These days, it's hard to think of anything that can't be bought online. So much so that the breadth of options, both in terms of products and sites to buy them, can be a bit overwhelming. And while the internet is definitely a great place to score a great deal, there are certain tricks one should be aware of to hunt down the best possible price. Here-just in time to kickstart (and hopefully minimize) your holiday spending spree-a re-cap of all you need to know before filling your online shopping cart.
Look out for flash sales. The biggest thing to revolutionize online shopping in the last couple years has been the introduction of flash sale websites, where you can buy heftily discounted merchandise as a limited time offer. You'll need to subscribe for membership, and every day you'll get an email in your inbox notifying you of the daily specials. Different sites have different focuses, so for clothing there's gilt.com, hautelook.com, and ideeli.com; for children's clothes and gear there's zulily.com; for housewares there's onekingslane.com; and for travel deals there's gilt's sibling site jetsetter.com.
Utilize sale aggregators. WIth so many sales happening at once, it's nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Outsource the effort to websites that keep track of when and where goods go on markdown. Shopittome.com is one such site, where users can check boxes on a super-extensive list of brands and stores, plus input their sizes, and get an email bulletin when goods that match your profile are reduced in price. To keep track of flash sale sites, there's also mynines.com, which helps you track the latest in online sample sales.
Make the most of coupon sites. Before placing any online order, do a quick search to see if the website you're shopping at has any coupon codes you might be able to redeem for a better deal. There are a number of websites that compile this kind of info (which include dealcatcher.com, pricegrabber.com, dealio.com, retailmenot.com, and currentcodes.com), or else just google the name of the website you're about to buy from followed by "coupon code" and scope out the search results for promo codes to enter at checkout.
Beware of hidden costs. Do a thorough online comparison that factors in not just price, but shipping costs and taxes too. If you use the comparison shopping tool on via the shopping search engine on google.com (just enter in the name of the product you're looking to buy, and then click the "compare prices" button once the results pop up) you'll get an overview of what sites are stocking that item, and what their shipping rates and tax totals are.
Sign up for newsletters. If you've got a favorite store, take a second to add your email address to their distribution list-there's a good chance you'll be privy to special discounts, plus you'll be the first to get a heads-up when they're hosting sales. Practically every shop has a Twitter feed and/or Facebook page these days too, both of which are great ways for getting the scoop on discounts too.
Take advantage of Cyber Monday. The biggest online shopping day of the year is just about upon us. For the last few years, retailers have banded together and offer special discounts the first Monday following Thanksgiving, as an online counterpart to Black Friday. Super-marked-down products, BOGOs (aka buy one get one free deals), and free shipping abound on this day. To get the scoop out what kinds of deals are to be had and where, check out sites like cybermonday2010.com, cybermondaynews.com, and cybermondayonlinedeals.com.
Watch out for scams. When you see a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you've never shopped (or heard of) a particular site before, try looking it up on sitejabber.com, which posts reviews on online businesses. Sitejabber.com founder Jeremy Gin also suggests using a major credit card for your e-commerce orders, just in case the site you're dealing with "decides not to deliver, sends you a faulty product or you otherwise need to get your money back. Debit cards, Western Union, and other forms of payment generally do not offer the same protections."
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