Setting Up Deal Radars

Written on March 6, 2011. Written by .

The internet is an amazing place to find great deals. In the last few months, I got a $20 Amazon gift certificate, about $20 of Amazon mp3/video downloads, and enough airline miles for 3 round-trip domestic flights – all for free. I also got a really nice bike for $20 that I easily sold for $80 when I had to move. The only problem is finding the deals without wasting tons of time looking for them. In response to this problem, I’ve set up a system of deal radars to help seek out the best deals with minimal effort.

The system has two components, both based on RSS feeds. The first component is designed to look for specific deals that I want and the second is design to scout for anything interesting.

Specialized radars are usually based on a craigslist search. For example, say you are looking for a new bike, but you’re not in a big hurry and you’d rather wait for a good deal. Start by doing a craigslist search restricted to a price lower than you would expect to pay, and perhaps add keywords for the brand and other details. If nothing impressive turns up, scroll to the bottom of the page where a small orange RSS icon appears, and copy that link into an RSS to email service like If you’re not too busy, give your cell phone’s email address (all cell phone companies have email to SMS gateways). After setting this up, you’ll receive real-time feeds of potential deals on your cell phone, so you’ll be the first to know when an exceptional deal shows up and you can snatch it right away.

General-purpose radars are built by collecting RSS feeds of deal websites in Google Reader. Start by searching for deal sites that match your tastes. You can also search for specific deals that you heard about and see which sites listed that deal. Then subscribe to the RSS feeds of all of these sites with Google Reader. This not only makes it quick and easy to scan through deals because it lists all of the headlines in one page, but also provides some very useful information: the list of recommended sites, which is determined based on your current subscriptions. If you periodically check out the recommended sites and subscribe to a couple of them, and then unsubscribe from your worst performers, you’re subscriptions will undergo an evolutionary process. After enough generations, you should end up with a list of subscriptions that is well optimized for the type of deals that you like.

Using these radar systems, you should be able to save a decent amount of money for just a couple minutes a day of effort.

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3 Comments so far
  1. yu guo April 13, 2011 5:01 am

    hi, chris. I’m Yu, how are you doing recently 🙂

    This is a nice summary for deal alerts. btw, there is recently a BA cards with 100k miles bonus, which can be redeemed for AA ticket.

    I also got some buddism talks to share, most of them are delivered by Pema Chodron.

  2. cspice April 16, 2011 2:09 pm

    Hey Yu, thanks for the info. Those airline miles cards are really good deals, but if you open and close cards too many times, will that show up on your credit report?

  3. yu April 16, 2011 4:45 pm

    I think so. But from what I see, it only has minute effect compared to other things affecting credit score. It changes the score mainly by the initial hard pull when you open, and the change in credit utilization when you close. So it seems safe to do it unless one will have a large loan in one-year or so.

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