Shopping comparison sites are one of the more common ways Aussies research online, with Shopbot and Getprice popular for a wide array of goods, while StaticIce is much loved by the PC building set. Shibby is another excellently named and under-discussed addition to the list of comparison sites, letting you search across a variety of categories as well as within a given price range.
Getting your goods from the US
Intriguingly, given our apparent reluctance to spend online, we're remarkable happy to spend overseas - around 40% of every dollar we spend online is on a non-Australian website, according, once again, to Frost & Sullivan. Of course, buying from the US is fraught with its own issues, hence the popularity of services such as Price USA. Price USA will actually make the physical purchase for you, then send the goods on to Australia. For hard to find items that rarely make it to online sites, this is invaluable.
Alternatively, for places that won't ship your much-desired items outside the US, you can use MyUS. MyUS will provide you with a US shipping address, then forward the items to Australia - perfect for sites belonging to a few of the major US retailers. Keep abreast of just how well the AUD is doing with the Universal Currency Converter. Odds on it'll be a while between drinks in terms of just how superb the conversion has been at the end of 2010.
If you're looking for US-only consumer electronics devices, always check Expansys first. While so-called "grey importing" is not much loved by the manufacturers and retailers, Expansys often has access to devices that have yet to officially make it to Australia
When we do relax enough to buy online, we tend to use the nigh-ubiquitous PayPal, which has been around for over 10 years. It's worth remembering that while PayPal is not technically a bank by Australian standards, it is covered by the Banking & Financial Services Ombudsman. This means that in addition to PayPal's impressive customer service system for payment resolutions, you are able to approach the Financial Ombudsman Services to seek help. Surprisingly, given the media hype about fraudulent transactions online, according to a study commissioned by Visa (and thus requiring a grain of salt), 79% of Australians have been extremely happy with any purchases made via the internet. For the remaining 21%, ScamWatch is a great place to research potential problems before shopping.
If we're not paying with PayPal, we're paying with credit cards. For anyone concerned about their fees, Credit Card Compare and Whistleout are great ways to work out if your financial institution is actually giving you the best deal available.
We definitely love to use these, with eBay being the most loved. Some of the best deals to be had via eBay are the so-called hidden auctions: misspelled items that result in brand new "ntoebooks" and incredibly rare "Star Terk memorbillia" going unsold or for tenths of their actual worth. Sites such as TypoBay actually let you search not only for the correct term but also across a mix of the more common misspellings, letting you hone in on otherwise unfound bargains.
Finally, it's worth recalling that eBay is a long way from being the only Auction site around. GraysOnline is a particularly good site for people looking for anything from laptops to construction equipment. It's often used by businesses that are shutting down, meaning expensive office gear can be easily found along with fleet equipment for anyone looking to purchase in bulk.
For the full list of 101 Essential Websites for 2011, get the February issue of PC & Tech Authority at your local newsagency, or available on iPad.
Also read: Bargain hotspots: 5 sites you really will want to bookmark