With more than $200 billion dollars spent annually online according to Forrester research, the role of the Internet in shopping and making purchasing decisions continues to increase. And whether it’s finding the best deals on items you know you want, or purchasing items you didn’t realize you wanted but were the right price, a large part of the appeal of online shopping, aside from the convenience, is being able to save money. Here are some hints, tips and expert strategies – including links to the best websites for coupons, sales and deals that can help you save money online – to help you maximize your dollars when shopping on the Internet.
Use comparison shopping sites.
Even if you’re preparing to make a purchase at a retail store instead of online, it’s still helpful to compare prices online to make sure you have a firm grasp of how much items are available for. Price comparison sites have made it pretty easy to get quick information from a number of sources about prices on electronics, furniture and travel and more.
PriceGrabber covers many options like electronics, clothing, appliances, cameras and more. Kayak is a great resource to compare travel sites, and offers continuous monitoring of saved searches in case prices change. And don’t forget the “Shopping” section on search engines like Bing and Google that can each quickly retrieve options on items from many different online outlets.
Learn how to search for online coupons or promo codes
Before making a purchase, it’s common to want to Google items to see if you can find a promotional code (a sequence of numbers or letters you can enter at checkout to get an immediate discount). This will often turn up a lot of questionable sites that seem designed for the sole purpose of simply getting you to click on them. Carefully look at the source for each results. However, many legitimate sites also offer immediate savings: Some of the best money saving sites for online deals include solutions like RetailMeNot, FatWallet and Dealspl.us are better choices than some of the ones with with long hyphenated names in their urls.
Another thing to look for in these results is whether any of these discounts are coming directly from the manufacturer. It may be OK to click on the sponsored ads from your search if it looks like it will take you to the brand’s website. Also keep in mind – not all sites will feature the same offers, so look around for the best deals online. Not that there are also websites such as Valpak, Red Plum and Smart Source that are extensions of physical coupon mailers and inserts that many receive in the mail or in the newspaper you can reference as well.
Don’t pay just for coupons
Be leery of paying a subscription fee to an online coupon service. Ask yourself if you think a known brand would align with the site in question by providing special offers to them. Chances are, you’ll find that the only thing they provide is material you could have found elsewhere on your own for free.
Keep an eye on local group deal and daily email savings sites
Groupon ushered in a new way for consumers to do business, harnessing the power of groups to entice retailers and manufacturers to offer services at a steep discount in an effort to attract customers who otherwise might not ever visit them. However, while the deals can be great, there are also horror stories, such as the small cupcake bakery in the UK who offered a 75% discount on cupcakes in holiday 2011, only to be swamped with so many orders that they had to pay so much for additional staff and supplies that they lost nearly $20,000. Most are simply great solutions for customers and small businesses alike, though. Signing up for them is free of charge, and since the deals will be e-mailed to you, you can simply delete or ignore those that aren’t interesting to you.
Here are five of top daily, weekly and local deals sites that we think it’s worth subscribing to. Remember, these are places that will send offers to you, and aren’t outlets where you are able to actively seek deals on specific products (unless they happen to be featuring them).