Drop me in the back of a Dick Smith store and I can wile away an hour or two.

Dick Smith and its cousin, Jaycar Electronics, are jam-packed with useful bits and bobs for your camera, phone or computer. But they're not cheap. If you're smart you can pay 50 per cent less for many of those widgets and gadgets.

There are two ways to save. The first thing is to buy generic copies rather than own brand spares. If your Canon camera battery dies, from Flashcards.co.nz you'll pay about $30 more for a "genuine" 4 Canon-branded one compared with an unbranded version made by a third party company.

Any spare you can fit yourself such as memory, batteries, cables and chargers can almost always be bought in a generic form.

Even if your phone or other device has just been launched in this country, you'll find generic spares for it. In the same week the iPhone 4 launched in New Zealand, generic silicone cases were being sold on Trade Me at a fraction of the cost of official retailers.

The other thing to do is shop around. I've been in the market recently for a USB car charger. At Dick Smith last week, the device I desired was $19.99. On the same day, Trade Me seller "Abilities" was selling them for $2 plus $4 postage and the money went to the seller's work with people with disabilities.

One of my best examples of how browsing with your mouse can pay off was a replacement standard iPod USB 2.0 cable, retailing for $44.98 at Dick Smith. On Trade Me, an unbranded cable was $8.

I've bought plenty of good new items on Trade Me for less than half the high street price, such as a step-down transformer, a switch box selector and a countdown timer. (Yes all right, I'm a geek).

It's also worth checking out local computer component shops such as ETC Computers, and even $2 shops or similar. I did that for this article and found a basic set of RCA plugs at Devonport's $2 & More Mart for $3, instead of $19.99 at Dick Smith. I also uncovered a cassette adaptor for $3.90. A Digitor device was $34.98.

In the latter, I probably wasn't comparing quality, and you do need to be careful at $2 shops and Trade Me. Don't get me wrong. I adore Dick Smith and I've had plenty of good buys. But if you want to save your pennies, shop around.

diana@bargainbetty.co.nz