With information, reviews and price comparisons on any product you can imagine available 24/7, it now takes very little effort to be a savvy consumer and make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.
However, you may be unaware of other ways the internet has made 21st Century shopping, entertainment, dining and banking cheaper for all of us.
Here are five ways you can use the internet to help your bottom line:
1. Get coupons and discounts online. We’ve all heard of Groupon and its ilk, but there are hundreds of ways to save on your regular (and irregular) purchases. For example, did you know you could set up Google Alerts to email you coupons and deals? In addition, following your favorite retailer on Twitter or Facebook will often score you special promotions.
Finally, there are thousands of grocery coupon sites that allow you to print out coupons on your favorite products—but don’t forget the sites like www.shortcuts.com that will load your coupons directly onto your store loyalty card.
2. Use cash back and college savings programs. Before you make any online purchase, double check to see if you can make your money work harder for you. Ebates is a site where you can earn up to 25% cash back on your purchases. You simply need to start your shopping from the Ebates site, and your purchases will earn you cash back.
Upromise is another site that can make your purchases work for you. Start from their home page or shopping tool bar, and each of your purchases will earn you a percentage toward college savings. Both of these tools are great ways to make planned purchases (like for Christmas gifts, for example) give back to the buyer.
3. Get your entertainment for less. By now, we should all be aware that many of our favorite television shows and movies are available online through sites like Hulu, Crackle and network websites. With these options, you can cancel your cable and get your entertainment fix online.
(Side note—when I called our cable company, who also is our internet provider, to do just that, I found out that the difference in our monthly bill would only be $10. I said to go ahead with it, as we were seriously trying to save money at the time, and our provider agreed to just lower our bill by $10 for the year while leaving the cable service intact.)
If seeing films in the theater is your bag, don’t despair at the $10-per-ticket price tag. BulkTix allows you to buy movie tickets and snack vouchers in bulk for many national movie theater chains. The tickets don’t expire and will save you beaucoup bucks.
4. Buy and sell gift cards. We’ve all gotten those gift cards to retailers we just don’t visit. And there are plenty of stores we consider our go-to shopping destinations. Enter GiftCardGranny or CardPool.
These sites will buy unwanted gift cards from you and offer thousands of gift cards for a discount off the sticker price. These sites are basically allowing you to buy money at a lower rate.
5. Automate everything. Even the smallest banks now offer online banking options, and this is a major boon to anyone hoping to save money. If you automate your bill paying and savings plans, you take temptation, procrastination and disorganization out of the equation and will always know that your money is where it needs to be.
As an added bonus, you can know that you’re being good to the environment by eliminating the extra paper waste that writing checks generates.
Image by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget