Buying online can save you a pile of cash, if you make the most of the discounts and deals on offer.
It also makes it easy to do price comparisons, so you know you can’t buy cheaper elsewhere.
Here are 12 top tips to slashing your online spending.
1. Find the cheapest prices
There are tools that will sift through online retailers products and prices for the cheapest deal. Dubbed ‘shopbots’, these will search whatever category you want, from clothes to books or cosmetics.
Sites such as kelkoo.co.uk, and 123pricecheck.com are examples of these sites. To find the right shopbot for the particular item you’re searching for check out Moneysavingexpert’s megashopbot.com.
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2. Live chat for discounts
Many of us automatically close the live chat window that pops up at times when we are online. However, you can use this to ask if there are any discounts, and some stores are handing these out to shoppers who ask for them. You can haggle in person, but you can also do this to slash the price of what you’re buying online.
If you’re told there aren’t any discounts on offer, state you are a loyal customer – and you might be offered money off as a gesture of goodwill. It might seem cheeky, but it may work.
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3. Check outlet stores
You might know outlet stores as the ones that are miles out of town, and a hassle to get to. However, you can search these stores online to find what you want at the right price and discount.
A quick online search should flag some of the outlet stores for some of the biggest brands.
4. Check voucher websites
There are various sites offering money off popular online stores. Some stores, such as Gap, seem to always have a code on offer – so it makes sense to use it or you are spending more than necessary.
For example, try vouchercodes.co.uk, myvouchercodes.co.uk and vouchercloud.com. These offer a range of discount codes to slash the cost of various purchases.
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5. Use cashback websites
Sign up to cashback sites for free, and go through them to buy what you need.
You can make hundreds of pounds a year by using sites such as Quidco and Top Cashback – with some purchases attracting as much as 5% cashback. If you’re buying a pricey item, this makes the cashback extremely worthwhile.
However, always check the cheapest deal first to see if you’re truly getting a bargain.
6. Sign up for secret sales
Some big brands hold ‘secret sales’ that they advertise to particular customers. So it’s worth seeing if your favourite clothing designer, for example, offers a free membership club.
Ask in store if you’re unsure how this works, and when you will get alerts for online flash sales. These typically last several days.
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7. Know when to shop
Timing is often key to getting the best deal on particular items.
Retailers change their prices throughout the year, as demand changes for different items. For example, back-to-school sales in September aren’t just for students. You can pick up bargains on printers, laptops and mobile phones during this month.
Consider when buying a particular item might be cheaper. For example, buying a lawnmower in winter will probably see prices slashes. This is because the majority of people are shopping for these during the summer, pushing prices up.
8. Sign up to newsletters
They’ll be an option when shopping on particular sites to sign up to the store’s newsletter. You may worry these will clutter your inbox, but they also flag discounts and promotions.
It’s worth signing up to see what’s on offer, as you always unsubscribe later on.
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9. Use loyalty points
Many of us have a bulging wallet full of loyalty cards, but how often do you make use of the points racked up on these? You might be surprised how much of a discount you can get using these.
Make sure to enter your loyalty scheme details when shopping online so you build up points as you go. Some of the biggest schemes include Tesco’s Clubcard, Nectar and Boots Advantage.
10. Price-drop alerts
Sites such as LoveSales enable you to add items to a list, along with the price you are happy to pay. Once the price falls when the item is on sale, you receive an email. This will tell you that your target price has been reached, so you can pick up your bargain.
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11. Sign up to social media
If you are social media-savvy, it’s worth using Facebook and Twitter for more than just keeping up-to-date with friends’ lives.
You can follow your favourite big brands, as many flag details of latest online sales or deals through social media channels. They may also tweet vouchers or coupons that you can use to get money off.
12. Check out eBay – and charity sites
So you’ve spotted a camera you want, but it’s expensive. You go online to search for a cheaper deal, or an older model. But what about checking out eBay? Some big brands are using the auction site to run their own clearance sales. These may offer great deals, provided you aren’t bothered about a little scratch or mark here and there.
Finally, what about charity shops? Some of the biggest charities such as Oxfam stock lots of popular clothes and other items at cheap prices. They also hold sales with even better deals on offer.
For more tips and useful information, browse our money articles.