Amazon has probably the most weird of pricing techniques. As in, there is an automated bot that determines price of every item based on a variety of criteria. So some items might just drop in price abruptly on just one specific day, and it might not even be advertised in a sale. So, how do you know if you are getting the best value for something on Amazon.com? Well, here's where Amazon's Webservices come into the picture. (I was trying to write something that uses these APIs to get the perfect price, but maybe that is for another day.)
Tip 1: Use a price tracker.
Here are some ready-to-use links to track an item's price on Amazon.com.
Most of these sites provide a feature to create a RSS feed of the item you are tracking. You can then simply check this on Google Reader (if you do not use it, you should seriously give it a try, best way to check all news sites at one place.)
Now, the next obvious question would be, do I need to go to this site everyday? What if I am looking to buy a bunch of items? That would be a hassle, wouldn't it?
Tip 2: Switch to Firefox.
Ok, Firefox does not really help you save money. But you get a bunch of Firefox plugins that are really really useful. Here are a couple of my favorites for Amazon -
Just click on 'Track item' on any Amazon webpage. And then whenever the price drops, this plugin opens a small popup at the bottom right of your screen. This is probably even more useful than the price trackers. You can track as many items as you wish. (This is how I ended up buying the SX10 IS on Aug 16. :))
This nifty plugin shows you if the same item is available at a cheaper price on any other website. It checks sites of more than 50 other retailers. Works on almost all the major websites.
Tip 3: Visit the Gold Box Deals page after logging in.
This is something I picked up recently. We all probably know that Amazon monitors our browsing history. Keep browsing for books by a specific author, and more books by the same author will show on your home page. Keep browsing for a camera and you will see camera accessories on your home page. What one probably might not know is that if you keep browsing for the same things, Amazon sometimes offers extra discount for you for these items. Especially useful for small items (books/bags etc) for which rates really do not vary much. Once you logon to Amazon, click on Today's Deals, and scroll to the bottom of the page to look for personalized deals. You get a new set of deals everyday. Save an extra 5-10% on items. :)
Tip 4: Always track your prices until the item ships. Amazon never charges you until your item has shipped. And generally, it gives you an estimate of when the item is going to be shipped. Until then, remember to keep an eye on the item's price (Pricedrop is probably the best way to do so.). If the price drops, you can write to them, and get it refunded. As long as the item has not shipped, Amazon will refund the difference as a courtesy. They are nice blokes, you see. :)