If you're looking to buy big-ticket items like appliances and furniture online, Michelle Madhok, Online Shopping Expert and Founder of SheFinds Media has some fantastic suggestions. When she joined me on Mondays With Marlo this week, Michelle said the first place you should go is Decide.com. This website aggregates data and will tell you when the manufacturers usually put their items on sale. After that, go on PriceGrabber.com and search around. For deals on furniture, try flash sale sites like One Kings Lane and Gilt.
Check out these 10 online shopping tips that will change the way you buy online.
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Connect With Brands
Sign up for newsletters, follow your favorite retailers on Twitter and join their Facebook fan pages. Often, as a subscriber, you’ll get early access to sales and special discounts.
Buy Discounted Gift Cards
Find discounted gift cards for the stores you plan to shop at on <a href="http://www.giftcardgranny.com/" target="_blank">GiftCardGranny.com</a>.
Sign Up For Price Alerts
Sign up to be notified when an item is marked down on sites like <a href="http://www.hukkster.com/" target="_blank">Hukkster.com</a>. Add the site’s bookmarklet to your browser's toolbar. Then, whenever you're shopping online and see something you like, highlight the price and click on the bookmarklet. When the price drops for that item, Hukkster will notify you via e-mail.
Ask For An After-The-Fact Markdown
If an item you bought goes on sale within a week or a month of your purchase, many stores will credit you with the difference. Keep your receipts! Some retailers offer a price guarantee of over 100%, which means if you find the item cheaper somewhere else and you can prove it them, they’ll beat that price.
Earn Cash Back On Purchases
Take advantage of websites like <a href="http://www.ebates.com/" target="_blank">Ebates.com</a> that allow you to earn up to 20% cash back on online purchases -- on top of retailer discounts!
Familiarize Yourself With Shopping Search Engines
Use comparison search engines that specialize in specific categories. For instance, <a href="http://www.pronto.com/" target="_blank">Pronto.com</a> has specific databases for fashion, home and kid’s items, while sites like <a href="http://www.shopping.com/" target="_blank">Shopping.com</a> and <a href="http://www.bizrate.com/" target="_blank">BizRate.com</a> make it their mission to ferret out the best prices on commodity items like big screen TVs.
Jump On Flash Site Sales
Everyone at <a href="http://www.shefinds.com/" target="_blank">SheFinds.com</a> loves sites like <a href="http://www.gilt.com/" target="_blank">Gilt.com</a> and <a href="https://www.onekingslane.com/" target="_blank">OneKingsLane.com</a>, which feature great brands and often have a pretty decent selection of products for up to 70% off. The trick is, you need to act fast! Most sales only last for a few hours. Check <a href="http://www.shefinds.com/" target="_blank">SheFinds.com</a> for a list of all the flash sale sites.
Sites like <a href="http://www.overstock.com/" target="_blank">Overstock.com</a> and <a href="http://www.6pm.com/" target="_blank">6pm.com</a> are great places to nab deals on brand name items from past seasons and store closeouts. They also sell refurbished electronics.
Read Reviews Before You Buy
It’s always wise to see what people are saying about a product that you’re thinking about buying.<a href="http://www.amazon.com/" target="_blank"> Amazon.com</a> consistently has the most helpful reviews – the site allows you to quickly see the best and worst reviews of a product, which will help you make an informed decision.
Make Sure You’re Getting The Lowest Price
If you see an ad for an in-store only super deal, look at price comparison search engines like <a href="http://www.pricegrabber.com/" target="_blank">PriceGrabber</a> to make sure that the alleged deal is, in fact, the lowest available price.
Shop From The Bottom Up
When shopping popular online sales, hit “view all” and then start shopping from the bottom of the page up. Everyone else will be shopping top-down, so things sell out more quickly at the top of the page.
Make A List
Organize your shopping list on <a href="http://www.rememberthemilk.com/" target="_blank">RememberTheMilk.com</a> and check it off as you buy what you need. This will help you focus when shopping, which is necessary when speed is of the essence.
Wait To Make Purchases
Pinpoint the seasonal items you plan to buy, and keep an eye out for when they go on sale. For example, if you're planning on buying all of your girlfriends gloves for the holidays, it might be worth waiting. Wintry items like sweaters, pine-scented candles, peppermint bark, etc. are often marked down by mid-winter.
Use A Fast Browser
When you’re competing with tons of other shoppers to nab online deals, you want to use the fastest browser. Google Chrome tends to be the quickest at loading the page.
Use An Autofill Tool
Don’t waste precious time filling in your credit card information and your shipping address. You can set up tools like <a href="http://www.roboform.com/" target="_blank">RoboForm</a> to remember the passwords to your favorite sites and also fill in your shipping information.
Plan Ahead And Save On Shipping Costs
Sometimes an online deal loses its allure because of high shipping charges. Save money and time by planning ahead and sign up for a free shipping subscription service. <a href="https://www.shoprunner.com/non_member/home/" target="_blank">ShopRunner.com</a> members get free two-day shipping and free shipping on returns for purchasing holiday gifts. ShopRunner has over 40 retail partners including Lord & Taylor, Toys “R” Us, Radio Shack and more who all offer items that are eligible for free shipping.
Make Sure Items Are In Stock
When buying gifts, you’ll want to ensure that the items you’re purchasing are in stock, or guaranteed for delivery by a certain date. You don’t want to be handing out IOUs or scrambling for an alternative gift!
Grab A Promotional Code
Save extra money on your purchase with a promo code. To find promo codes, go to <a href="http://www.retailmenot.com/" target="_blank">RetailMeNot.com</a> or Google the name of the shopping site with the words “coupon code” or “promotion code.”
Be wary of ordering from a merchant that you've never heard of. Google the name of the site and words like "fraud" or "scam" to get the lowdown. Do a quick search of <a href="http://www.ripoffreport.com/" target="_blank">RipOffReport.com</a> to see if anyone else has reported a scam. It’s always safer to shop with companies located in the U.S., because you're protected by state and federal consumer laws. Use a credit card when you buy online, since unauthorized charges of $50 or more are covered by federal law. Never use a debit or check card, which could expose your bank account to theft.
Get Free Shipping Coupons
Cut out shipping costs by visiting <a href="http://www.freeshipping.org/" target="_blank">FreeShipping.org</a>. Also, keep in mind that some stores offer online purchase with in-store pickup. Search through their policies or call customer service to find out.
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