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How to get good deals when shopping online
Save big money and find almost anything online
The key to saving a lot of money when you shop online is using a combination of discount sites, finding good deals on regular online retailers, and buying used on auction sites or places like Craigslist.
There are many downsides to online shopping. The main one is that you can't see the actual item you are purchasing, so you have to know you can trust the seller. With auction sites like eBay, check out the seller's rating to make sure they have experience selling the types of good you are purchasing and to make sure they always deliver on time. If they are below 95% positive ratings you should absolutely avoid them.
Now I'm going to give you some pointers on the best ways to use some popular online shopping sites:
Craigslist - You can search all of them at once
Craigslist is basically classified ads online. You go to your region's section of Craigslist and you see if anyone is selling what you're looking for. The problem is, unless you live in New York City or Chicago or one of the huge metropolitan areas, chances are slim you'll find what you're looking for in your neighborhood.
The solution to this is All of Craigs. AllofCraigs.com will let you search every local section of Craigslist, so if you live in Baltimore but the specific item you're looking for is being sold in San Francisco you'll be able to see that. This saves a lot of time, as I know some people will just explore each and every localized section of Craigslist in their region looking for something specific.
One thing to remember with Craigslist is that there are no seller ratings, because it's really intended for local sales. That means you are vulnerable as a buyer if you have to have an item shipped. The best way to counter this is to pay by credit card if possible and make sure you get a tracking number on your shipment. Alternatively, find a friend in the area where you are buying from and have them pay for the item and pick it up in person, then ship it to you.
eBay - Sniper your favorite auctions
EBay is an auction service that's been around since the mid-90's. There are a few ways to buy items on there. You can buy-it-now if the seller has set that up. That will end the auction right there and you can pay for the item. You can also put in a max bid. That bid is the highest you are willing to pay. If an item is currently at $50 and you set a max bid to $100 and there are no other max bids, eBay will put your bid at $51. If someone else comes and bids $52, your bid will be increased to $53, and so on. This is a great system, except it also leads to you paying a higher overall price, because it gives other bidders the chance to consider your higher bid and then bid higher.
The solution to this is auction sniping. You sign up with a bid sniper service like Bidnip, AuctionSniper, EZSniper, or Bidnapper, and then you tell them your max bid price. Instead of placing the bid immediately, it places it when there are just a few seconds left in the auction. Studies have shown that this leads to lower final auction prices, which is why eBay doesn't promote these services (eBay takes a cut of the overall price).
Sometimes snipers fail for one reason or another, so if it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase something you just have to have, put in your bids manually and don't take a chance.
There are a number of websites that just promote items that are being sold at a huge discount on other sites. The names of some of these websites are SlickDeals, StealDeals, Buxr, and Dealnews. It's best to have an idea of what you want/need before visiting these sites, because the deals on stuff you didn't intend to buy can be very tempting.
Promo codes and online coupons
Many retail sites will have a text box for promotional codes or coupon codes when you check out. Whenever you see this, go hunt for some codes. There's no reason you should ever assume that there ISN'T a discount code for what you're buying. Retailmenot.com keeps a huge listing of discount codes for thousands of websites. Just go there and tell them where you're shopping, and they'll tell you if there are any coupons available. It's absolutely stupid to not do this every time you shop online.
Price comparison sites
There are a number of sites that will do price comparisons for you. Just enter the name or stock number of the item you intend to purchase, and they'll scour the web and give you a list of the prices. Some of these sites include PriceGrabber, Nextag, Mysimon, and BizRate.
Price check -- there's an app for that
You can also do online price comparison when you are actually shopping at a real store. Using apps like Redlaser and ShopSavvy, you can scan barcodes and do an online price check for a product. That $199 video game system at Best Buy might seem like a good deal until you do an online price check and find that Amazon has it for $150 with free shipping.