I just bought a laptop. Most people might go to the store, try out a few on display, and take home one they liked.
For me, that’s not nearly complicated enough.
I like to know that I’m getting the absolute best deal possible. Sure, that means comparing deals and choosing a store with a low price, but there are more ways to stack your savings when shopping online.
Discounted gift cards
Gift cards are nice if you know you’ll be shopping at a particular store. While many stores are happy to sell you a $100 gift card for $100 in real money, you can save a few percentage points online.
The easiest place to start is GiftCardGranny.com. Search for a store and it’ll display places to buy people’s unwanted gift cards at a slight discount. The best deals will appear to be eBay auctions, but since the prices shown are current bids, you can’t be sure what the final price will be. For a set discount, listings for Raise.com, GiftCards.com and CardPool.com are your friend. Choose a card that’s mailed to you or an “eCode” that’s delivered quickly by email and you’re off to the races.
One card I purchased had a couple digits transposed, but with a little experimenting it worked in the end. And since gift card stores are stores like any other, you can combine their discount with the next one to save even more.
Cash back sites
In the early days of Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, the site offered generous cash back if you shopped through them. You just had to sign up for a free account, search for your desired product, and click on the merchant link. Next to each store, you saw listed how much of your purchase total would be credited back to you — 2, 5, 10 percent, whatever, depending on the store.
Bing’s cash back program didn’t last long because it really was ridiculously generous. Other sites are still around, offering lower percentages for pretty much the same thing. One of the most reliable is Ebates.com, but there are tons of others: MrRebates.com, BeFrugal.com, and RebateGiant.com, to name a few. There’s even a guide cross-referencing 46 cash back sites and 13,473 stores at CashBackWatch.com, so you can pick the site with the best cash back offer for your chosen store.
Take heed, though — not all cash back sites have sparkling reputations, and it might take a few days before your cash back shows up in your account. Read reviews of them, either on CashBackWatch or elsewhere, and decide for yourself which one seems most likely to come through for you. Of the ones I listed, I’ve only used Ebates for any length of time. On the other hand, most of them offer sign-up bonuses of a few bucks.
This is the easiest technique. You basically just put your chosen store’s name plus “coupon” into your favorite search engine and there you go. Top sources include RetailMeNot.com, DealCatcher.com, and, amazingly, Coupons.com. Some coupons are good for only certain items, or only new customers, or only purchases over a certain amount. Copy the coupon code and paste it in the shopping cart during checkout to receive the discount.
Some discount gift card sites accept coupons themselves, so again, you can stack savings on top of each other. You might also be able to get special coupons or rewards through your credit card or the store you’re shopping at.
Even shopping retail, you don’t have to pay retail.
Send gift cards, discounted or otherwise, to @CitizenjaQ on Twitter.
As seen in the April 3, 2014 issue of The Hippo.