How to Use the Internet to Save Money
Links to Sites Mentioned in This Article
The Internet is a Goldmine of Savings
There is no doubt that buying online saves time, gas, and the hassles of crowded stores. It can also help you save money when you shop. Whether you are Ninja shopper, who plots a complex savings strategy, or just want to make sure you get the best price for an item, the Web can help. (Links to the sites referenced in this article are at the bottom of the page.)
1. Comparison shop:
Your first step is a little comparison shopping. It is easy with sites like PriceGrabber.com, Shopping.yahoo.com, and Shopping.com. Just type in a description of what you want to buy. The results will show a list of stores which sell your item, the price, and other information. Typically they even suggest the best bargain.
When buying electronics or big-ticket items, you can get some great deals at Amazon or Ebay,
2. Take a minute to find your discount:
Next, visit one of the websites which does nothing but list discount coupon codes. These can be added at checkout when purchasing online. I like Retailmenot.com, which maintains a huge, current database of discount codes.
3. Get cash back just for shopping:
After you decide on a merchant, go to a site such as Mr. Rebates or Fatwallet. They team up with hundreds of merchants who offer cash back rewards. Once you set up a free account on one of the sites, just select your merchant from a list and begin shopping.
You won't get immediate discounts this way. Instead, a percentage of your purchase is credited to your account for each purchase you make via the site's links. You receive payouts on a schedule, usually quarterly. Although the amounts are typically small per sale, they can accumulate into a nice, tidy sum. This is especially true if you do a lot of your Holiday shopping online. Could there be anything better than receiving a nice check a few months after Christmas?
4. Buy only when prices are at rock bottom:
If you want to make sure you are getting the absolute lowest price on groceries, join Couponmom.com, which does a lot of homework for you and is free. The idea is to save and organize your Sunday paper's coupon inserts each week.
When you are ready to go shopping, log in to the site, which lists the rock-bottom prices for hundreds of items. These include the store sales prices,dates, sources of any coupons, final prices, and amount you save. Most major grocery stores, drug stores, and superstores are included. You can even create a shopping list as you go, then print it. How easy is that?
5. Print online coupons for off-line shopping:
There are now many excellent sites where you can find hundreds of coupons each week. They are printable and most stores now take them without a problem. Several of the sites I have listed above include a database of printable coupons. You might also want to try Coupon.com and Couponcabin.com.
6. Let someone else do the clipping:
If you would like to take advantage of coupon savings but do not have the time to track and clip them, a coupon clipping service could work for you. I especially like Thecouponclipper.com. It is very well organized and lists hundreds of current offers. Each coupon is individually priced and costs just a few cents. It is easy to find the ones you want, order and pay for them. They ship quickly and arrive in a few days.
This an effective method for finding buy-one-get-one-free promotions and high-dollar ($1.00 or more) coupons. If you are lucky enough to live near stores which double coupons, buying a large supply online can mean substantial savings. You can either get all of your coupons this way or clip one of each from the Sunday paper and buy extras online.
7. Combine online and offline offers to maximize savings:
It is possible to can get fantastic bargains by searching online before heading out to hit a big store sale. When you combine online coupons with merchant sales, you score huge savings. A key to this strategy is learning when stores run their sales so you can match your coupons to items which are already reduced in price.
Most stores have published coupon policies and it pays to get to know them. For examples, Florida Publix lists new sales on Thursdays and allows customers a maximum of one store coupon and one manufcaturer's coupon per item. Couponmom.com lists policies for many stores.
Don't forget price matching. Retailers such as Walmart have always been willing to match a competitors price when you bring their ad to Customer Service. Now many other stores are doing the same, so a little homework can net major savings - and maybe save the time and gas it would take to go from store to store.
8. Saving is not always about spending less money:
There are a few sites which work on the principle of saving money by trading instead of buying things. Freecycle.org is an excellent website where you can list items you are looking for or want to give away. Another good bartering site is Trashbank.com, Here you can barter, buy, or sell. U-exchange.com is international, free, and one of the most popular bartering sites on the Internet.
9. Auctions and Pre-owned:
Auctions have always been a bargain hunter's paradise and E-bay.com has taken shrewd shopping to a new level. Once you learn how the site works and conquer bidding basics, it is fairly easy to snag bargains on E-bay.
Not only is it possible for a savvy bidder to buy new items at discounts, but smart buyers can realize huge savings on Ebay sellers' pre-owned merchandise. U-bid.com and Bidz.com are other popular auction sites.
Amazon also offers used merchandise, which can be a big money saver on items like books, where you may not want to pay top-dollar for a paperback you'll read once and give away.
10. A penny saved is a penny earned:
No matter how good your shopping strategy is, you still need to manage your finances in order to realize long-term savings. The Internet offers some excellent websites to help create a budget, track spending, and learn money management.
One must-see website is Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living. Although there is a yearly charge to access all of its features, this site offers one of the best all-around money-management plans I've found. Here you can locate anything from household tips to the best savings bank. There are also excellent interactive tools. Even if you don't join, many elements are available for free.
I also highly recommend Mint.com, mostly because of all the the snazzy graphs and first-class features you get, and all at no charge. The site shows you exactly where every penny is going, so you can stop the leaks and start saving.