smart spending

Insider tips for finding online coupons

Hide your savings

You don't want to pay full price for a gift, but you don't want to seem cheap when you give it. Fortunately, there are simple ways to hide your savings.

Browse through the leads on's or's Hot Deals forums; you don't need to register to read them. The registered users are deal fanatics, and they post about everything from steeply discounted DVDs and gaming systems to products that are free with purchase or free after rebates. If users have any difficulty redeeming an offer, they'll post about that, too, saving you frustration if a deal turns out to be more trouble than it's worth.

Pay less than half price for merchandise by buying discount gift certificates at such sites as and and then redeeming them for everything from personalized gifts to theater tickets for people on your list. A word of warning: The discount restaurant certificates won't pass as full-price certificates. But because the sites occasionally offer plastic gift cards, the recipient will have no idea that you only paid $25 for the $50 restaurant gift card.

Looking for deals for local merchants? Check sites like, and for city-specific entertainment, shopping and restaurant coupons. You can search for deals by city and sign up to receive e-mail updates to find out about new coupons available in your area.

Prefer to shop for gifts online? Don't forget to track down a coupon code for free shipping or percent-off savings before you place your order. Search such sites as and for merchant-specific discounts.

Or you can let sites like or scout name-brand deals for you. When you create a profile, you customize it with your size and your favorite designers, and they e-mail you when there's a sale. Plus, partners with, so when a retail offer becomes available that matches your interests, they'll tip you off to that, too.

Even without a coupon code, you can get free shipping when you order online at participating retailers on Free Shipping Day, Dec. 17, 2009.

While it's tempting to buy things just because they cost less, think before you spend. "You can find bargains in this economy, but you still need to consider who you're buying for if you're shopping for a gift," says Teresa Britton of "That 80 percent off sweater won't be everyone's style, or a kitchen gadget for 50 percent off might never get used.

"No matter how much something is discounted, if you don't need it or won't use it, it's not a bargain."

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