eBay, the Holiday Superstore

Experts share insights on finding bargains and the right gifts.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Dec 01, 2008

Thinking of everyone you have to shop for this holiday season can be stressful. You want to get them something they'll really like—you know your friend has been eyeing a pair of Chanel sunglasses for months—but no one wants to spend a lot of money. And during an economic recession, it's easy to understand why.

In fact, about half of the women polled in a PersonalShopper.com survey said they aren't looking forward to the holidays. Their No. 1 reason for this was the stress of finding the right gifts without overspending, they told the leading online personal shopping service.

But there are ways to find the perfect presents for everyone on your list without breaking the bank. And eBay is a good place to go—especially if you have an idea of what you're looking for, and you use a few tricks to make sure you get the best bargains.

Overspending prevention

J.D. Roth of money blog Get Rich Slowly suggests using auction sniping software to set your maximum bid. This will prevent you from getting into bidding wars with others and paying more for a gift than it's worth. Even during hard times, some may be so focused on getting the perfect shirt, iPod or whatever else their loved ones want that they get caught up in the competition and forget they're on a budget. And of course, sniping auctions manages timing so you're less likely to miss out on the items you seek.

Roth also says getting creative with searches can be a big payoff. Some sellers accidentally misspell brand names—which means fewer eBayers may see certain listings, according to his blog. "For example, Stride Rite children's shoes are sometimes listed under Stride Right by sellers who aren't paying attention. Since most buyers search under the correct spelling, the incorrect spelling is a boon" for the savvy shopper, Roth notes.

Browse eBay when other shoppers are sleeping to find the best deals

Fewer eyes, lower prices

You may also want to try looking for specific items using synonyms, says Aaron Hsiao of About.com. If you're trying to find a painting for the art lover in your life, try looking for it as "painting," "art" and "print." This will increase the number of listings returned in search results, and could mean finding a better deal.

Hsiao also notes that it might be worthwhile for online shoppers to stay up an extra hour or wake up an hour earlier this holiday season. Auctions that are timed poorly—for instance, those that end when few people are awake—get fewer viewers and could mean fewer bids. For example, in the U.S., auctions that end after people on the West Coast go to bed and before people on the East Coast wake up could be a goldmine.

eBay merchant reallygreatstuff suggests submitting a Best Offer if sellers provide that option. If items are staying on virtual shelves for too long, sellers may accept a significantly lower price than they're asking, which means more money in buyers' pockets. Using this approach, reallygreatstuff has purchased many items for 75 percent off the original asking price.

So now you know how to approach eBay's virtual aisles to make sure you spend as little as possible this year. But if you're still clueless about what to buy or where to shop, here are a few suggestions.

Women want items that are just for them. That means no blenders

Gifts for her

The Recessionista, a blog dedicated to savings on fashion, dining and entertaining, says accessories will score points with women this season. And they're fairly cheap, if you know where to look. Crazyshop2046 offers more than 200 silk and wool pashminas starting at less than $10. Silvercents-inc carries hundreds of earrings, pendants, bracelets and rings. Many of them go for less than $25, although the seller also carries some higher-end amethyst stone and Smokey quartz jewelry.

Jennifer Phillips Graham, a columnist for Mansfield News Journal.com, says women want items that are just for them. That means no blenders, which will help them prepare food for others. Instead, opt for a purse or coat that only she will use.

Gifts for him

Skip the ties this year, because according to an eBay survey, 24 percent of men said they are the worst gift option. Not surprisingly, men like electronics. About 20 percent of survey respondents said they wanted HDTVs and 26 percent wanted laptops. Those may seem like high-dollar gifts, but you can find them on eBay for lower prices. If you're still not convinced, try giving "Guitar Hero." It was the most popular game for those who wanted video games. You can find several on eBay stores for less than $100, and some of these include warranties. But if you don't think high-tech toys will woo the men in your life, try giving one of their favorite books and write a personalized inscription to make it extra special.

Gifts for teens

Teens can be very expensive to shop for. According to a report by The Marketing to Moms Coalition, many of them want clothing, computer equipment and cell phones. Yet this age group and children 7 to 12 years old are going to take the biggest cut this season, according to reports. But moms don't want to disappoint and many of them will still try to get them these items.

Children like to imitate their parents who 'play' with high-tech devices

That's when you need to hit up eBay for the best bargains. You can find some BlackBerries for about $50. And don't forget that girls like clothes, and a lot of them love skinny jeans—which you can also score on eBay for about $20. If you know the girl's size or have her try on a certain brand of jeans at the store then scour eBay for the same ones, you could cut costs significantly.

Gifts for kids

Electronic toys will again be popular among children, according to a Duracell Toy Survey. Topping the list was Furreal Friends Biscuit, My Lovin' Pup, a life-like dog that responds to six commands and responds to children. Children like to imitate their parents who "play" with high-tech devices, according to gadget expert and blogger Nick Broughall.

While these go for roughly $150 at other retailers, a few eBay sellers are listing the pooch for less than $100. And if that still make some parents nervous, eBay has a large variety of similar dogs that cost less than $20.

Board games are also a good choice for youngsters this season, according to reports, which showed that Monopoly is the all-time favorite game.

Now that you know the ins and outs, you are better suited to brave the holiday shopping frenzy with the reassurance your pockets won't be empty by the end. So jump right in and enjoy the experience.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

Other Entries by this Author

Follow Us