Thursday, January 18, 2007

Quick Tips for Saving Money When Shopping Online

Whenever you visit an online store and make a purchase, you'll often see an open box towards the end of your purchase that says "Promo Code/Coupon". This is a box specially reserved for coupons and codes you can enter to save money on your purchase. Sometimes the store you're buying from will send you codes and coupons like these in a mailing (either email or postal) if you subscribe to their newsletter. Most of the time, if you're a new customer, you might get a free shipping discount or some other special promotion. Other times they might have a special going on that only select people know about or you have to hunt for online. So what do you do if you don't have one of these promotional codes or coupons for the store you're shopping at?

Three Sites to Find Hidden Promotions or Coupons

There are three easy to use sites that you can use to find promotional codes or coupons that are sometimes only available to certain people, but you might not know about. Let's use overstock.com as an example of a store that we might be shopping at, but looking for a coupon for to save some money on a purchase.








RetailMeNot.com (RMN) is brought to you by the same people who created the BugMeNot site and uses the same basic idea. RMN has two basic ways it works to bring you discounts for stores. First, people who have or know about special coupons (often that might expire soon) can enter them into the free online database and share them with anyone who wants to use them. The other factor is that they are an affiliate with LinkShare, a large company, which I am also an affiliate with. LinkShare represents many large companies in promoting their products online to pay out a referral fee or commission to sites who link to their online sites or stores. Often times these merchants give out discounts and coupons only available to their affiliates, which they in turn post on their site in order to drive traffic to the merchant, and thus make the affiliate money. So, with RMN you get both. I noticed right away when I visited the RMN site on the front page there was a button with a link to get 8% off a purchase of Overstock.com - a company which has an affiliate program through LinkShare. So, when you click the link, you get the discount and RMN makes a commission - a win for both people.

But, I went ahead and searched the RMN database for "overstock.com" (without the quotes) and found two other coupons. One was a code to save $5 off a purchase of $45 or more, and one that didn't specify exactly what sort of savings you got. At the top was RMN's link for the 8% discount, which was stated as "Guaranteed to work". Any other user entered coupons can be voted on whether the coupons work or not and have a red indicator if people have not been successful in using the coupon or green if they have. RMN doesn't say whether or not they remove coupons if they go past their expiration date or if enough people vote on it to indicate it doesn't work or not, but I suspect that they eventually purge their database of old and outdated coupons.

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Secret-Coupons.com (S-C) is another site that has coupons for many online stores and merchants. They too appear to be an affiliate with LinkShare and have many coupons and promos for lots of major online stores. Unfortunately, S-C is a little tricker to navigate. Although they have a listing of a lot of stores on the front page, they have everything divided up into categories. This allows you to browse if you want to find a store that has a product you're looking for that might have the best deal at the time. But what if you're looking for a coupon for a store you're already at? Although S-C has a Google search box on the top of their page, this only searches other websites, and not their own. So, in order to search their site for a particular store, you need to use the Google Site Search "Domain Search" function. This is simple to do, especially if you have the Google toolbar. If you are using Firefox, while you are at the S-C site, just enter the merchant you want to look for in the search box, click the down arrow to the right of the search button and choose "Current Site". In IE, you do the same thing, except you click the arrow to the right of the Google "G" in the search box and choose "Current Site". To perform the search manually, all you would do is type in the name of merchant you want to in the search box, followed by the name of the the S-C domain. So, it would look like this "overstock.com site:www.secret-coupons.com" (without the quotes). The first hit you'll get will show you the Overstock.com page on S-C, which includes many links for discounts and promotions. As with RMN, S-C had a button on their front page which offered a 10% discount on Overstock.com (for new customers only). So clearly, you want to make sure and search all the coupon sites (including the one I mention below) for the best deals before you hit the "Confirm Order" button. An important thing to remember is that in order to get the discounts, you have to first click on the link on their site, and then go through placing the order. This is because it has to set a cookie in your browser in order to give you the discount. If by the end of your purchase you don't see the discount, you may have cookies disabled or blocked in some way. Many anti-virus software, firewalls, anti-spyware programs and other software block cookies, so you may have to disable this before using the links or you might need to use another browser. Also, if you already have your shopping cart full, you might have to go through and re-add the items to your cart again and place to order to receive the savings.

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InboxDollars.com (IBD) is somewhat different than the other two coupon sites mentioned above. IBD is what is called a Get Paid To (GPT) site, which means you GPT read emails, sign up for offers, play games, and do other things like shop online. You have to sign up and become a member in order to use IBD, but it's easy to do and you get $5 free just for registering. If you recruit a friend with your affiliate link, you make $5. It's not a pyramid, since membership is optional, and you can cancel anytime. It's not multi-level marketing or anything like that, since levels below you who sign up under your friend don't make you any money. Basically, with IBD, you are just given a variety of options to make cash. But, the reason I mention it in this article is because they have a HUGE list of online stores that they have promotions, coupons, or cash back offers when you shop with them through IBD.

Basically it works like this. After you've signed up for IBD, you can visit the section of the site labeled "CA$H Shopping" on the left, then click the "LET'S GO SHOPPING" button. Then, click "All Stores" on the menu on the left. In your browser, hit the CTRL key plus F and the "Find" box will open up. Just type in the name of the merchant you're looking for and if IBD is affiliated with it, it will find it within the page.

So, IBD also has discounts for Overstock.com. It has the coupon for 8% off your entire order when you click their link and make your purchase, and you also get 2% cashback to your IBD account when you complete your order. They also have a discount and cashback bonus for the Overstock store in Canada. It generally takes a day or so for IBD to credit the cashback to your account, and you'll receive an email once you receive the cashback bonus. If your order is really large, the cashback discounts can really add up. As with the S-C site, you need to click the link on the IBD site and make sure you have your cookies enabled to make sure you get the discount and cashback bonus.

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There's a couple other important things to know about IBD. IBD requires you to receive emails (normally daily) that you must click the link on, which takes you to a page that you need to view a small advertisement for. Each time you do this, you get paid (normally about 20-30¢). Not much, but it is required to keep your account active. You must continue to click the links in these emails during the time you wish to keep your IBD up. Along with the payments you get for shopping, there are many other ways to make money in IBD. For example, if you are not a member of eBay, they will pay you $6 to sign up as a new member. There are other trial offers, free offers, surveys, and things that you can sign up for and get paid a varying amount of money. You can also play games through SkillJam to make some money through their system (games like Solitaire, trivia games, and other stuff - not gambling), then IBD pays you an extra percentage of your winnings. So, there is a lot more to IBD than just shopping, but you have to keep those things in mind if you decide to become a member there. You aren't required to do anything except to keep clicking the emails if you want to withdrawal the money you earn there. Clicking the emails normally take about 10-30 seconds, so it's not hard, and you aren't overwhelmed with emails or spammed, so it's not something problematic. Once you decide you want to withdrawal your money from IBD, you simply click the "Request Payment" on the left side of the menu on the main IBD page. They will then send you a check for your earnings, which normally takes a month or so.

There are numerous other ways to find coupons and promotions online, but those are three of the easiest ways to find them. Anytime I make a purchase online, I always check those 3 sites, which normally takes a couple minutes, and if there are any discounts or coupons, I save some money, or even get a cashback reward. That combined with a reward program that many credit cards have nowadays, you have the potential to not only save money, but earn money (or points).

Keep looking around, and you'll find all sorts of other deals on the web. The TalkGold forum has a special section for Freebies and Hot Online Deals that constantly has special deals and cool freebies posted daily. Often a Google search will turn up some matches too. If you have or know of any other cool coupon sites, feel free to email them to me or post them in the comments!

3 comments:

Chat said...

Great site recommendations! One I'd like to add to the list is Savings.com. They utilize their community to vote for the best online coupons making it easy to discover some of the great deals available out there.

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