More and more of us are doing most of their shopping online. Web retailers do not have the same overhead costs as traditional merchants, and that allows them to offer lower prices, free shipping and other perks not available in the brick-and-mortar world.
While shopping online can be a great way to save money and get what you need, it is still important to do your homework. Competition is stiff among online merchants, and savvy shoppers can use that fact to their advantage.
Use Comparison Sites
Comparison sites let you type in the name or description of the product you want and instantly see prices at a wide range of merchants. The best comparison sites include shipping charges in their calculation, making it easier to identify the best offer.
Google has an excellent comparison tool built into its search engine on the Shopping tab, and there are a number of other excellent sites as well. It is a good idea to use several different comparison sites, since different sites use different sets of online merchants.
Look for Coupon Codes
Companies offer online coupon codes to entice new customers and reward existing ones. The codes are often posted online, making it easier to get the best possible deal on the products you need.
Always check for coupon codes when shopping online, and be sure to enter that code during the checkout process. You could end up with a substantial discount for your online purchases.
Check the Online Reviews
Even the least expensive product is no bargain if it breaks the first time you use it. Check the online reviews before you buy anything online. Learning from the experience of others makes it easier to find products that offer great value, not just the lowest price.
Plan Your Purchases
Making an impulse purchase online is just as bad as buying impulsively at the local mall. In fact, undoing an impulsive purchase online can be even more difficult, since returning the item could mean incurring shipping charges and other expenses.
Always remember that it is not a bargain if you do not need it. That caveat is just as true online as it is in the offline world.
Choose the Right Payment Method
How you pay can make a big difference in how much you pay. Many credit cards offer special discounts and cash back when shopping online, and the perks can really add up. Also be on the lookout for special offers that can give you extra discounts. Signing up for a credit card though the merchant could save you extra money and sharply reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
Check Out Products Offline
If you are making a big ticket purchase like a new television or laptop, it pays to check out the item in the real world before buying it online. Checking the product out ahead of time can help you determine if it is really right for you.
Return shipping charges can be quite high for these types of purchases, so making a mistake could really cost you. Seeing the product in person can set your mind at ease, or give you time to find a better alternative.