Insider tips for finding online coupons

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For many holiday shoppers, paying less than full price is a given. But if you rely solely on newspapers’ sales flyers, you’ll miss out on major discounts. With a little digging, you can find countless savings online, from coupons delivered to your inbox to deals on social media sites. To make online coupons part of your holiday shopping savings plan, try these tricks.

Save via e-mail

The easiest way to find coupons online? Ask for them. Visit the Web sites of your favorite merchants and restaurants and register to receive their e-mails. Most will reward your loyalty by sending you exclusive discounts.

For example, The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy recently e-mailed subscribers a coupon good for 30 percent off their purchase during an invite-only “friends & family” sale.

See if venues you frequent offer an e-newsletter, too. For instance, if you sign up for e-mail updates from the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta, they’ll send you discounts for many of the shows and events held there, from opera to Broadway musicals.

Twitter, Facebook finds

Though 44 percent of holiday shoppers expect to use a coupon they find online, only 10 percent of consumers plan to use social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to find deals, according to Deloitte’s 24th Annual Holiday Survey of retail and spending trends.

Social media users may hesitate to become a fan of or follow businesses, but it’s worth it, as the savings can be significant. Build-A-Bear uses its Facebook page as another way to distribute the coupons it e-mails to subscribers. Shane’s Rib Shack tweets free food deals; a printout of the Twitter page works as the coupon.

The Atlanta Opera uses Twitter to alert its followers to one-day sales for upcoming productions, and it posts special offers on its Facebook Fan page. “These sites are the fastest and easiest way to create a dialogue with our audiences,” says Charles Swint, audience development manager. “Our Twitter one-day sales allow followers to purchase tickets for only $17.90.”

To keep your social and savings lives separate, use Facebook’s Groups and Twitter’s Lists functions to organize your contacts.

Even better, you don’t need to register for a social media site to access some savings. Most retailers and organizations make the Facebook and Twitter accounts public, and they’ll show up in search results (search for the name of the social media site and the name of the organization).

Want someone else to do the work for you? Use Twitter to follow users that tweet deals from multiple sources, such as CheapTweet and CouponTweet. At their companion sites, and, you’ll find searchable lists of deals. The tweets aren’t solely Twitter-specific offers; when freebies and deals bloggers tweet about the discounts they’ve found, CheapTweet and CouponTweet add their tweets to their deals databases, too.

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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