3 ways to squeeze extra cash out of your online purchases

I faithfully seek out coupons and sales to help me stick to a budget. However, this task turned from tedious to fun when I decided to make it a game - a game of "how much money can I save?" Now, the typical way I save money is through store and manufacturers coupons, but new web-based services are helping me pinch a few more pennies out of my purchases.

Each time I make a purchase, I ask myself these three things:

Is it available online?

I love to shop, but many times I can find better deals online than I can in brick and mortar stores. Take, for instance, Bath & Body Works. I've been an avid fan of their lotion for most of my life and stock up when the company has a "buy three, get three free" special going on. Typically, this means I can get six bottles of lotion for $33 instead of $66. The store also regularly offers discount codes for an additional percentage off the price. Often, I can save an additional 25 percent and get free shipping on top of the already cheap deal, taking my total down to $24.75 for six bottles of lotion.

Can I Get Cash Back?

Web services like Ebates and ShopatHome pay shoppers back a percentage of their purchase if they go through their website. For example, Ebates pays a 3 percent rebate for shoppers of Bath & Body Works - an additional $.75 off my purchase. The only downside? These services only pay back the cash on a quarterly basis, so I have to wait to get that cash back.

Can I Get a Cheap Gift Card?

It's no secret that I love gift cards. However, there's one thing I love more than gift cards: Cheap gift cards. Websites like Giftcard Granny and Plastic Jungle sell shopper's unwanted gift cards for a discounted price. As an example, Plastic Jungle lists Bath & Body Works gift cards at a 12 percent discount - meaning that a $25 gift card only costs $22. This means I save an additional three dollars on my purchase, taking my total down to $21 for six bottles of premium lotio. In all, I'm only paying about a third of the price for a bottle of lotion that I'd still buy without any discounts or coupons - not too bad!

More from this contributor:

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