10 Tips for saving money while shopping online

By John Egan, personal finance writer and Editor in Chief at LawnStarter

More than ever before, Google and gifts will go hand-in-hand this holiday shopping season.

A survey for professional services firm Deloitte indicates half of Americans plan to shop online for holiday gifts in 2016 — the highest percentage on record. With another survey showing the typical American plans to spend $1,175 on holiday gifts this year, half of that (almost $590) could come from online shopping.

Would you like to achieve some savings on that nearly $590 in online shopping this holiday season? Of course, you would. We solicited advice from some shopping experts to help you cut costs on your online finds. Here are 10 of their tips.

1. Shop early and often.

“Keep a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for. Whenever you come across a great deal, scoop it up,” says Karen Hoxmeier, founder of deal website MyBargainBuddy.com. “Chipping away at your shopping a little bit at a time is easier than waiting until the last minute and will help prevent you from overspending.”

Additionally, she suggests, if you spot an awesome deal, buy more than one of that item. “There’s no rule that says you have to give everyone different gifts,” Hoxmeier says.

2. Stay in the know.

Shopping expert Michelle Madhok, founder of deal website shefinds.com, recommends signing up for a retailer’s email newsletter, following it on Twitter and joining its Facebook page to learn about exclusive discounts and special sales.

3. Seek out deals on gift cards.

Check out websites like GiftCardGranny.com, GiftCards.com and Cardpool.com for gift cards available at less than face value. An example of a recent deal: In mid-November, $40 gift cards from Walgreens were priced at $35.

4. Score some cash.

Shopping websites like Ebates.com and Splender.com enable you to get cash back on online purchases on top of retailer discounts, Madhok says.

“Hundreds of popular and well-known stores work with these cash-back sites,” says Erin Warren, a shopping expert at Splender.com. “You’ll typically get between 1 percent and 5 percent of the purchase back, though many retailers run promotional increases in cash-back rates that can bump that figure as high as 15 percent.”

5. Abandon the cart.

Online shopping expert Karl Quist, president of PriceBlink.com, provider of a free browser add-on for online shopping, says that when you start an internet purchase but don’t complete it — known in retailing circles as “abandoning the cart” — an e-retailer might try to lure you back with a deal through an email or online ad.

“The abandoned cart tells retailers that you didn’t purchase because your expectations on price may not have been met,” Quist says.

6. Visit the web’s bargain basements.

Madhok says sites like Overstock.com and 6pm.com are great places to nab deals on past-season items, store-closeout items or refurbished electronics. She says auction website eBay is another worthwhile stop for bargain hunters.

“I buy 90 percent of my clothing on eBay. Most of it is new and 80 percent off retail,” Madhok says.

7. Compare prices.

“It’s important to remember that the ‘sale’ price isn’t always the ‘best’ price,” says Warren, the shopping expert from Splender.com. “Some merchants may offer a sale price on an item for a limited time, while others discount the price on the same item every day.”

If you have an item’s manufacturer, model number and other key information, you can more easily find the best price for an item you’re seeking online, Warren says. Price comparison resources like PriceBlink, PriceGrabber and InvisibleHand can help with this chore. Warren also recommends the Bakodo shopping app, which lets you scan the bar code of an item and compare the cost at local retailers and online.

8. Look for coupon codes.

Before wrapping up a purchase online, be sure you search for a coupon or promo code for whatever you’re buying. Among the sites where you can find these codes are RetailMeNot.com, Splender.com, CouponCabin.com and CouponCodes.com.

“From Facebook to manufacturer websites, you’ll find them in more places than you’d ever imagine,” Warren says.

9. Use a price-tracking service.

If you’re a holder of a Citi credit card, the Citi Price Rewind program will search prices for 60 days after you’ve made a purchase to hunt for a lower price. If Citi locates a better deal, it’ll refund the difference — at no cost to you.

From January to September 2016, the average Citi Price Rewind payout was $26.26, the company says. A cardholder can receive a refund of up to $500 on one item and refunds of up to $2,500 per year.

10. Order flowers and gift baskets early.

Websites like ProFlowers.com and 1-800-Flowers.com let you schedule a delivery date for flowers, gift baskets and other items, preventing you from having to make a costlier last-minute purchase.

“By ordering early, you get better prices and selection, but also save yourself money by not having to pay shipping surcharges,” says Antonella Pisani, founder and CEO of OfficialCouponCode.com. “This will help keep your costs down quite a bit, as these types of sites don’t usually offer free shipping since the items are perishable.” 

Written on November 21, 2016

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