smart spending

9 secrets to online bargain hunting

Highlights
  • Newsletters, coupon code sites yield big savings.
  • Secondary sources can sweeten initial bargain price.
  • Clean out cookies frequently to get top offers.

The Internet can serve as an excellent source for bargains, from heavily discounted designer shoes to free shipping on best-selling books. And right now, the timing couldn't be better.

"This is an excellent time to (find online bargains) because of the economy," says Barb Webb, author of "The Mom's Guide to Earning and Saving Thousands on the Internet." "Companies are trying to get your business, your attention and your money so they're offering a lot of coupons, deals and reduced pricing."

The trick is knowing just how and where to find fantastic deals in cyberspace. Deciphering today's price comparison Web sites, e-mail newsletters and coupon codes can be daunting.

Fortunately, by following a few simple steps, you can take advantage of the best deals online. Here are nine secrets to finding online bargains.

9 ways to find deals online
  1. Sign up for newsletters
  2. Visit coupon code sites
  3. Give Google a try
  4. Shop around
  5. Clean up your cookies
  6. Check out secondary sources
  7. Get a help from friends
  8. Consider your route
  9. Read the fine print

Sign up for newsletters

One of the most convenient ways to score deals is to sign up for e-newsletters or updates from your favorite merchants.

By creating an account with an online retailer, you'll receive e-mail blasts with special offers and coupons on an ongoing basis, Webb says. Better yet, many of these offers are tailored to meet your online buying habits and preferences based on your shopping history.

Don't expect to be inundated with exclusive offers of dirt-cheap products, though. Less than 15 percent of online retailers offer exclusive deals through their e-mail lists, according to the Email Experience Council, the New York-based e-mail marketing arm of the Direct Marketing Association.

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Visit coupon code sites

If you can't wait for an e-newsletter to reach your inbox, take matters into your hands by visiting a coupon code site.

RetailMeNot.com, CouponChief.com and FatWallet.com are just a few of the sites that allow you to search for coupon codes by simply entering a store's Web address or keyword into a search engine. Codes can then be submitted through a merchant's online order form for special offers, ranging from discounts to free shipping, which are automatically deducted from your order total.

Discounts typically start at 10 percent and can skyrocket to upward of 70 percent, says Webb, an avid online shopper who recently scored "bras for $3 apiece from Lane Bryant because of a 75 percent coupon promotion."

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