12 Tips for Online Holiday Shoppers
Shopping online for Christmas, Hanukkah (or any time of year) is easy and convenient, but when you use the right tools, you can also save a lot of cash. Here are some money-saving tips for the smart online shopper...
Are You a Smart Online Shopper?
Wish list? Check. Credit card? Check. Okay, before you head off to your favorite online store, are you sure you’ve found the best possible price for the item you’re planning to buy? Have you researched other brands or similar items?
Have you searched for coupons or other discount offers? Are you getting free shipping whenever possible? And are you taking advantage of the power of group buying, and the wisdom of the crowd?
Use my ten simple shopping tips to make sure you’re getting the best deal when you shop online...
TIP #1: Look for rebates and rewards BEFORE you shop. Loyalty programs such as Ebates offer shoppers rebates and other incentives to purchase from stores where they already shop. Ebates offers up to 25% in cash rebates when you shop online at popular stores like Amazon, Best Buy, JCPenney, Kohls, Macy's, Old Navy, Target and 1000 more. Even better, Ebates will pay you $75 when you refer 3 friends via their Tell-A-Friend promotion.
TIP #2: Use price-comparison sites to find the best deals. Google Shopping is a good place to start. Just type in what you’re seeking, such as "42 inch HDTV" or "cordless drills" and up pops an assortment of vendors. The initial results are displayed sorted by "relevancy" but I recommend that you re-sort them by price from low to high. Bizrate.com is another good tool. It can display prices including shipping to your Zip code, or even limit your search to items that ship for free.
Pricegrabber.com lets you save interesting items as you shop for comparison to others. Pricewatch.com was one of the first price comparison sites, specializing in computers and electronics since 1995. They now list non-tech items as well.
TIP #3: Before you buy, look for coupons that can reduce your final price. RetailMeNot has thousands of digital coupons and discount codes from many well-known and obscure online sellers. A little known trick is to use Google’s search function to find coupon codes buried on blog pages. Just use "coupon" and the name of the brand, merchant, or product that you are seeking as your search term.
TIP #4: An Amazon Prime membership may save you money. If you use Amazon.com frequently, that $99 flat fee gets you unlimited free, 2-day shipping on products delivered by Amazon. If you haven’t been to Amazon lately, it’s no longer just a bookstore. Amazon also offers music, movies, electronics, home & garden, health & beauty, toys, clothing shoes & jewelry, sporting and outdoor goods -- just to name a few categories. Also, take note of the prices offered by Amazon affiliates on both new and used items; they are sometimes lower than Amazon’s price. Amazon is also a great shopping research tool. After searching for the item (or type of item) you’re after, Amazon will help you compare brands, prices, and retailers. You can also see what items and accessories other customers bought.
TIP #5: Patience Pays Off. Speaking of Amazon, here's a cool tip to save money when shopping online: CamelCamelCamel is an Amazon price tracking, research, and alert service that helps users get the best deals on the e-commerce giant. If you don't need to buy right away, this tool can alert you to price drops for items you're watching.
TIP #6: Don’t forget eBay, especially if the item you seek is a staple rather than a fad of the moment. Because it's an auction site, the price you pay items (both new and used) tend to be very reasonable. And if you prefer to skip the drama of a bidding war, look for an item with a "Buy it Now" option. Oh, and here are two eBay Ninja trick that’ll save you money every time. First, start your search at the eBay home page. When you get the list of matching items, refine your search by checking the "Completed listings" box under the "Show Only" header This will tell you what the item has actually sold for in recent eBay sales or auctions. And second, use BidRobot to boost your chances of winning the auction.
TIP #7: Take advantage of group buying power. Group-buying services such as Groupon, LivingSocial are geared mainly towards local, face-to-face merchants. But Groupon has inspired a slew of "daily deal" offers from many online sellers, too. Subscribe to email lists to receive special limited time offers from your favorite stores.
TIP #8: Use social networking to your advantage. Many online sellers want you to follow, friend or "like" them on Twitter and Facebook. If you do, you’ll gain access to coupon codes and special offers. If you find you're getting too many messages from these merchants, you can unfollow or unfriend to stop the flow after you’ve made your purchase.
TIP #9: Got gift cards? Gift cards are a great option when you don't know exactly what to get for someone on your Christmas list. My friend Aaron and his team have created GiftCard Zen, a site where you can buy gift cards at a discount. You can also sell your unwanted gift cards for cash, or check the balance of a gift card you have. GiftCard Zen handles gift cards from hundreds of popular stores. It's a win-win scenario!
TIP #10: Skip the Warranty Are you giving a mobile phone, tablet, computer or TV? Read SCAM ALERT: Mobile Device Insurance and Extended Warranties to find out why these are almost always a waste of money.
TIP #11: Avoid Penny Auctions Have you seen those commercials where people brag about how they bought a $1200 HDTV for $25? See my article Penny Auctions: Scam or Legit? to see why these sites are to be avoided.
TIP #12: The Wisdom of Others It's smart to take advantage of the experience of others, especially when it comes to considering big-ticket purchases. Sites like Amazon and Epinions offer actual consumer experiences and reviews of products. Consumer Reports and PC Magazine are good places to look for professional ratings and reviews.
BONUS TIP: Shop on Mobile (or fake it) Researchers at Northeastern University found that shopping online with your smartphone may yield a lower price than shopping from a desktop computer. I tried a few hotel searches myself, and found that prices were about 10% lower when I did the the exact same search on my phone. So I had an idea… I wondered if changing the UserAgent on my desktop browser would fool these sites into giving me the "mobile discount." And it seems to work. I checked the price for one night at a hotel in Orlando using Chrome on desktop: $145. After changing my UserAgent string to make my desktop browser identify as an iPad, the price showed as $131.
Okay, that was more than twelve tips. But just like the shopping experience, it's always good to under-promise and over-deliver. How do YOU save money when shopping online? Do you have any online shopping tips to share? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Dec 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- 12 Tips for Online Holiday Shoppers (Posted: 2 Dec 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved