It’s that time of year again. While families all over the country are preparing for Thanksgiving, the stores are preparing for the craziest shopping weekend on the calendar. The day after Thanksgiving – known as Black Friday in retail circles – has long been the busiest shopping day of the year And it’s now followed by Cyber Monday, when shoppers turn to the Internet to find the bargains that eluded them over the weekend.
Of course, the Web is not just for Cyber Monday. It has revolutionized the way we shop every day of the year. From eBay to Amazon.com to daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, the Web is continually throwing up new sites promising the lowest price, the biggest bargain, or the deal of a lifetime!
But as the variety of online shopping models increases, so does the complexity. Should you be subscribing to the daily deal sites and waiting for the bargains to come to you, or should you be scouring the Web each day trying to get the lowest price on the things you really need?
Well, as is usually the case with the Internet, there is something for everyone when it comes to finding a deal. But before you jump online, it’s good to have an idea of what you are looking for. Here are some tips on how to approach your digital bargain hunting:
Coupons for those everyday needs
If you are just looking to save a few dollars on everyday necessities, then online coupon sites are your best bet. Sites like Coupons.com, CouponMom, and MySavings.com have dozens of special offers on everything from basic foodstuffs to pet supplies to books and magazines. All you need to do is browse the offers or search for a particular item. If you find what you’re looking for, then just “clip” the coupon by selecting it and sending it to your printer.
These days, many of the coupon sites have mobile apps that will let you download a barcode to your smartphone, so you don’t have to print anything. Just show the barcode to the cashier at the time of purchase and your discount will be automatically deducted from the price of your goods.
Use Amazon to set the bar
If you are looking for something other than food items or household goods, then you may want to try a specialty discount site. For example, if you are in the market for a new laptop, TV or other consumer electronics, then a site like FatWallet is a good place to start. FatWallet aggregates all the best deals from both the manufacturers and retail stores to present the lowest prices across a range of different categories.
While we are discussing retailers, it is worth giving a special mention to Amazon.com. Amazon’s huge network of retail partners often means that their prices on everything from laptops to lawnmowers are hard to beat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do better, particularly if you factor in Amazon’s shipping costs. One of the best approaches is to regard Amazon as a good benchmark when you are looking elsewhere. If you can beat the Amazon price, then you know you have got yourself a deal.
Remember, there are specialty discount web sites for almost everything, e.g. SmartBargains for women’s apparel, jewelry, and home furnishings; ForeverFashion for discount designer clothing. Plus, there are other more general bargain sites, like Overstock.com and PriceGrabber. Overstock is particularly well-organized and features its own Club O, which includes free shipping and money-back rewards.
Daily deal sites – for that special treat
By now, most people have heard of Groupon, the daily deal site that offers heavily discounted coupons for a variety of goods and services. Its rapid growth has spawned a host of competitors, such as LivingSocial and Google Offers, and given a much-needed shot in the arm to hundreds of local retailers.
This is how Groupon and other daily deal sites work: A small business – typically a neighborhood restaurant, spa, or local theater – agrees to discount the cost of its goods or services by 50 percent or more. Groupon, or one of its competitors, then markets that discounted offer to its subscriber base in the form of an online coupon. Subscribers pay Groupon via Paypal or credit card and then take the coupon to the local business to cash in their discounted deal.
Most deals are presented on a regional basis and run for just one day, although they can be extended. Once a subscriber signs-up, they get notified of a new local deal every day, usually by e-mail or text.
Don’t forget the sites that started it all
Of course, if you can’t find what you’re looking for on coupon or deal sites, then there is always eBay or Craigslist, two sites that seem to have been around forever and which did much to boost the early popularity of online shopping.
With both sites, you will find a mix of new and used items, the majority of which are significantly discounted from their original prices. Whether it’s a crib for the new baby, a swing set for the backyard, or a set of golf clubs to replace the ones you threw in the pond, then eBay and Craigslist will have what you are looking for. Just make sure you closely follow the rules laid down by each web site to complete a transaction, and be particularly careful if you arrange to meet a seller face-to-face.
Happy online shopping!
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I have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.