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The other day, I was running our periodic file backup on our home computers.  What I do is back up all personal files (pictures, documents, etc.) from each PC onto an external USB hard drive.  I then back up each of the drives onto a consolidated drive.  I need to get a system in place where I keep the central drive offsite, in the event that something happens to our house, but for now, it does keep the data intact, and gives at least two levels of failure in the event of a computer or hard drive crash.

While running the backup, I noticed that we were starting to run low on space on the consolidated drive as well as the drive used to back up the laptop that my wife uses.  This makes sense because she's recently started using a higher end camera, taking more photos, and storing them, all which are going to mean increased demand for storage capacity.

Knowing that my dad has a good eye for deals, especially on electronics, I asked that he keep an eye out for a good deal on a bigger drive.

Not more than 12 hours later, I got an e-mail from my dad with a deal on a 750GB drive for $39.99, marked down from $99.99.  I'd been estimating paying around $75 for that kind of space, so I instantly jumped on the deal.

Now, when that drive comes in, my plan will to use that as our consolidated drive, and use the current consolidated drive as the one to back up the laptop, and essentially cascade the lowest capacity drive out of the mix.

The point is that by asking my dad, I was able to accomplish two things:

  • Found a better deal than I had anticipated
  • Found the deal in a much faster time frame than I would have likely done on my own.

In other words, by using my ‘network', I saved both time and money.  These, of course, are two valuable things to be able to save.

Here are some tips to building and maintaining an effective ‘deal' network:

  • Know who the experts are – As mentioned, I knew that my dad had a good eye on tracking electronics deals, simply because he and I have talked at great length about this in the past
  • Ask when the thought crosses your mind – I have been watching the storage capacity shrink for the last couple of times I backed up the files and had thought about asking my dad, but then never thought of it.  This time, it worked because I happened to be talking to him while I was backing up the files.
  • Use your manners – If you're asking someone to do a favor for you, make sure to (as we remind our two kids) use your polite words.  That will go a long way.
  • Follow up if necessary…once – I got lucky in that my dad spotted a great deal so quickly, but there will be times when you don't hear back.  And that's OK.  Use your judgement on whether to drop it in a conversation at some point down the line.  But only mention it one time before you drop it.
  • Set your expectations accordingly – I always treat networking in this capacity as ‘nice to have'.  Meaning that if I ask someone for a favor, and nothing comes of it, there's no hurt feelings.  This seems simple, but I've run into situations where someone asks for a seemingly casual favor, it doesn't get followed up on which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it turns into hurt feelings down the line.  Don't let this turn into that.
  • Return the favor – If you're doing all the asking for deal searching, then you're probably doing it wrong.  It should be give and take.  You should be a resource for others if you're asking others to be a resource for you.

So, with that said, we'll soon be the happy owners of some additional drive space, all because of a little networking.

Readers, do you ‘network' for deals?  Share your experiences.