Listen to this post (featured in Optimal Finance Daily):
Shopping is much different these days than it was even twenty years ago.
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 ten ways you can use “the Internets” to save money online and help your bottom line:
1. Get coupons and discounts online.
We’ve all heard of Groupon.com 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 shortcuts that will load your coupons directly onto your store loyalty card.
2. Comparison shop with ease.
In the bad old days, comparison shopping meant either spending all afternoon on the phone with various retailers or driving all over creation to see the same item in multiple stores. These days, websites like bizrate, mysimon, and Froogle allow you to compare prices of items both online and in your local stores.
3. 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.
4. Leave items in your shopping cart for a few days.
This is both great psychology and a good tactic for saving money. Most retailers want to close deals that remain open, and so they will reach out to try to get you to finish the sale. Often, they will find a way to sweeten the deal, with either a coupon or other incentive that can save you money.
For this tactic to work, you must have an account with the retailer so they can email you.
5. 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.
6. Outsmart dynamic pricing.
Many websites do something called “dynamic pricing,” which means different customers are shown different prices depending on their location, their browsing history, and demand for the product. In particular, Amazon is known for its dynamic pricing, which can cause prices to fluctuate by as much as 15% over the course of a few hours. The website CamelCamelCamel monitors historic prices on Amazon, and offers alerts when prices drop.
In addition, clearing your browsing history and cookies, signing out of your email and all social media, and switching to incognito mode can all help you to get the most unbiased price possible.
7. Buy and sell gift cards.
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.
8. Get your toilet paper delivered.
Amazon’s Subscribe & Save is the most well known of the subscription services, but Target recently launched a similar program with over 1,500 household and self care products available for subscription. Both programs allow you to schedule regular deliveries of non-perishable consumables for 5% off the regular price. In Amazon’s case, if you have five items arriving in the same delivery, you get 15% off the entire order.
Considering the fact that there are often coupons also offered for these regular items, and that you can cancel or skip a delivery with no penalty, this can be a great way to save money on the items you have to buy anyway.
9. 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.