Shopping online can be quick and convenient, but it can also be pricey. Luckily, there are various tricks to help you cut costs. Take it from me—someone who’s on a first-name basis with the UPS man, but rarely pays full price or shipping costs when I purchase an item on the Internet. Here are 10 tips for getting the best deals when shopping online:
1. Hunt for coupons: Always search for coupons before making a purchase. Sites like couponcraze.com and couponmom.com have tons of coupon codes for all types of retailers, from small online merchants to large chain stores.
My favorite coupon site is retailmenot.com, which posts codes for more than 65,000 online merchants. Recent codes included 20 percent off at bathandbodyworks.com, $10 off a $70 order at sears.com, and 30 percent off a purchase plus free shipping at landsend.com.
2. Use social networking: “Like” your favorite retailers on Facebook. Many merchants, including the Gap and Banana Republic, post special coupons or announce sales first on their Facebook pages.
3. Sign up for emails: Join the email lists of your favorite retailers so you can get coupons and other special offers delivered straight to your inbox. Sportsauthority.com and kohls.com, for example, will email you a coupon for 10 percent off your purchase just for signing up.
4. Weigh online vs. in-store prices: If possible, compare a retailer’s online price to its in-store price for an item—they’re not always the same and sometimes the online price isn’t the best deal. I recently found a Lamaze toy at a brick and mortar Babies “R” Us with a $14.99 price tag; the same toy was $19.99 at babiesrus.com.
5. Stack smart: Some retailers, such as shoe merchant dsw.com, allow you to “stack” coupon codes, or use more than one. The key is to enter the codes in the proper order to maximize savings. So if you have two coupon codes—one for $10 off your purchase and another for 15 percent off— enter the 15 percent code first, then the $10 code. That way, you’ll get 15 percent off the full price of the item, before the $10 discount.
6. Comparison shop: Use price-comparison and product-search sites like bizrate.com, mysimon.com, and froogle.com to compare the prices of items at various online and local merchants.
7. Avoid shipping fees: Many stores offer free shipping if you spend a certain amount. If you’re falling short of that minimum, think about other items you may need that you can purchase ahead of time. I recently bought a pair of favorite socks at macys.com because I was a few dollars short of the $99 minimum required for free shipping. I thus saved myself the $8 flat shipping fee and had new socks.
8. Check the return policy: Some retailers, such as shoe merchants zappos.com and piperlime.com, offer free return shipping. Many others allow you to return items in-store for free. Knowing a retailer’s return policy can help you save money if you’re not completely satisfied with an item.
9. Get rewarded: Join your favorite retailers’ loyalty programs, and don’t forget to enter your loyalty number each time you shop. You can earn money back on your purchases, plus other great deals.
10. Be patient: If you don’t need an item right away, it pays to check back daily over a two-week period to see if a new coupon pops up or if an item goes on sale. And when you do see a good deal, jump on it—it often won’t last long!
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