Friday, January 30, 2015

My Top 3 Deals of Last Year!

Last year was good for some, bad for others. My own had its ups and downs. But throughout the year I purchased several products. Today I want to share the top 3 deals I made. Not the top 3 best items, or the top 3 most useful items. No, this is all about the deals I snagged and how much I saved in the process.

iPhone 5S
Before the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released, "everyone" had an iPhone 5S. There was also the 5C, which was really just another 4S, but the people who wanted the "best" had an iPhone 5S.

My anniversary was coming up, and my wife was still using a failing iPhone 3GS. It had mainly been used for work by that point, as the home button was more and more frequently not responding. I decided that I would go and search for a deal on an iPhone 5S as a worthy replacement.

I searched eBay and some other auction sites, but everything was still going from $500 to $600, or more. I didn't want to spend that much because I couldn't afford to. I then began searching through Craigslist, and not just in my town, but all US towns. Fortunately, I found a deal in my town that seemed to good to be true...

The seller was offering an iPhone 5S 16GB for around $250, and would entertain other offers. I contacted him and asked why he was selling. He had bought it from another person on Craigslist but it was still locked to AT&T, and that it could not even get to the home screen until it was activated.

The seller proceeded to tell me that it was an easy fix, which of course, if it was, he would probably still have the phone. I initially got him down to $230 stating that I was interested but worried it wouldn't work since it was an anniversary gift for my wife. I played dumb and eventually got him to agree to sell it for $200.

I told him that my brother would come and pick it up being that I was out-of-town and did not know when I would be back. My brother would also test it before buying. The seller did not have a charging cable but assured me it would turn on. I told my brother to buy a charging cable beforehand for testing. When my brother met with the seller, he made sure there were no scratches or nicks, and they tested the phone out to make sure it turned on. It did. The seller was kind enough to knock off another $10 since my brother had to buy the charging cable for testing.

When I finally got the phone, I charged it, and it did work. Immediately I called AT&T to ask if the phone was reported stolen. Thankfully, it was not. I tried a couple of tricks to activate the phone, but it could not be bypassed. Instead, I went to AT&T and signed up for a cheap one-month plan to get it activated. Once activated, I paid around $30 to an eBay seller to have it unlocked.

The phone has since worked perfectly. The funny thing that the Craigslist seller did not seem to know was that it was a 32GB model, worth a bit more than a 16GB model... 

In total I paid $200 for a slightly used iPhone 5S 32GB with a charging cable. I dished out an additional $60 to get it activated and unlocked. For $260, I paid at least half of what I might have been able to get for a used 16GB model (at the time).

I have always been into camcorders and cameras ever since I owned a VHS-C camcorder. And while I don't find the need to constantly buy cameras, I do try to buy them when I find them unique and worthy of using.

The Canon EOS-M is the lowest on the EOS line, but is also the most compact. The size of it and weight allow you to easily carry it around in your pocket. It is near-identical to a Rebel T4i in terms of hardware. Magic Lantern firmware can also be installed to increase its capabilities. When it was launched, the EOS-M was a bit more expensive than the T4i. It has since dropped to much lower prices, despite still having similar hardware.

By the time I got interested in the EOS-M, many things had happened to it that made it much cheaper than from its release. The major scandal was that its focus times were incredibly slow, making it hard to capture those fleeting moments. Eventually Canon released a firmware update to make its focus speed much more reasonable, but by then it was far too late to sell it for the high profit margins Canon had initially hoped for.

An EOS-M II version was released, but only in Japan. With the update to the original EOS-M, the focus speeds are close, with the second version being ultimately faster. Knowing this, I decided to get myself a "cheap" EOS-M as a backup camera. And after seeing positive reviews pitting it against a 5DMK III, it seemed like a great decision.

When I first looked on Amazon, the camera was going for around $215 for just the body, and about $370 for a body and a lens. This is the cheapest they came brand new on Amazon, without tax. eBay had similar prices. And even though it was a good price, I thought I could do better using other venues.

Again I came across a listing on Craigslist, but this time from a different town. The price was around $185 and included a lens and an 8GB SD card. I talked to the guy and he just had no use for it. He seemed like the type of person that bought things, but if they weren't what he expected, he would sell it and not care about a loss. That is an ideal person to make deals with.

After some back-and-forth through text messages, he agreed to letting it go for $160 if I used PayPal and sent the money as a gift (to avoid PayPal fees on his end). I sent him the money and he replied that he would send the camera out immediately.

I got so excited that it wasn't until an hour later that I realized I had never given him my address. The actual time this epiphany hit should've meant that the USPS store would be closed... I texted him and gave him my address. Fortunately, he replied and he gave me a tracking number.

I knew that the tracking number wouldn't be updated on the USPS system for a while, so I waited until the next day to check it. When I did check it, it still didn't register in the system. I checked it again the next day with the same results. Worried that I had been screwed, I researched enough about the guy to know his full name, where he lived, where he worked, had worked, and had gone to school. I even knew a little bit about his interests!

A couple days before the package came, I decided to check on UPS with the tracking number because it still didn't make since to me that he shipped it at the time that he supposedly did. Sure enough, he had sent it UPS.

The camera was in perfect condition and came with everything promised. It was a great deal for $160. I checked the pricing for the camera on Amazon a month later, and prices had actually risen. Even today, the prices remain about the same. I paid less than half what the EOS-M would go for (on Amazon) with the specific lens and a Kingston 8GB SD card.

GTX 980
I wrote about this in another article, so I won't put nearly as much effort into describing it here. The way this story goes is that I decided I wanted to upgrade from my EVGA GTX 680 SC graphics card. I usually skip two generations and buy a used generation from the previous year when I can. This time I was so hyped about the new NVIDIA GTX 900 series, I didn't want to wait that long.

I weighed out all my options and the prices I could afford. In the end, I took the most reasonable choice, which was a GTX 770. I could SLI it with my current card, save some money, and then wait until the new series started appearing at much lower prices.

I did inquire about a Zotac GTX 970 from one person on a forum, but they were no longer selling the card for whatever reason. 2015 rolled around and in January I received a PM from the same person asking if I would be interested in an unopened EVGA GTX 970 SC graphics card with ACX 2.0 cooling. After some minor negotiations, I bought the card for $300. This was paid by sending the seller an Amazon gift card...

I then sold my GTX 770, without ever seeing it, on eBay for a $36.50 profit. I received my new card and should have been satisfied with that.

For no particular reason, I messaged an eBay seller about a slightly used EVGA GTX 980 SC reference-styled graphics card he was selling for $600, or best offer. I asked for his lowest price which was only $30 cheaper. Taking a chance, I asked the seller if he would consider trading for an unopened EVGA GTX 970 SC with some cash. He replied yes and I bargained him down from $150 to $120. We made the transaction through PayPal and he sent me his card, as I sent him mine.

In reality I paid $420 for a slightly used EVGA GTX 980 SC reference-styled graphics card with at least 2.5+ year warranty remaining. This card goes brand new on Amazon for well over $700 dollars. A no-frills GTX 980 reference-styled card will normally sell for $470 (new) on eBay, and can fetch more. A special edition of these cards usually go for $520-$530 (new or used) and up on eBay. Knowing this, I saved myself at least $100, and it is quite feasible to say that I could make a $100-$150+ profit if I decided to turn around and sell it right now.

I am aware that this deal ended in 2015, not 2014. However, I consider the deal having started in 2014 with the first email to the seller about his other GTX 980. If you want to get technical, then the deals here were all made within the last 12 months.

And Sold...
I get some really good deals if I search hard enough and take the time to do so. All my deals are thoroughly researched before and after, and my deals always include delivery charges.

Sometimes I just get lucky in my timing and who I'm dealing with. I do take chances, and many times find myself rewarded when doing so. My hope is to continue my deals of greatness into 2015 where I might get another great year of purchasing new and used products.

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