Most of us are happy to save a few bucks whenever we shop, but for others, bargain hunting is a sport requiring great skill and constant vigilance. Online shopping online has opened up a new world for the obsessive deal hunter and the ordinary shopper alike. There's a huge assortment of Web sites devoted to helping you find the lowest prices and best offers from online retailers. In this guide you'll find our favorites.
In the past, comparing prices between different retailers would have entailed calling them up or traipsing from store to store. These days, Web sites abound to spare you that tedium. Known as "shopping bots," shopping-comparison Web sites rapidly compile lists of outlets that stock the item, and the respective prices they offer.
- Many shopping Web sites are partnered with online retailers. As a result, they compare prices among only a limited number of stores. To make sure you really are getting the best price, use more than one shopping bot.
- When it comes to shipping expenses, some shopping bots will add this on to the cost for you, whereas others won't. Make sure you mentally add shipping costs to the price of purchase for a true price comparison.
For a variety of merchandise ...
's simple layout makes this shopping bot easy to use; plus, your search includes the name of the item, a description, and a photo when available. Enter your zip code to get approximate shipping costs, too. In addition, the Web site provides customer ratings and reviews of the store's service and dependability.
doesn't just list the stores that sell a particular item; it gets more specific. Do a generic search for an item-such as "dog leash"-and the site lists the different dog leashes available instead of the different stores that sell leashes. As a result, you can first choose the exact brand of leash you want and then search for the store with the lowest price.
provides product reviews and ratings from customers as well as price comparisons to help you make a better decision. The site also links to expert reviews of some products from various sources, such as PC World and Smart Ratings.
For a specific category of item ...
is designed for electronics, computers, and tech gadgets. You'll find price comparisons and expert and user reviews for digital cameras, camcorders, cell phones, printers, TVs, and more. Other advantages include a CNET editor rating and Editor's Choice awards for certain products, so you get expert advice if you're unsure which brand is best for you.
DVD Price Search
offers more than just a price comparison. In many cases you'll see a movie poster, a cast list, the name of the film's director, rating, studio, release date, and more. The price comparison scours all of the big online DVD retailers, as well as a few offerings from used dealers in case you want to buy a secondhand version.
is a one-stop Web site for car and truck shopping. The site offers detailed information about vehicles, as well as editorial and consumer reviews. You can find the current average selling price (Edmund's True Market Value price), as well as obtain quotes from auto dealers.
focuses solely on books, and the price comparisons include estimated shipping costs for retailers, used bookstores, and online auctions. As an added perk, PriceViewer also notes when online coupons are available for the store, which can save you even more money.
Shop It To Me
acts like your own personal shopping assistant for fashion and clothing. Select your favorite brands and the size you wear, and Shop It To Me will send you a personalized e-mail. Arriving as often as you like, these e-mails tell you about all sales and bargains at online department and specialty stores with products meeting your specifications.
Many retailers offer coupon codes, which are similar to the paper coupons used at brick-and-mortar stores. To use these online coupons, you usually type the code (a combination of letters and/or numbers) into a designated "redeem coupon" box during the checkout phase of your purchase. Discounts vary, but common deals include 10 percent off, $10 off of purchases over $50, or free shipping.
- Many of these coupon code Web sites are run by an individual, so they're unlikely to have an all-inclusive list of available deals and bargains. It's always a good idea to check with more than one coupon code Web site to find the best deal.
- A few online coupon codes are for one-time use only, designed to be used by a specific individual. Many, however, can be used multiple times, and these are the codes that are often shared on Web sites and message boards.
- One-time-use coupons codes can often be found for sale on auction sites and classified sites for a little less than the coupon is worth.
For coupon codes ...
lists the hottest current bargains, such as blowout sales and deeply discounted merchandise on various Web sites. Its coupons are arranged in categories to fit almost every shopper's need, including clothing, electronics, jewelry, and sporting goods. Search by store to find coupon codes and promotional deals.
provides the option of "Instant Deal Alerts." Sign up for the service to receive an e-mail whenever a deal arises related to a certain brand or product. The Web site also offers a twice-weekly newsletter that includes a round-up of the latest and best coupons.
collects coupons that are sent to only select customers. Some stores, for example, send "secret" e-mail coupons to only their newsletter subscribers or credit card holders. NaughtyCodes compiles these coupons, along with the more widely publicized ones, and makes them available to everyone.
For rebates ...
includes a list of hot rebates on mostly electronics and tech gadgets. You can search for rebates on such items as computer software, digital cameras, and telephones. The Web site also includes links to many printable rebate forms.
lists current available rebates, as well as coupon codes and other promotional offers. The Web site rounds up and consolidates the deals, then explains in detail the steps necessary to get the bargain, such as combining a coupon offer with a rebate and a sale. A three-month online membership costs $4.00.
You've probably been earning cash back, airline miles, or other rewards through your credit cards for years. Many Web sites offer similar rewards programs as long as you visit them on your way to making purchases. We've compiled some of the best (and most lucrative) here.
- Shopping "portals" offer rebates or rewards whenever you shop with their partner retailers. In general, you must first become a member of the shopping portal Web site (membership is usually free), and click through its link to get to the store at which you want to shop. As a result, you'll earn a reward for your purchase. Sometimes the reward is a percentage of your purchase amount, and other times it's points that can be redeemed for merchandise or services.
- Many of the "partner retailers" are the same for each shopping portal, so choose which portal to use based on what type of rewards you want. You'll accumulate more rebates and rewards at a retailer if you choose just one or two portals to use regularly.
For cash, gift cards, or merchandise ...
is one of the oldest and largest shopping portals online. You earn a percentage of your purchase (usually about 3-6 percent) as a cash rebate, which can be mailed to you as a paper check or sent to a PayPal account. You must earn at least $10 before your rebate is sent to you.
allows you to invest your rebates (usually 5 percent or so of your purchase amount) in any investment account of your choice, including a money-market account from your local bank.
offers a point reward system. You can redeem the points for actual merchandise from partner retailers as well as for restaurant gift certificates, fashion accessories, and perfume. You can also earn points by shopping at certain supermarket chains.
For travel rewards ...
loyalty program rewards shoppers with bonus points redeemable for hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel related services.
Continental Airline ShopOnePass
has a limited number of partner stores. However, they are mostly major retailers, and the airline offers as many as 20 miles per dollar you spend.
American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping includes a "bonus offer" section. Shop through the "bonus" retailers and you'll double the number of miles you earn.
allows frequent travelers to track all of their miles and points in one place. The site also allows you to trade your miles for gift certificates, share miles with friends or family, swap miles between point programs, and more.
Similar to closeout or outlet brick-and-mortar stores, there are online retailers that specialize in bargain items. Often they feature overstocks or last season's merchandise, and they run the gamut from discounted haute couture fashion to bargain box goods.
- Since these retailers sell overstocks or closeouts, their stock of merchandise changes quickly. Moreover, available sizes, colors, etc., are limited. Savvy bargain hunters should check their favorites on a regular basis because good deals get scooped up quickly.
- Many of these online retailers also offer promotional deals, so don't forget to check with a coupon-code Web site before shopping, and to shop through portal that will give you rebates or rewards.
For discounters and closeout stores ...
specializes in clothing and accessories, although it also offers a selection of home items and jewelry. The Web site features a bargain bin with items that cost less than ten dollars.
is a discount department store, and the merchandise selection includes furniture, housewares, and electronics. The super low shipping price ($2.95 on most orders) is a draw for many bargain shoppers.
is the bargain store for serious fashionistas. The retailer's focus is mostly designer clothing for men and women, and it includes labels such as Vera Wang and Gucci. The clearance section offers prices up to 75 percent off.
For major retailers with specialty outlets ...
sells the same merchandise as the REI online store-except the items are overstocks, last year's version, or discontinued styles. Each category (Men's clothing, Family camping, etc.) has a 50-percent-off section.
Eddie Bauer Outlet
offers up to 65 percent off retail prices. Quantities are limited, and you'll generally find pieces from all seasons, from swimwear to sweaters.
includes mostly refurbished and "scratch & dent" items. Computers are the most common item sold at this retailer's outlet, but you can also find printers, monitors, and other Dell merchandise.
includes links to all of its clearance and bargain items, such as books, electronics, and housewares. Prices start at about 25 percent off and can reach more than 70 percent off in some cases.
offers a "Friday Only" sale with limited products at especially low prices.
Some deals are just so hot that they sell out before the end of the day. As a result, many retailers have capitalized on this selling boom by offering very limited-time sales-sometimes lasting fewer than 24 hours!
- Some "daily deal" retailers specialize in a particular type of merchandise. Check the archives or message forum on the retailer's Web site to find out which items were sold during previous daily deals to get a feel for what you can expect.
- Each "daily deal" retailer has its own start time for posting new deals. The most common times, however, are midnight and noon. If you want to be sure to get in on the hottest bargains, check "daily deal" Web sites as soon as they're updated.
For one-day-only retailers ...
is probably the best-known "daily deal" Web site. It offers only one item per day, which remains listed until it's sold out (or until 11:59 PM CT, whichever comes first). The products are generally (but not always) tech gadgets, such as computer speakers or GPS systems.
1 Sale a Day
includes more than just a daily deal: it also provides a Joke of the Day, Word of the Day, and Riddle of the Day.
offers two daily deals instead of just one, giving you an opportunity to grab a double bargain. Electronics and tech gadgets are the primary focus of this Web site, but you might also find such items as flashlights and coffee mugs.
For major retailers offering regular limited-time deals ...
promotes a special "Deal of the Day." The merchandise varies and might be anything sold by the retailer.
's Gold Box "Deal of the Day" takes a few cents or dollars off a regularly stocked item, and might also include other perks such as free shipping. You can subscribe to get the daily deal e-mailed to you.
sells housewares and clothing, with a focus on women's clothing. It offers a "Bargain of the Day" and a 7-Day Clearance Countdown, during which prices on limited quantity merchandise continue to drop as the week progresses.
For a compilation of daily and limited-time deals ...
Zero Day Deals
lists all the current "daily deals" from assorted Web retailers. You can also download and install a "notifier" on your computer that pops up whenever a new deal is available.
is updated daily with the latest sale prices from a variety of retailers. The offers typically include the lowest, rock-bottom prices available at major online stores.
Similar to the free food samples at your local supermarket, many companies give away free samples and merchandise to promote their products and services. Although fledgling businesses often give away samples to develop a customer base, even major product manufacturers offer freebies to test the market. As a result, there's a wealth of free stuff available to consumers.
- You often have to provide an e-mail address when you request free samples. To avoid getting unwanted solicitations in your regular e-mail inbox, create a free online e-mail address from a site like GMail or Hotmail that you use only to sign up for promotions and memberships.
- Watch out for companies that offer "free trials." If you don't cancel before the trial ends, you could end up paying for a service you no longer want.
Free Sample Site
isn't the most attractive freebie Web site. However, it's updated daily, so you don't need to sift through expired offers and deals. The Web site lists all kinds of freebies, including shampoo samples, magazine subscriptions, T-shirts, and coupons.
Red Flag Deals
forums list freebies found by other forum members. It's a great resource for finding out about free sample offers, plus the members generally offer their advice and wisdom about the quality of the offer.
members occasionally get their choice of freebies, such as free samples of toothpaste or pain reliever. Writing reviews of your samples can get you "Tryer Miles" that you can redeem for merchandise.
Although many people enjoy browsing online stores, others prefer to actually feel and see the merchandise before buying it. However, even if you like shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, the Web can still be a valuable bargain-hunting tool. Many Web sites offer coupons, deals, and price comparisons for traditional retailers, too.
- Some bargain hunters abuse print-at-home coupons by printing hundreds of copies and then using them to get cartloads of free or very cheap merchandise from supermarkets and department stores. Many retailers have fought back against this coupon abuse by refusing to accept computer-printed coupons.
- You may get unwanted e-mail from many of these coupon services, so keep that in mind when deciding which e-mail to use when you sign up. As we mentioned in the "Free Samples" section of this guide, it can be a good idea to create a free online e-mail address from a site like GMail or Hotmail that you use only to sign up for promotions and memberships.
- It's illegal to sell coupons. Many coupon service Web sites don't technically charge for the actual coupons. Instead, they charge a handling fee.
For printable coupons ...
offers printable coupons for many different traditional retailers, such as JC Penney and Sears. The Web site includes detailed information about the coupon offer, as well as the expiration date.
features a variety of printable grocery coupons for partner brands and merchandise, such as food, household items, and kitchen helpers.
's printable coupons are mostly for services in your city, such as oil changes, haircuts, and carpet cleanings. You can also find coupons for local restaurants.
For grocery coupons ...
Coupons & Forms Central
is a coupon clipping service. You browse the Web site and choose the coupons you need. Then you add them to your shopping cart and pay a handling fee (about 5 cents per coupon). The service sends you the coupons in a snail-mail envelope.
helps you find the absolute best grocery deals. The site pairs up the sales at your local supermarket with current available coupons and rebates, and then lists them on her Web site.
For local prices ...
offers price comparisons at your local stores. Just enter your zip code and the item you want to buy, and the Web site will list local stores that sell the item, plus the current price.
gives you the option of comparing online store prices or traditional store prices. For the best results, enter your zip code and decide how many miles you're willing to travel to visit a local store (located on the very top of the page next to the name of the Web site).
provides an online look at the sales circulars for traditional stores. You can search for national stores or for stores located in your state. Rather than hosting the ads themselves, the Sunday Saver links to the ads on individual retailers' Web sites.
lists brick-and-mortar shopping outlets across the United States. Click on the map to find local discount shopping outlets in your region.
Internet technology means information changes in the blink of an eye, so it's not always easy to stay current on the best shopping deals. Fortunately, many bloggers devote their blogs to bargain shopping.
- Bloggers tend to specialize in one category, such as fashion or tech gadgets, so bookmark the ones that meet your shopping needs.
focuses on fashion bargains. She includes information about current sales and coupons, and she also offers bargain-shopping tips for brick-and-mortar stores. Product reviews round out the offerings of this Web site.
blogs mostly about coupon codes. Her entries usually include details about any coupons and sales, including expiration dates and tips for making the most of the deal.
posts photos of celebrity outfits, and then recreates the outfit with low-cost alternatives from discount stores. She includes information about each garment and accessory, such as the price and the brand name. She also takes reader requests.
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