Are You Overpaying Online?
One of the biggest differences between shopping in a store and doing it online —besides the fact that you can buy stuff in your PJs—is that prices are customizable on the Web. Seriously. Retailers use special technology to track all sorts of information to decide when, and whom, to charge more. The good news: Adopting a few simple habits can not only help you avoid markups, but net you big savings as well.
Double-Check Daily "Deals"
Yes, those shoes are sexy, and once you put them in your cart on a flash sale site, the clock's ticking. But if they're for sale on one site, they're probably marked down on another—maybe even more—and that's worth checking out. Open a new tab and Google your item before you click “buy” to see if there are lower prices elsewhere. Recently, a $130 pair of black Pour la Victoire pumps on Gilt were $102 on Amazon—with free shipping! (And, of course, before you buy, always do a sweep for discount and promo codes at sites like retailmenot.com, coupons.com or couponcabin.com.)
Keep Tabs on Prices
If you've got your eye on a larger purchase, knowing its price history—and getting an alert when a price drops—can help you swoop in at the best time. (If you knew that $900 tablet you've been eyeing was $600 a couple months ago, you'd probably want to wait for it to go back down again, right?) If you know you want to buy something big but can hold off for a bit on getting it, hit up sites like Hukkster, PricePinx, Decide.com and, for Amazon goods, Camelcamelcamel.com. They'll keep tabs on the item and will send an alert to your phone or email when the price drops.
It’s true that retailers will reward loyalty, so it’s worth subscribing to email newsletters or “liking” a Facebook page to get offers no one else does. But the beginning of a relationship, when the retailer’s still courting you as a potential customer, is often the sweetest. Retailers save their best bargains for new shoppers, giving extra discounts or free shipping on the first order to entice you to buy. So if you’re surfing a favorite destination and are ready to buy, try either wiping your cookies or check out the site on your phone. The retailer might be fooled into thinking you’re a newbie.
Sit On It
Ever get distracted while shopping online, and leave items in your cart? With some retailers, this will trigger a special offer to try to lure you back. Make sure you get far enough at checkout to fill in your email address, but don’t close the deal. You may find a juicy coupon in your inbox in the days to come.