6 Secrets to Smart Online Shopping This Holiday Season

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Why bother with the holiday rush when you can do all the shopping from home? An increasing number of gift buyers are doing just that, as deals are sometimes as good — if not better — that what you’ll see in the store.

Sure, there’s not the thrill of instant gratification that an in-store purchase might give you, but you’re here to save money. In some cases you might not have to wait long at all as some retailers even offer free expedited shipping during the holidays. So how can you shop smart and save a few bucks in the process?

1. RetailMeNot and promo codes are your best friend

Sites like RetailMeNot are chock full of promotional codes for shopping websites, even some that aren’t heavily promoted by the website itself. Before purchasing something online, give this site and others — like Coupons.com and Coupon Cabin — a once over. You might find a code for another site that makes what you’re looking for cheaper there.

2. Don’t fall for the same tricks you might in store

Just like your favorite department stores do, all the good stuff on your favorite online site is going to be put right in front of you to entice you to buy it. Always remember that the best deals in department stores are always found on the clearance racks all the way in the back. Use the search function to dig deeper into online retailers’ inventories. Who knows, maybe a slightly older model might be on sale for much less that isn’t all that different.

3. Bundle up

Online retailers are always keen on moving a lot of product around the holidays, so you’ll see products that make sense together sold as a “bundle” — i.e. a GoPro with attachment accessories, or a video game console with controllers and video games. While you’ll spend more, there should be some type of savings to be had. Just be careful: At the same time, these bundles can also not be as good as they seem and are just marketing gimmicks to get you to spend more.

Be sure to look closely at what you’re getting and what you’d pay if it was bought separately. If you’re not saving a whole lot, it’s not worth it.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

4. Make sure it’s really that price

Reader’s Digest points out that sometimes things aren’t always what they seem when it comes to an advertised price. A price might look super low and appealing, but there might be conditions to get it that cheap. Do you need to mail in a rebate, sign up for their store card, or purchase a certain amount? Be sure that the price doesn’t have any additional hoops that you’ll need to jump through.

5. Earn some cash back

A newer trend in retail is for services to offer cash back in return for spending a certain amount of money at a store, or purchasing a certain product. One of the most popular services that works like this is Ibotta. Think of these one-time use rebates as an additional coupon of sorts.

For example, as I write this Ibotta is offering $10 cash back when you spend $100 at Macys.com. There are quite a few others, and the app will walk you through how to redeem them. When you reach $20 (the amount may vary on other apps), Ibotta allows you to withdraw the money to your bank account, or in the form of a gift card. It’s your choice.

6. Think twice

It’s human nature to want to be happy. But in that rush for gratification, sometimes we forget to think out our actions. Before you hit the checkout button, be sure you really want to make that purchase. Maybe walk away and give it a second thought.

There’s also another school of thought among savvy shoppers that might save you even more. CNET points out that these stores do track you, and know when you haven’t made a purchase. Some might even send you a coupon via e-mail with additional discounts in order to get you to complete your purchase.

While it won’t always work, if you’re looking to squeeze every possible discount out, it’s worth a shot.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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