James Derk - Scripps Howard News Service
Thanksgiving has come and gone and most of us are heading out into the world
with holiday cash. Allow me to rant and hopefully save you some time and cash.
Check the box. Before you buy your kid that massively hyped video game, make
sure your PC is up to the challenge. You have no idea how many e-mails I get
on 12/25 from parents who can't get the game running. Every game today has specifications
on the box, many call for a high-end video card and lots of RAM. So know your
specs, or have a new video card under the tree, too. And save those receipts.
Check the rating. Video games have ratings based on the gore, sexual content
or other information in the game. Games rated "M" for mature are meant
If you are buying a PC or a piece of hardware, skip the extended warranty.
Depending on the store you may need to arm yourself with a stick to do it, but
don't bother spending $200 to insure a $900 purchase. The reason the warranties
are pushed so much is that is where the store makes its profit.
Don't take my word for it; check the sites of any consumer advocate. Start
with www.clarkhoward.com about the pitfalls of extended warranties and how the
stores weasel out of paying claims.
Shop around. The theory is this will be "the year" for online shopping.
Of course, the last four years have been "the year." Many sites are
offering free shipping deals, which sweeten the pot. The mantra for holiday
shopping is: Buy early if you want a hot toy or item. And, yes, you can trust
your credit card info to any of the large sites.
Watch the auctions. There is an interesting trend going on. Many people are
paying more on auction sites for items than they cost in stores. Then some sellers
tack on pretty serious shipping charges. One seller is now offering Firewire
cards for auction with shipping of $19.95 for the small item.
So before you bid, set a limit below the retail price and don't bid higher
than that amount. If you can, it is best to "snipe" the bid. That
is, if you want the item and the auction ends at 7:10 p.m., don't bid anything
until the last minute. Log in one minute before the auction ends and place your
maximum bid in a bid window so all you need to do is hit "submit."
Then open another browser window and keep hitting refresh on your auction. With
six seconds left, hit your "submit." If you win, you win. If you don't,
you did not exceed your maximum bet. One Web site, www.esnipe.com, do it for
you if you can't log in at the end of your auction.
Don't spend more than you have to. If you are a user of a product such as Windows
or Norton, make sure you purchase the upgrade version of the new product. It
often is much cheaper than the full version.
Photo Copyright Getty ImagesCopyright Scripps Howard News Service 2003