How to get genuinely good deals on Amazon Prime Day

Be efficient with your search and make sure everything is worthwhile.

Amazon Prime Day 2018
Amazon goes all-out on discounts every Prime Day.Amazon

Once a year, Amazon offers its Prime subscribers an extravaganza of special deals. And Amazon Prime Day 2019 is almost upon us—though it actually now stretches across two days. The digital event begins Monday, July 15, at 3:01 a.m. EST and runs right up until Tuesday, July 16, at 02:59 p.m. EST.

To make sure you're getting the lowest prices on the coolest items, you need to think smartly and strategically. Here are the tricks and tools you'll need to find the best deals this Prime Day.

Start preparing now

The more you can do before Prime Day arrives, the better. You don't want to waste time filling out registration forms when you could be scoring deals instead.

First and foremost, only Prime subscribers can take part in Prime Day, so go ahead and sign up. If you're a college student, you can get a 6-month free trial membership and if you're otherwise new to the service, you won't have to pay for 30 days. If you've got no free options left, you're looking at costs of $13 a month or $120 a year, depending on how long you want to commit. As a Prime member, you'll get discounts, access to free speedy shipping, and use of the company's streaming service, Amazon Prime Video.

Next, install the Amazon app (for Android and iOS). This gateway lets you find deals right from your phone, so you can shop on the go. Don't miss out on discounts just because you're commuting or taking a lunch break.

If you find computer shopping easier, forget the app. Instead, bookmark the Amazon site and any sub-sites for categories that interest you most, whether that's electronic gadgets or beauty products. With multiple bookmarks, you'll be able to quickly jump to the pages you need, and even open them in separate browser tabs.

Ultimately, Prime Day shopping is easier on a laptop than a phone. A full desktop web browser shows you more on the screen at once, and lets you load up other products in background tabs ready to compare (use Ctrl+click on Windows or Cmd+click on macOS to load links in the background).

Decide what you want in advance

Amazon Prime lists
Get an idea of what you want to be shopping for.David Nield

When Prime Day officially starts, a barrage of deals will take over the site and the company will advertise certain discounts at the top of every Amazon page you open. By all means, take the plunge if you want—some of these deals are very good—but don't let the e-tail behemoth tempt you into buying a lot of stuff you don't need. Instead, head to the site with a specific shopping list in mind.

Don't worry about missing out on discounts—Amazon provides an advance preview of certain deals. To find them, launch the app (this trick doesn't work on the website) and search for "sneak peek." You won't get the discount right away, but you can add the item to your shopping list by choosing Add to list > Shopping List. To review items on your lists in the app, tap the menu button (three lines) on the top left of the screen and go to Your Wish List > View lists > Shopping List. On the website, check out your wish list by clicking the Accounts & Lists button at the top of the page.

Shopping lists can help you find good deals even after Prime Day draws to a close. When you add an item to your list, Amazon will learn more about your interests and send you specialized offers. On the app, head to Settings > Notifications > Your Recommendations, and you can tell Amazon to send you push notifications when it has a new discount on something it thinks you'll like. However, if you prefer to protect your privacy, you probably shouldn't be on Amazon at all—but at the very least, you should avoid making wish lists.

You can tweak your personalized recommendations further by opening the Improve Your Recommendations page and rating stuff you've previously bought. If you're not really that into Charles Dickens novels any more, let Amazon know.

Some items on your list might be available right now, because certain Prime-Day deals will work before July 15 rolls around. To find currently-available discounts on the app, head to Today's Deals and follow the Prime links. On the website, check out the Prime hub.

Browse smarter

When the big day comes, finding special Prime Day offers is pretty easy. The aforementioned hub page and Amazon's front page will both display them. Throughout the day, some of these discounts will expire and new ones will appear.

Yes, this avalanche of options can feel overwhelming. And besides, you don't want to sit behind your computer refreshing the listings page every two minutes. Instead, keep an eye on the items on your shopping list. A blue Prime Day Deal label will appear next to all discounted items, both on their individual pages and when they crop up in search results.

You can also create a different kind of list on Prime Day. Amazon will preview certain deals before they become available, and you may encounter offers that you're unsure about but want to keep tracking. If an interesting discount crops up, click or tap the Watch this deal button next to it. When a deal on this watchlist goes live, you can receive a notification. To do this on the app, go to Settings > Notifications > Your Watched & Waitlisted Deals and enable the alert. To get a notification on your browser, install the Amazon Assistant extension (right now, Amazon will bribe you to install the plug-in with $10 off your next $50 purchase).

In addition, Amazon keeps a profile on your shopping habits, which lets them compile personalized recommendations just for you. If you own an Amazon Echo, Alexa can feed you this information. Just ask, "Alexa, what are my deals?" or "Alexa, what are Prime Day deals?" When the price sounds good, say, "Add it to my cart." Then check out via the Amazon app or site.

Don't just jump through the checkout process as soon as you see a discounted price through. Always do your research, checking the listed specs and user reviews—the Fakespot site can be very handy in flagging reviews that aren't as genuine as you might think. It's not an exact science, but it's another resource you can turn to before making any buying decisions.

Other tools

CamelCamelCamel interface
Use CamelCamelCamel to see just how much of a discount an item has been given.David Nield

If you have trouble finding discounts on items you actually want, other services can help you track specific products and warn you when a deal is about to kick in.

For example, third-party plug-in CamelCamelCamel will let you track products' prices and alert you when these items become cheaper. This works even after Prime Day ends. Just sign up for an account and then search for a product by entering keywords or copy-and-pasting its Amazon URL. When you head to that item's page and hit the Start Tracking button, CamelCamelCamel will wait for the price to drop and send you an alert via email or Twitter if that happens. This service also shows you the historical prices for that Amazon listing, so you can see if you're getting a genuine bargain or not.

Don't forget other retailers while you're splurging on Prime Day 2019—even with Amazon's massive discounts, you might find the same or better deals elsewhere. Shoptimate plugs right into your web browser and can alert you to better prices elsewhere with a single click, with Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and eBay among the stores queried.

Social media is another good place to find deals. Follow Amazon on Twitter and Facebook to receive advance warning about some of the best Prime Day offers.

Many technology news sources will cover Prime Day in detail. Popular Science, for example, will maintain a constantly-updated list of our favorite Prime Day deals. (It's not live yet, but a link will appear on our front page on Monday.) Keep these pages open in your browser or subscribe to the same outlets' social media feeds to sort the real deals from the meh ones.

Media sources' social media accounts may also tweet out individual deals, which means that you can create a dedicated Prime Day Twitter list. On the Twitter pages of a few tech-news outlets, click the menu button (three dots) followed by Add or remove from lists, and create a Prime Day list. Bookmark this list in your browser, and you'll have easy access to offers without having to bother with all that other social media noise.