.net may not seem like much from the home page--just a barely organized list of deal links. Head over to the forums, however, and you'll find a wealth of advice on great deals and sources to check out. Similarly, swing by the more straightforward and organized FatWallet and Dealnews. BeatMyPrice asks you to enter your own lowest price found on an item, then either schools you in a better deal, brings up related coupons for that item or site, or makes your submission the tops for that product.
Finally, if you enjoy the random-but-occasionally-awesome nature of Woot, try Deals.Woot, where users of the highly respected discount site post the deals they find elsewhere on the web--the kind you won't have to be up at 2 a.m. to catch.
Sometimes you need to see a potential purchase in person to figure out what you're looking for, and size up what's in stock and on sale. If you've got a smartphone, be sure to bring ShopSavvy along on your iPhone, Android, or Nokia device. The killer shopping app uses your phone's camera to grab a product bar code, then quickly parses it and returns with the prices you can find online and at retail stores that are actually nearby, and saves your scans and pricing into an organized history list for later referral. Android users alone can also check out Google Shopper, which is perhaps a bit faster, though it doesn't offer the same "in stock at stores near you" information.
Lack for one of those fancy Apple or Google gadgets? You can send an SMS message to Google and have them price out the item you're looking at. Address the text to GOOGLE (466453), then add "price" followed by something specific about your desired gear: "price LG W2453V," for instance, will report that LG's 24-inch monitor prices anywhere from $200-$350 at the time of this writing. If it's easier, you can also text the UPC or ISBN code off the box by writing "upc" or "isbn" before that number.
[ See also: SMS services to make your standard cell phone smart ]
Finally, if you've got some time to sit out a potential price drop on an item, you're best off setting up a price notification email or a Firefox extension to do your due diligence for you. There are a lot of these services, but a few that seem worthy include The Camelizer, which tracks Amazon, NewEgg, and Best Buy through Firefox; ShoppingNotes, an email notification service that claims to watch any product page; and Price!pinx, a quirky but stable service that works through a bookmarklet button. Happy hunting.