smart spending

8 ways to save online during the holidays

3. Shop the clearance rack

Just because you're online doesn't mean you can't get buys on end-of-season clearance close-outs. Try sites like Overstock.com, or visit your favorite online site and look for the clearance page, says Miller.

This can be a great strategy for people who don't need the latest model or who are interested in buying out-of-season merchandise. These kinds of bargains may not show up on your favorite shopping engines.

4. Save green, shop greener

If you're debating between two bargains and want to know which is better for the global neighborhood, look at Greenhome.com. The site offers green alternatives to many common products.

5. Get member deals

Are you a member of AAA, AARP or your local public-broadcasting station? Or do you carry certain branded credit cards? Explore the organization's Web site for member-related shopping or travel discounts, Mendelsohn says. Many times, the groups also will offer deals through brick-and-mortar stores and local malls, she says.

Sometimes, card companies will get a good buy on a hot item and offer it in limited quantities or for only a short time period on their Web sites, Dworsky says.

Member deals may even save you some money off-line, says Mendelsohn. "Sometimes you can print a coupon," she says. "It just depends on the store."

Or you can start your own club. If you have a couple of retailers -- online or off line -- that are particular favorites, you can register with them online to get coupons, special deals and advance notice of sales, Mendelsohn says.

6. Save on shipping

Seventy percent to 80 percent of online merchants will offer free shipping at some point during this holiday season, says Davis.

In addition, the Web can offer other accommodations that can save time and money. Some retailers with real-world locations will let you order online and pick up your gifts at the store. You save money and days waiting for your gifts in the mail. It's great for those last-minute buys and purchases you plan to pack or deliver yourself.

Another way to save for gifts you plan to mail is to order online and have them delivered directly to the recipient. It's greener, because you're shipping once instead of twice. And even if the store doesn't offer free shipping, you're still saving money.

7. Ask brick-and-mortar retailers to match online deals

Sometimes retail locations will match their online prices or even their competitors' deals. And, this year especially, stores want your business.

So if you want to buy at a brick-and-mortar store, you might be able to score the same deals. Just print out any price information you find and talk with the store manager about honoring the same deal.

8. Get extra discounts with coupon codes

You might not have to pay full price. Before you check out online, pull up your favorite search engine and put in the name of the retailer and either "coupon code" or "promotion code." Try to use the same language they use on the check-out page, Miller says.

Sometimes the coupons will net you free shipping or wrapping. Other times you'll get a discount on one item or your whole purchase. Some sites for coupon codes are RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and CouponMountain.com.

Or investigate ReesyCakes.com or DealIgg.com, which have "hotel deals and all kinds of other stuff," says Mendelsohn.

And the main thing with the online portion of your shopping is to have fun with it. Says Mendelsohn, "This should be a challenge and a treasure hunt for you."

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