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Ask the Experts: Common Sense With Money answers your questions on “Finding Online Deals”

Finding GREAT online deals is like finding money in your jeans pocket – it rarely happens, but when it does your whole day is made. With Cricket, you save MORE money on your cell phone bill, and now we want to help you look for MORE deals on items you purchase online like electronics, fashion or home goods. Mercedes from Common Sense with Money answers your online deal questions below!

1. I would really LOVE some expert advice regarding finding the best deals online. I’ve been looking for the following: SodaStream, KitchenAid Mixer and a bread maker. Of course, I would LOVE to know how to research anything that may come up in the future.

Finding the best deals online like a Boss takes a little practice and patience. You have to figure out exactly when something is a good deal and when to pounce. A lot of this involves tracking the prices of your items over a period of time to see just how low they can go. There are lots of tools that you can use for this, such as CamelCamelCamel.com, which shows you the past and current prices of items on Amazon.

I also like Google Shopping. Just search for the product you want to buy, and click on the “Shopping” tab located just under the search text box. When you find what you think is a good deal, always take the time to do a little online price comparison too, since you might actually find a lower price somewhere else.

In your situation, though, I can tell you that you’ll probably get the best deal on the items you want just before the holidays, particularly in November. Lots of online retailers slash prices both to entice shoppers and to get rid of the year’s old merchandise (I found KitchenAid mixers for dirt cheap on the Kohl’s website after sale prices, promo codes, rebates, and Kohl’s Cash.) Some online retailers, however, discount small kitchen appliances in the spring as well in preparation for kids going away to college.

2. First of all I’d like to say I love your site, because it helps me always find the best deals online.However, I’m a procrastinator and never know when I should pull the trigger on a deal, because I’m afraid a better one might pop up later. Would you say I should take advantage of a good deal when it pops up or should I wait and try to find a better deal in the future? What would you suggest?

Thanks! We kind of like it too…

Knowing exactly when to hop on an online deal can be a little tricky.

I recommend tracking the prices of items you want to buy over a period of time before making any big purchases. I also highly recommend CamelCamelCamel.com to get an idea of past Amazon prices. It will give you an idea of how low the price of an item has dropped in the past, and judge whether or not it might go any lower.

However, if you find a really great deal on something that you need, I say grab it. Just make sure you do your research and take a little time to do some price comparisons.

3. Are there any apps to help you find online deals or online coupons?

There are tons of apps out there to help you find deals online, some worth your time and some not. I generally tend to stick with apps directly from specific websites, like Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon.

I’m particularly fond of the Amazon Price Checker app. This app allows you to search for the lowest price on Amazon by typing in the product name, scanning a barcode, or even uploading a picture of an item.

I also like the ShopAdvisor app, which allows you to monitor prices for products you want to buy. Just input a product you want to buy, and the ShopAdvisor app will monitor the price of that item across several thousand online retailers, and you can buy it when the price drops low enough.

4. How trusting are you of reviews regarding deals that pop up?

I’m not usually very trusting of any online reviews, good or bad. That doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend reading online reviews before you buy, though. You just have to use your own discretion and sift out the useful reviews from the not so useful ones.

When reading online reviews; pay special attention to repeated information. For instance, if 15 out of 20 reviews say that a product broke within a short period of time, it may not be the best deal. On the other hand, I’ve seen people leave poor reviews on products for some pretty poor reasons, like the product reminded them of their ex-wife (seriously!), so make sure you read the reviews, not just look at the star ratings.

5. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Ibotta app, is it all that it’s cracked up to be?

From what little I’ve used the Ibotta app, I do like it. Then again, anything that pays me for buying items I would normally buy anyway gets a thumbs up in my book.

Ibotta lets you earn money by completing tasks related to offers and products, and you can unlock those earnings by purchasing the products in the offers and taking a picture of your receipt. I’m more partial to Checkout 51, though, mostly because users don’t need a smartphone or other mobile device to earn cash back. You can take a picture of your receipt and upload it right through the Checkout 51 website, so it’s more accessible to consumers who don’t have all the latest gadgets.

However, if you have a smartphone or tablet, there’s no harm in trying out the Ibotta app as well as Checkout 51. They’re both free, so all you have to lose is a little time using them, and you could potentially earn a little cash in the process.

6. Are there certain days that are better for online deals or secret sales?

This can be tricky. There are numerous informal “studies” out there that have tracked online prices for different days of the weeks, and the general consensus is…Monday! This is the day when most manufacturers discount their items, so this is the day when online retailers can pass the most savings on to the consumer. Interestingly enough, however, you can score big discounts on different types of items on different days of the week. Here’s an example…

  • Mondays – Electronics and video games
  • Tuesday – Airline tickets and men’s clothing
  • Wednesday – Jewelry, kids’ clothing, and shoes
  • Thursday – Clothing
  • Friday – Accessories
  • Saturday – Books, bras, and underwear
  • Sunday – Appliances and hotel rooms

This isn’t set in stone, however, and online retailers can have surprise sales on any day of the week. I’ve also found that online sales and deals are quite common on holiday weekends and during special events, like President’s Day or the Olympics.  ;-)

7. Are there certain stores that have secret sales?

Any store can have a secret sale. That’s part of the beauty and excitement of deal hunting! You just have to look in the right place at the right time. And have a little luck, of course. The best way to find the secret sales is to keep an eye on the deal blogs and sign up for the newsletters for your favorite stores.

8. Do I have to sign up for every newsletter to get a sale or is there another way to “be in the know” when it comes to online deals?

Signing up for newsletters for your favorite online retailers is a great way to be in the know when it comes to deals and sales. If you don’t want newsletters and spam clogging your inbox, you can always create a free email account just for newsletters and check in when you’re ready to shop. You can also use a feed reader, like Feedly, to follow the RSS feeds of your favorite online retailers. And, of course, keep an eye on those deal blogs!

9. A lot of places are changing their coupon policy or redemption codes, what’s your best advice for getting a sale or deal at a store online?

Just about any online retailer has at least one coupon or promo code floating around at any given time. All you really need to do is search for it. Try searching for the store name and the terms “coupon code” or “promo code”. To get the absolute best deal, you may have to try a couple of different coupon codes before you get to a price you like. Some online retailers also allow you to “stack” certain coupon codes, meaning that you can use more than one when checking out. Stackable coupon codes are usually ones that will get you something free with your order, such as free shipping, a free upgrade, or a free gift.

You might also find that you’ll get the best deal on something online if you do two transactions instead of one. You might consider splitting your transactions when dealing with a store that only allows one coupon code per transaction but has two amazing deals with coupon codes. Just make sure that the extra shipping charges that usually come with two transactions are worth it.

10. What are your top five go-to websites to find the best online deals which are your most trusted websites to find the best online deals?

I have quite a few websites in the “Check Daily” folder on my bookmarks bar. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order…

1. Amazon (Check out the “Today’s Deals” tab and the “Savings Across Amazon” slider.)

2. Slick Deals (User submitted online deals. Popular ones are featured on the front page, but a lot of the action happens behind the scenes in the forums.)

3. Deal News (Lots of great deals on just about everything from all around the web.)

4. Fat Wallet (THE place for online electronics deals, but also features some other deals too.)

5. Any of your favorite online retailers’ special offers or sale page (Like Walmart’s Value of the Day page or the Shutterfly “Special Offers” page. Most online retailers have these types of pages.)

And a bonus!

6. Retail Me Not (Coupon codes galore!)

11. What is your advice and recommendation on how to find the best online deals?

  • I actually have quite a few tidbits of advice for finding the best deals online.
  • Don’t buy right away, even if you think you’ve run across a smokin’ deal! Take a few minutes to search around for a better deal and do a little price comparison. You might find an item cheaper somewhere else, or you might find another online retailer offering extras, like free gifts, when you order from them.
  • Always search for a coupon code, if you don’t already have one. Most online retailers have coupon and promo codes out there.
  • Pay attention to the price of an item PLUS shipping charges, because that’s the true cost of an online purchase. You may think you’ve found a great deal, but inflated shipping costs can ruin it quickly. On the contrary, free shipping might seem like the best deal, but in reality it isn’t if the price of the item is too high.
  • Don’t be fooled by jacked up “regular” prices. You’ll often run into this on Amazon, where sellers mark their items way up and then “discount” them. If you find something at a 90% discount, don’t automatically assume that you’re getting a good deal. Look around and find out how much that item is selling for on other websites.
  • Think like a retailer! This one takes some practice, but you can master it over time. Figure out when consumers are more likely and less likely to buy particular items. These are the times when you’ll find the best deals. For instance, kitchen appliances are a popular Christmas gift, so you might score a great deal on a blender before the holidays. On the other hand, most people won’t be looking for winter coats at the end of winter, so you should be able to score a pretty good deal on outerwear for next year right now. Online retailers also have to get rid of old merchandise when it’s replaced by newer models. This is particularly true of electronics, which are often discounted shortly after the year’s Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of the year.

 

12. Is Cyber Monday really the best holiday to get your online deals or are there other holidays you would recommend shopping online?

It’s true that Cyber Monday is a great day to snag some smokin’ online deals, but it certainly not the only day! If its Christmas gifts you’re after, start looking during the first week or two of November, when online retailers are gearing up for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness. Any other time of the year, it’s sort of hit or miss. You just have to keep your eye out. However, be sure to double check on other holidays, even the little holidays. I know that many online retailers are even having sales for this holiday weekend.