Online shopping is a dream come true. I'm not much of a mall walker, but I am a bargain hunter. Online shopping allows me to avoid what I loathe and still get the deals I'm looking for — quickly and efficiently — by comparing products and prices online.
Instead of fighting crowds, traffic, weather, instead of wasting gas and many hours of time, I can easily review prices and availability in the comfort of my home, sitting in a chair, sipping cocoa. Unless you love to shop, this is an ideal tradeoff. And even if you do love to shop, this will give you the tools to make the best shopping decisions.
Here I'll give you a rundown of the best online cost-cutting tools I use when I'm serious about getting the biggest bang for the buck.
Amazon has grown from online bookseller, to online everything-under-the-sun retailer. And often as not, they have really outstanding, competitive prices on what you want to buy. This past Christmas, the bulk of our gifts were purchased from Amazon. (The exceptions were some of the toys (like the new GeoTrax train sets we added on this year) that were less expensive at local toy stores and some more personal items like clothing.)
In addition to the savings, however, Amazon products feature comments and ratings from registered users. While I don't always agree with the reader voting consensus, the comments have been very useful at helping me to avoid expensive shopping mistakes. Even if you don't end up purchasing from Amazon, you can use this tool to refine your choices.
If you join the Amazon Prime program, as we have, you also get free 2-day shipping on a massive number of products. We have been members for years and use this service all the time. Big savings and convenience!
When you can't find a deal anywhere else on a product, don't forget to check the biggest online auction service in the world. There are lots of Buy It Now deals and, if you have the patience, you may be able to get a real steal on an auction.
For Christmas, we wanted to get a couple of additional remotes for our Wii game system. They aren't cheap, so I hopped on eBay to see what was available. There were numerous auctions for “wiimotes” ending in a short time. I joined in and sniped two of them for less than half price.
When bidding make sure you check all shipping/handling fees and be sure you don't get caught up in a competitive auction and bid more than an item is worth. Numerous times over the years I've seen people spend more on an item in auction than But It Now prices that were offered at the same time!
An easy way to compare online prices is to enter specific product information in a shopping bot. You will get a list of different stores that offer the product along with the prices and a rating for the store in question. The only drawback to these bots are (1) they don't pull in prices from all the available retailers and (2) sometimes their prices are inaccurate.
When finalizing an online purchase, you'll often see a place to enter a coupon code or a promotional code. Something you get these in email newsletters or from mailings, but if you don't have one, do not despair. Often you can get great savings by going to a coupon site. My favorite such site is RetailMeNot, since they almost always have the most recent coupons. But there are other good ones such as Coupon Cabin and Fat Wallet.
By taking a few extra minutes online, you can save a bundle. And every dollar you save can be used to pay off your mortgage.