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).
Unless you decide to go with a pre-paid phone service, major cell phone carriers typically require a two-year commitment from you in order to cheaply obtain and use many of today’s most popular and desirable mobile handsets, including both feature phone and smart phone models. Signing up can be daunting, so here are a few things to look for and remember as you’re committing to a cell phone plan, including several tips that can save you money on your cell phone bill. Consider all before making a commitment – after all, early termination fees will apply.
Do the Math
Wireless carriers know what they’re doing when they charge you by the month instead of quoting you a yearly rate. It’s a lot more palatable to consider spending $100 a month than it is to consider that you’re paying $1200 over the course of the year. But since we often think of our income on scales of a year, make sure to multiply your projected bill by 12 to make sure it fits into your overall income, and that you’re comfortable making that commitment.
Know Your Limits
Make sure you and everyone on your plan has a clear understanding of their monthly limits for minutes, data usage and text messaging. Mobile phone providers love charging outrageous overage fees, so your best bet is to sign up for a plan that you know you won’t exceed, and then look at your usage over the first couple of months and adjust as appropriate. A good start: Look at the last six months of your current cell phone bills to get a sense of how many minutes, how much data, and how many text messages you send on average.
Be a Tweaker
Monitor your usage, and make sure you’re using a plan that’s right for you. Companies make it easier than ever to track your usage, whether it’s from the computer via your account portal or even via easy apps. Look at your actual usage in terms of time, texts and data limits, and if you’re going way under or way over your limits, investigate other plan options.
Know what happens if you cancel on the contract. Most services will have high cancellation fees in the first year, but they may diminish as you get closer to the end of your contract. Since life always seems to throw curveballs and changing circumstances at us, it’s good to know what will happen should you need to make an unexpected switch.
If you’re traveling abroad, or even think you’ll be close to another country (like in San Diego or Detroit for example), make sure you’re aware of the consequences of roaming. You can set your plan to not allow these types of charges in order to avoid any fees, but often you can find that signing up for an international plan for the duration of your trip is more reasonable than you might expect.
The old axiom for depreciating value used to be driving a car off a car phone lot, but these days it seems that the moment you commit to a new smartphone, a new and cooler one is announced or released days later, often of the same model. If you’re one of those who needs to be at the cutting edge as an early adopter, be prepared to pay full price for devices unless you’re within your plan’s window near the end of the contract which allows upgrade. Ask about this at the time of purchase so you know whether to upgrading is a realistic option for you or not.
Know How To Make Changes
Utilize the management tools your provider gives you. Know and remember your account password, and download any monitoring apps your provider offers. Make a habit to check in on these at least once a month, but it’s often useful to look a couple times so you can see how your usage is distributed as the month progresses. Even though mobile companies are out to make money (and they make a lot of it), they also provide great service and ease for their customers, it’s simply a matter of taking the time to access it.
Shopping online is fun and supremely convenient, given that you can do the deed virtually anytime, anywhere. Best of all, hunting for an online deal is as easy as performing a few mouse clicks. Some people do prefer the thrill of actively going from store-to-store and stalking the best possible price, but for the rest of us, it’s kind of nice to be able to rest our feet and see what the Internet can offer us as far as online bargains go. Happily, there are several sites you can use to find bargain-priced items and electronics, and there are even scripts/apps that you can install on Firefox or your smartphone to optimize your shopping experience. Here are some ways to find the best deals online, all of which can help you save money through Internet bargains.
Groupon – Daily deals service Groupon has made the good old fashioned coupon relevant in the age of digital-savvy shoppers. Groupon works a little differently than the stuff you clip out of the newspaper, though: the site can look for specific deals in your area (via zip/postal code), and send them via regular emails, which you can then purchase. If enough people purchase the deal along with you by midnight, the deal goes through and you can print your coupon or send it to your smartphone. If not enough people sign up, the deal expires and nobody is charged. If you’re sharp and persistent, you can easily find 50% off some goods and services.
PriceGrabber – PriceGrabber is an easy-to-use price comparison website/service that lets you view retailers’ prices side-by-side. Buying (if you choose to do so) is then as easy as clicking a button.
RedLaser and Milo Local Shopping – These downloadable apps for your smartphone include a barcode scanner and local shopping search engine. Using them, just scan products’ UPC codes, and you can check online to see which local retailers’ or big box stores located nearby have the best prices. It’s a great way to enjoy the best shopping deals online, and ensure that you’re getting the best bargain possible, via the Internet or otherwise – in some cases, you can even order direct from the apps and pick up at the store.
RedFlagDeals – RedFlagDeals is a discount and deals website specifically for Canadians. Your hunt-and-shop experience is automatically tailored to your city and region, and you can find everything from discount electronics, luggage, patio furniture, and toys.
Billeo – Billeo is a shopping application and toolbar that streamlines online payments, including bill payments and shopping transactions. You can also keep track of deals and offers that come through providers like Visa and Discover.
Twitter – There are tons of Twitter feeds that trawl the ‘net for the best online deals and bring them right to your doorstep. Try @ShopAtHome for deals on clothes, household accessories, and gift cards. You should also keep up-to-date with the Twitter feeds belonging to your favorite stores, as you’ll often be notified of discounts and deals that you wouldn’t find out about otherwise.
For more hints on finding the best shopping deals online, visit: