I’ve never been a coupon clipper in the literal sense, but when it comes to scoping out deals on the Internet, I become a fierce bargain-hunting machine. As any savvy online shopper will tell you, there are some definite tricks-of-the-trade. Some only take an extra minute of your time—but could save you serious cash. Others require more effort, but have a more consistent payoff. Whether you’re willing to devote some real time to catching online deals or just want a few quick tricks, check out the tips below before you press buy.
Easy tricks (for the occasional browser)
Promo Codes: Ever notice that little box at checkout that allows you to input a code? If you’ve never used it before, now is the moment. Before you complete your purchase, Google the name of the online retailer and the words “promo codes.” Or check out one of the several sites dedicated to collecting these codes (some of the best are RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin, and Mommy Saves Big). These codes might offer anything from 20% off your order to free shipping.
Be Indecisive: Sometimes the best thing you can do if you don’t want to pay full price for an item is simply to not decide. Leaving an item in your cart for an extended period of time might spur an online retailer to offer a discount or some other incentive (like free shipping) to push you to buy.
Comparison Shop: There are several online services that will help you compare the price of an item across many vendors. Check out Bizrate and MySimon for starters, but if you’re in a rush, Googling the product you want to buy can also be a good way to find other great deals.
More demanding tips (for the dedicated shopper)
Use Social Media: Liking a company on Facebook or following them on Twitter will often earn you exclusive coupon codes or allow you to enter in special giveaways. If you don’t like the idea of having to plaster your Facebook wall or Twitter feeds with promotional shares or retweets, consider getting an account specifically for following retailers.
Join Email Lists: Many companies will share special deals with their most loyal customers. Signing up for emails from these sellers will get you on the list. To avoid the bane of the one-time-use promo code, really devoted bargain shoppers will often open several different email accounts. By signing all of them up for the same list, they receive three promotional codes (and save three times the money).
Circumvent Dynamic Pricing: Some online retailers (cough cough … AMAZON … cough) target discounts specifically to you based on your browsing and buying history. In order to avoid a situation where the price you are being charged is higher than the one offered to the average buyer, clear your browser cookies and log out of your account. Then do a price comparison and see which option gives you the better deal.