Key Takeaways:

  • Price comparison shopping today is easier than ever.
  • Physical stores will often match online prices – which may save you on shipping costs.
  • Sign up for coupons from your favorite retailers and always look for cashback opportunities from online shopping portals.

You’d think that with all the technology now at your disposal, being a smart shopper would be easier than ever. But online stores have their own technology, and they’re using it to keep prices as high as possible.

And we do mean continuously – consider that, according to Consumer Reports, mega-retailer Amazon makes as many as 2.5 million price changes every day on tens of thousands of its products.

Retailers also collect more information about your shopping habits than ever before. If you’ve shown yourself to be a savvy shopper, you might get special discounts via your smartphone that might not go to consumers who appear to be just casual shoppers.

Brushing up your online shopping game is one strategy to keep you on the inside track to better bargains, but plenty of old-school techniques still apply.

Here are a few suggestions to help you save money when it’s time to shop especially this holiday season:

Compare prices. If anything has been made easier by the rise of the internet, it’s finding the best price for nearly every product. Dozens of comparison-shopping search engines exist that aggregate information and show prices from multiple retailers. Most also will link you directly to the retailer’s website.

Look for the price match. Sometimes the best price isn’t found online. For popular appliances and electronics, it could be worth checking out local “brick-and-mortar” stores that can compete on price. In fact, many big retailers like Target, Best Buy, Sears and Walmart will match prices found on Amazon. If they have your item in stock, that means you can bring home your deal today rather than wait for it to be delivered to you.

Look for coupons and cash back. For stores you love and frequent, make sure you take a spin around their websites to find email newsletters, coupons and special sale alerts you can sign up for. There are also many coupon websites, such as Coupons.com or RetailMeNot, that let you bookmark your favorite stores and check for discounts while you’re shopping. With your smartphone, you don’t even need to print them out.

Another money-saving strategy is signing up with cash back portals like Ebates or Mr. Rebates where if you simply click from these sites to the retailer you’re buying from you can earn 1-5% cashback on your purchase. A good place to check to see if a retailer has any cashback options is to always first search sites like Cashbackmonitor.com or evrewards.com before making any online purchase. The best part is joining these portals is free and doesn’t require you to have great credit unlike some cash back or rewards credit cards.

Remember shipping costs. When you’re comparison-shopping online, don’t forget to factor shipping costs into your overall calculation. Not only can costs differ among internet retailers, but they could tip the scales toward buying in person. This is why a service like Amazon Prime, which gives you free shipping for a $99 annual fee, is so insanely popular. In addition, there are websites that offer coupons for free or discounted shipping – FreeShipping.org is one. You can also save on shipping costs at many bigger retailers that let you order online and pick up your purchase at a local store.

Know your gift cards. Receiving gift cards are great, but only if you use them smartly. For starters, read the terms and conditions and check for an expedition date or fees. If a card has expired, contact the company to see if they’ll honor the amount. Remember – they want your business, and are usually betting that you’ll spend over the gift-card amount.

Buy store brands. We’re not just buying laptops and blenders. A huge amount of everyone’s spending is at the grocery store, another place where smart shopping habits can take hold. For many of your staples, generic store brands offer the exact same quality as brand-name items. In fact, many generic products are made at the same exact factories just without the brand-name label. At larger retailers like Target or Walmart, generic brands extend beyond food and into most household products. Replacing half of your purchases with generic products could cut your weekly grocery bill by 5 or 10 percent.

Buy in bulk. A real bargain may not necessarily be the cheapest price. The unit price, such as what you’re paying per ounce, is a better indicator of the better deal. For most products, the bigger package you buy, the more you ultimately can save. This can be especially key for nonperishable items. This is why warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club have become so popular with consumers these days.

Save your receipts for returns and warranties. Always know your seller’s return and warranty policy. Especially with high-tech appliances or electronics, they often break. And don’t drop your vigilance after your purchase – keeping your receipts could help you get an even-lower price if you happen to see a price reduction on the same product soon after you’ve bought something. Ask the original seller to match it and refund the difference, or, if you’re within the return time frame, return and buy it again at the cheaper price.

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Finding the best shopping deals requires a little bit of planning but the payoff can be worth it. Start saving money today and in anticipation of the upcoming holidays by following the tips above and you’ll also improve your financial outlook.