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).
It’s somewhere on the top of every aspiring writer’s “To Do” list: Write a Novel. Preferably one that earns a descriptor like, “Great American,” “Best-Selling,” or “Phenomenally Popular.” Alas, not everyone has the time or energy to engage in courtship dances with agents and publishers. Fortunately, the Internet is brimming with some of the best resources you can use to self-publish your own books.
You’re not restricted to publishing novels, either. There are tools online that let you self-publish magazines, eBooks, and even cookbooks. Most self-publishing services are hooked up with one or more major book distributors ( including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and international distributors as well), so selling online is a snap too. Of course, some writers still prefer the thrill and challenge of having their work acknowledged and promoted by a publisher. But if you’re looking for something quicker, easier and more practical, here are some great resources you can use to self-publish your writing:
Lulu – Lulu is the Internet’s go-to spot for self-publishing. You can pay for printing, editing, and marketing services a la carte, or else you can opt for a package experience that hooks you up with a personal coordinator that will take you through the process. If you’re undecided about what you need, you can sign up for a free consultation, and the site also offers extensive back-end selling tools for businesses. Distribution to online websites, iBooks and the Nook is also offered.
CreateSpace – CreateSpace is a publication service run by Amazon.com. You can turn your book into solid matter by using either the site’s free or paid services, and you can put the finishing touches on your work with the site’s affordable editing, design, and marketing options. You can also promote your novel via your own eShop, which is hosted by Amazon.
Kindle Direct Publishing – Many authors are turning to Amazon’s popular Kindle eReader to publish, with digital books starting to outsell print volumes. Using KDP, you can publish small Singles (about the size of a long essay) or full-size novels alike in digital eBook format, and get them up on the site for download to the Kindle Fire and similar devices in a matter of days. It’s shockingly convenient.
MagCloud – MagCloud is a print-on-demand service that’s headed by Hewlett-Packard (HP). It’s tailored for the creation and distribution of digital editions and single-issue magazines. MagCloud offers digital support, too. Show the world that the fanzine is not dead by printing your own magazines and distributing them to friends, family and supporters!
iUniverse – With iUniverse, you have access to advice and tips from insiders that have already had success self-publishing their work. The iUniverse Roadmap walks you through the publishing process, making it as easy as possible to get your work off the computer and up for sale.
What About eBooks? – For some people, there’s no substitution for the rough lick of pages passing through your fingers. Let’s be reasonable, though, eBooks are only going to become more popular, not less so – especially with digital manuscripts now outselling print volumes. That’s why you should definitely consider putting out an eBook in addition to your print books or as an alternative when it comes time to self-publish. After all, hard copies of books and magazines tend to be a bit more costly than virtual alternatives, and a potential reader is far more likely to shell out for the (much) lower cost of an eBook.
Lulu.com’s even found that eBooks can offer readers additional benefits, and potentially boost sales of print editions as well, and offers eBook publishing, as do many of the other sites mentioned on this list. There are other services that can help with digital publishing programs as well, including SmashWords, Publish Green, and FastPencil. Look at what each service offers and decide what’s right for you.
For more information about self-publishing books and eBooks, visit:
Small Business Expert
Essential hints, tips & business advice for startups & entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are increasingly turning to Apple’s popular iPad tablet PC as an alternative to traditional laptops. Given the mobile device’s gorgeous touchscreen display, user-friendly interface, and infinite selection of downloadable apps, which bestow the ability for the system to double as a growing range of gadgets, we can’t say we blame them. Of course, getting the most out of the gizmo often requires investing in some of the best iPad cases and accessories for businesses available out there as well – a point that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re pondering adding the system to your IT budget.
Important to consider: While the iPad isn’t right for all businesses or industries, it can make a reasonable complement to or replacement for desktop and laptop systems in certain cases, meaning that it’s vital to consider your firm’s needs and high-tech usage patterns before buying. And, of course, recognize the device’s limitations, as its virtual keyboard, limited battery life and suite of software programs (in some cases less robust than those you’d enjoy on a traditional computer system) may not suit your company’s requirements. However, the following add-ons can help mitigate some of these issues, and bestow additional features onto the iPad, which may make the decision somewhat easier.
As you’ll see in our latest column for Inc. magazine, the range of iPad cases, accessories and add-ons continues to grow and expand in new directions – many highly beneficial for today’s business owner.
This leather carrying case has an integrated Bluetooth keyboard and folding kickstand. Beyond the obvious benefits of protecting your device and giving you a more comfortable way to type, it’s also elegantly designed. Heck, it’s even fashionable. Be prepared to pay for the style, however: Units don’t come cheap.
Digital cameras still produce better images than smartphones and tablets on average, especially under dimly-lit conditions. That’s why you might want to pick up this connection kit, which can import photos and videos onto the iPad via your camera’s USB cable or SD card. Support for JPEG and RAW images, and SD and HD video formats (H.264, MP4, etc.), make it especially handy for social media campaigns or those needing to capture low-light shots at product demos or events.
An all-in-one solution for mobile professionals, this “Bluetooth keyboard speaker system” (read: full-service workstation) provides a physical keypad, stereo speakers, and two USB ports for device charging. Using it, you can videoconference, play music while working, and recharge mobile gadgets all while you’re getting work done.
For more of the best iPad cases and accessories, please visit Inc. magazine.