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The Cheapskate's 5 ways to win Prime Day 2019

Amazon's annual shopping holiday is just around the corner. Here's what you need to know to optimize Prime.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon Prime Day 2019 kicks off in just a few days. Don't panic! You've still got time to learn how to maximize your savings. Prime Day is about more than just showing up (digitally speaking) on July 15 and 16, like zillions of other shoppers. To really make the most of this event, follow my five tips for Prime Day success.

Read more: Amazon Prime Day 2019: The best deals so far

Shop Prime Day even if you're not a Prime subscriber

Prime Day is a members-only affair: You need to have an active Amazon Prime subscription in order to take advantage of all the discounts, right?

Yes -- sort of. If you don't have a subscription, you may still see sale prices on a wide variety of products -- just without the free 1- or 2-day shipping afforded Prime members. Although there will be undoubtedly be some items that are Prime-exclusive -- most notably Amazon-branded stuff like Kindles and Echos -- there will be others that are simply discounted.

That said, to fully hedge your bets, consider signing up for a free one-month Amazon Prime trial (available only if you've never tried Prime before). You can cancel the service after 29 days and avoid getting billed, but still reap the full benefits of Prime Day. 

This option is even better if you're a student: Amazon is still partnering with Sprint to offer college students a free six-month Amazon Prime trial.

Of course, Prime affords a whole bunch of other benefits, not the least of which are the aforementioned fast shipping on most products and lots of movies and TV shows from Prime Video. So if you don't already have an account, my two cents: totally worth it.

Don't assume Prime Day deals are the best deals

It's important to remember that products go on sale all the time, and any deal that happens during Prime Day is likely to be repeated. Don't let the event's inherent sense of urgency overwhelm your common sense.

Indeed, for any given deal you're eyeballing, check to see if the price has been the same (or lower) in the past. A great tool for this is CamelCamelCamel, which tracks Amazon price histories. Just copy the product's URL, paste it into CamelCamelCamel's search field and check the results.

I also like browser plug-in Honey, which can instantly inform you if any third-party sellers have the same product for a lower price (which doesn't happen often, but it's worth checking). It also displays price histories, much like CamelCamelCamel.

Check out other stores

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Best Buy

Amazon may be the biggest game in town, but it's not the only game. WalmarteBay and Target have announced sales of their own during the same July 15-16 period, and Macy's just kicked off its Black Friday in July sale

Get alerted when a product goes on sale

Part of the challenge of Prime Day is keeping tabs on the deals that interest you, especially those scheduled to begin later in the day. If you forget, you might miss out.

Fortunately, the Amazon App lets you track upcoming deals and receive notifications when they're about to begin. It's available for Amazon Fire, Android and iOS in their respective app stores. The app also has useful features such as voice-powered search and shipment tracking.

Speaking of alerts, be sure to follow our post on the best Amazon Prime Day deals that are already on sale, which is updated regularly. While you're at it, follow @cheapskateblog on Twitter -- not just for Prime Day deals, but also for deals year-round.

Watch for waitlists

Like Amazon's daily Lightning deals, many Prime Day deals are available in limited quantities -- and once they're "claimed," they're gone. Or maybe not: You may see a Join Waitlist button that'll put you in the queue to grab an item if it becomes available.

How does that happen? Sometimes other customers will add an item to their cart, then decide not to buy it (or fail to complete the purchase within 15 minutes) -- at which point it goes to the next person in line. That could be you, so don't be shy about joining the waitlist if it's something you really want.

And there you go! My tips for winning Prime Day. If you have any of your own tips to share, hit the comments section and spill 'em!

Originally published last July.
Update, July 10, 2019: Added new information.

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CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!