Money saving tips for online shopping (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Nov 12, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - Saving money is always in vogue. And there's often no better way to do it than by shopping online. The reason: not only is there tremendous price competition online, but there are also ample ways to save. Exercising caution as a shopper, though, is imperative in the online world as well, for cyberspace has more than its share of unscrupulous sellers. So how can you come away with the best price while feeling confident that you'll actually get what you pay for?
--- Find coupons codes
The prices you find online are often lower than those you find at brick-and-mortar stores to begin with. But that doesn't mean those low prices can't go even lower. Many cyberspace retailers regularly allows the application of 'coupon codes' - a string of numbers, letters, or both - that will reduce the price of an item in your shopping cart by a certain percentage.
Finding coupon codes is the tricky part. If you regularly shop at a particular online retailer, signing up for their special offers or marketing newsletters can be one way of finding coupon codes. A more common way for many internet shoppers, however, is by searching for coupon codes on sites that do nothing other than list them. CheapStingyBargains (http://www.cheapstingybargains.com), Dealio (http://www.dealio.com), and Bargainist (http://www.bargainist.com) are just a few of the many that provide new coupon codes on a daily basis.
There are also user-to-user sites where members share codes that they've received. Many of these forums are country specific, so do a Google search for 'coupon forum' from your location. Some of the largest English-speaking forums include FatWallet (http://www.fatwallet.com/forums), SlickDeals (http://slickdeals.net/forums), and DealCatcher (http://www.dealcatcher.com/forums).
--- Using coupon codes
Many online coupons are designed to be used during the checkout process. Typically, you'll see a 'promo code' or 'coupon code' box on one of the screens that lead you to the final order confirmation screen. Be attentive: occasionally the 'coupon code' or 'promo code' boxes are located toward the bottom of the screen, and they're easy to miss if you're not looking out for them. If you intend to use a coupon code at checkout, don't finalise the order until you've done so. Online coupons generally cannot be redeemed after the purchase.
The existence of a promo code or coupon code box, incidentally, is often a good indication that the online store you're shopping at does regularly offer discounts. If you see such a box and you don't have a coupon code in hand, spend some time on the internet searching for one. Sometimes, at one of the online coupon depots mentioned earlier, you can find a valid coupon code and get a price reduction on an item you intended to purchase anyway.
--- Comparing prices
Price comparison sites are one of the oldest ways to try to save money and find good deals online. Although other money-saving methods abound, price comparison sites are still worth your time. These sites are essentially specialised search engines: they scour retailers for their prices on goods, and then, when you search for a particular item, you're presented with prices from the retailers whose sites are scoured.
The big price comparison sites include PriceGrabber, Yahoo! Shopping, Shopping.com, NexTag.com, and Shopzilla. Country-specific price comparison sites exist as well, however, so do a localised search for 'price comparison sites' if you're outside of the English-speaking world.
--- Social networking for low prices
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are not typically thought of as places to find great deals online, but they can be. In fact, they're the latest way that retailers and manufacturers are reaching out to customers who want the scoop on coupon codes and hot deals.
In addition to going directly to Twitter and searching for coupon codes or deals, you can rely on web sites that aggregate deal- and coupon-related tweets. CheapTweet (http://cheaptweet.com), for example, claims to pull more than 20,000 deal-related tweets from Twitter every day - and it organises those tweets into categories so that you can hone in on just the type of deal or coupon code you're looking for. In addition, the regular tweets from some vendors - including Dell, Intel, and Overstock.com - are featured in their own CheapTweet sections.
CouponTweet (http://www.coupontweet.com) has a similar mission, although this site says that it pulls coupons, deals, and discounts from Twitter and other social networking sites, including Facebook, as well as from individual businesses.
Facebook itself is rife with groups that specialise in the exchange of coupons, coupon codes, and discounts. Just log on to Facebook and type 'coupon' or 'coupon code' in the search box.
--- Buyer beware
Sometimes the hunt for great deals or price reductions online can lead you to some less than reputable internet retailers that you may regret ever having used. Don't assume that the lowest price you find is necessarily the best deal. Scam artists and shady vendors who use bait-and-switch tactics abound online, and their primary means of attracting business is through advertising prices that seem too good to be true -and usually are.
So if you're about to purchase an item from a vendor you've never used before, be sure to avail yourself of the site Resellerratings (http://www.resellerratings.com), which provides user reviews and ratings of many internet retailers. Chances are good that if a vendor has repeatedly disappointed customers, you'll hear about it on Resellerratings. The site, in short, can save you a lot of hassle and headache.
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