Surveys suggest that more than half of holiday shopping takes place online, and that figure grows every year. But as blissful as online shopping is, the internet is a sterile environment. Unlike your local shopping mall, you can’t land an online discount by asking for a deal or “knowing a guy.”
You can scan product price tags on individual sites till you go cross-eyed, but you’ll always feel like you’re missing a steal. But there are ways to be an extreme online deal finder without making it a full-time job. Click here to learn the secrets that coupon experts use to save big time.
We’re all in a hurry but still like to save money. Here are some techniques I use to maximize my holiday cheer and minimize the money spent.
1. Save money with Honey
Serious shoppers are obsessed with online coupons, as they should be. You can save piles of money when you find the right promo code. Stores often offer free shipping or membership with the right purchase. But unlike paper coupons, which you can easily bundle in your wallet or purse, virtual codes have a habit of getting lost or even expiring.
That’s the glory of Honey, a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. The service automatically finds coupon codes for the site you’ve visited and applies them when you check out. This way, you don’t have to search your email or hard drive for a string of nonsensical numbers; Honey quickly finds them for you.
To get started, install the Honey browser extension. You’ll see a gold button on your browser bar, and all you have to do is click this icon to view all available sales and coupon codes. The service works for thousands of websites, including Amazon, Nike, Bloomingdales and Kohls. Honey can apply codes to a limitless range of products, from sweaters to pizza.
By the way, if you are shopping on Amazon (and who isn’t?), there are ways for you to get product availability alerts and share free shipping with family members. Click here for Amazon tricks you need to start using now.
Best of all, Honey is a free service, and the developer says they won’t sell your shopping data to other companies. Click here to get started.
2. Get Invisible Hand
“Buyer’s remorse” is an awful feeling. You pick a great Christmas gift, you click “purchase,” and then you find the same item on another website for far cheaper. You feel like you’ve been ripped off. Overspending on this one item means you can’t give as many gifts as you’d hoped.
InvisibleHand helps prevent this from happening. It’s a browser extension that notifies you if a product is available from another online retailer for less. You need only press a button, and you’ll be linked to the relevant page of a competing website. There’s also a drop-down menu so that you can compare prices on several sites at once. The company claims average savings of $7.55 per purchase.
You can think of InvisibleHand as a personal shopping assistant. The add-on compares prices across dozens of online stores, including big names like Best Buy, Home Depot, Target and Walmart. You’ll also see results from select specialty stores.
InvisibleHand has a lot of handy features: It’s unobtrusive on your screen, so you barely notice the add-on until you need it, and it works seamlessly with Google searches. You can also find real-time prices because InvisibleHand refreshes its listings every time you use it. This way, you won’t be surprised by a sudden spike.
InvisibleHand is a free application for Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Click here to download it today.
3. Know the shopping cart trick
Here’s a clever trick for folks who like to manipulate the system: Shop around a familiar website, put your items in your shopping cart, and then go to the checkout.
But instead of actually checking out, close the browser window. If you’ve ordered items from the site before, the retailer should have your email address on file. Companies will often write to notify you that you’ve left items in your cart. To encourage you to complete the purchase, these companies may send you coupons for those particular items.
This trick doesn’t always work, but I’ve personally scored 20 percent discounts by not completing my order. If you’re planning to buy the items anyway, there’s no harm in trying.
Not everything is rosy online shopping. Scammers are out in full-force this time of year. Click here for three dangerous online shopping scams.
Bonus: Sign up for loyalty programs
When it comes to loyalty programs, I don’t blame you for being cautious. Nobody wants that flood of junk mail, and many retailers have been accused of abusing fine print and selling customer data.
But if you’re careful, members’ clubs may also save you money. Many retailers have rewards programs that offer big discounts on your first purchase, especially around the holidays. If you love the company, you won’t mind receiving emails with sales and promotions, and you can almost always opt out of an overwhelming list.
How else can you save money online? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.