By Alexandra Gekas
Best Online Buys
woman shopping online
There's no doubt that shopping online is fast and convenient, but is it cheaper than hitting the store? In the cases of these nine items it is. From inexpensive entertainment to big-ticket purchases, you can expect significant savings from buying online instead of in-person. Here's what's cheaper on the Internet and what to keep in mind before you check out. Photo credit: Thinkstock
Sports and Concert Tickets
Whether you want to see your favorite team or your favorite band, look online for seats first. "The biggest advantage is that you don't have to drive to the venue and stand in line for tickets," says Andrew Schrage, consumer expert at the personal finance blog Money Crashers Personal Finance. Another big bonus to shopping online: It's simple to cross-check prices. And the savings are drastic if you go to the right places. Schrage has bought tickets online for 60% less than the venue's price. Instead of heading straight to major sellers like Ticketmaster.com, Schrage recommends trying StubHub.com or even the team's or performer's direct website.
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Unless you're looking to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon perusing your local bookstore, online is a cheaper and more efficient way to buy books. "You can save an incredible amount on Amazon or eBay-used books go for as little as a penny," says Schrage. But what if you want rare reads? "For hard-to-find books, check out Powell's Books's site or BookFinder.com. While the quality of used books can vary, the steep savings make up for it," explains Schrage. Downloading books to an eReader can also be cheaper, but even if you're Kindle-less, you can still get books off of the Web. "Sites like Open Library offer more than a million free book titles in PDFs, and Project Gutenberg has more than 30,000 titles," says Joanie Demer, co-owner ofTheKrazyCouponLady.com.
Flights and Hotel Rooms
Why should you go online when you want to get away? "Travel agents typically attach a service fee to transactions, yet you can access the same outlets they use to book trips," says Demer. "Plus, many companies offer online-only specials." It's also good to know that U.S. airlines frequently post last-minute deals on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. EST. But you need fast fingers-those seats sell out quickly. Hotels also offer unsold rooms online at 40 - 50% off as the stay date approaches. "And these aren't roach-filled flophouses," says Demer. "They're top-quality hotel chains and good motels." Try sites like Groupon.com, Yuupon.com, TripAdvisor.com and Kayak.com, as well as the usual suspects, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com and Priceline.com.
While you can't completely skip the store on this one-only an in-person visit can tip you off to different models' picture quality-leave your wallet at home. "Let the real shopping begin online-that's where the deals are," says Yung Trang, president of TechBargains.com. TVs on websites cost 10 - 20% less than those in stores, he says. Besides, buying a set from an online-only retailer means you can avoid paying sales tax. "The key here, though, is to look for free shipping, which isn't hard to find," says Trang. His site posts deals for free shipping on TVs from Walmart, TigerDirect, Best Buy and Newegg.
Not only does shopping online expose you to a bigger selection of cameras, MP3 players, Smartphones and more, but there are also better deals. "You can save as much as 30% by shopping online," says Schrage. Again, if you buy from a site like Amazon, which doesn't have a brick-and-mortar presence, you skip paying sales tax, he adds. Beyond Amazon, Schrage recommends scouring eBay for these tech items. "You can often find items in 'like-new' condition at greatly reduced prices. And if you have time to shop, sign up at FatWallet.com to get the best prices sent straight to your e-mail inbox."
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Since you can't test out the product before you buy it, online DVD shopping seems like a no-brainer. "You can often save 50% or more by buying from a site," says Schrage. "DVDs are even cheaper online than what you find in the bargain bin at a big-box retailer," adds Demer. Movie buffs can find gems for as little as $2. Yes, eBay and Amazon are good sites to check out for DVDs, but also look at DeepDiscount.com, which offers free shipping on any order over $15, recommends Schrage. "Just research the reputation of any website prior to purchasing-it could be selling pirated DVDs," he warns.
The cost of a CD is about the same in stores as a CD's worth of MP3s is online, says Schrage. "But it's cheaper to buy music online at $1 per song you love, rather than paying $9 - $13 for an entire album if you won't listen to it all," says Demer. To stretch that dollar even more, "look for iTunes store coupons," she suggests. Better yet, "check out sites offering free downloads, like Internet Archive's Audio Archive, which hosts over 50,000 recordings," she adds. But there are differences in sound. "MP3s are slightly lower quality than CDs and vinyl records," says Schrage.
The same product you'd get in stores is usually cheaper online-and sometimes, it's free. "Visit CNET.com. Most software from this site can be downloaded for significantly less," says Schrage. "But if you need the peace of mind of having a physical disc, check out eBay and Amazon for the best prices."
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Designer Clothes and Shoes
While the ambiance in designer clothing stores may be luxurious, the price tags match. "Consider buying high-end items from online outlets like Ideeli.com, Overstock.com, ASOS.com or Bluefly.com," suggests Demer. "The items may be seasons old and the sizes and colors are sometimes limited, but the deals are better." The quality is identical to what's in shops, and discounts range from 30 - 85%. Stackable savings is another reason to buy online. "That's when retailers hold a sale, and you can use a coupon code to take an additional percentage off," explains Demer. Retailers also host flash sales, big discounts on merchandise for a short amount of time. To find out when they'll happen, sign up for your favorite retailers' newsletters and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Luckily, even if the shoe (or shirt) doesn't fit, many sites make returns free and easy.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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