During a recession retailers have to discount more heavily as demand for their products drop and buyers become more cost conscious. There has never been a better time to grab an online bargain.
We look at the different strategies available for saving money online.
Price Comparison Sites
Sites like Kelkoo, PriceRunner, Shopzilla and PriceGrabber have been around for a while. You type in a product and they are mean to show you the cheapest place to buy it. The problem with price comparison sites is that often only display deals from suppliers paying for a listing. This reduces the chance of you finding the best deal. Another downside is poor search results quality, especially for niche products.
Financial Price Comparison Sites
We have considered financial price comparison sites separately because they tend to be better, on the whole, than general price comparison sites. They focus on a smaller range of products and provide more detailed and focused search results. Financial price comparison is big business as the glut of adverts on TV from the likes of MoneySupermarket.com, CompareTheMarket.com and Confused.com show. Selling a mortgage earns a larger fee than selling a CD or DVD so the sites tend to be more regularly updated, user friendly, and price competitive.
Always try 3-4 price comparison sites to find the best deal. Also, be skeptical about claimed loan and mortgage rates. Often, these are to get you through the door rates only offered to people with 60% home deposits or perfect credit ratings. Do not just rely on comparison comparison sites, mortgage and insurance brokers have access to similar offline comparison systems and can often provide better deals and advice. For example, there is no point applying for a mortgage deal online if you do not meet the borrower profile the lender is looking for, a mortgage broker can find you a deal to match your profile, not just a cheap headline rate that you won 't qualify for.
Do not go mad with credit card applications on financial comparison sites. Too many rejected applications can damage your credit rating. Find out which cards are owned by the same banks, for example MBNA and Virgin Money cards are issued by the same bank, if you got rejected for one card, you are more likely to get forwarded for the other so spread your applications wisely. 0% deals often come with a sting in the tail, 3% and 4% handling fees for bank transfers and cheque cashing. Sometimes low rate deals with no charges for transfers are the better option. Also consider the current variable rate, this will give you an indication of what you might have to pay when your low interest deal runs out.
To get the best deal on your utility bills visit USwitch.com just 1-2 months before your contract runs out, get the best quote, then contact your existing supplier and ask them if they will beat it. Often they will because they do not want to lose a customer and everything is already set up. Utility companies rarely give you the best possible deal upfront unless you push for it.
HotUKDeals takes price comparison to the next level. If you have not discovered this site, you will love it. Site users post special offers and bargain deals and other site users vote them hot or cold depending on how good they think the offer is. As well as voting a deal hot or cold, users can add comments like I saw this cheaper at my local Asda, or I went to Tesco in Hatfield and they got some more of these in stock, so you get up to the minute, honest opinions from other shoppers on the best deals around. Unlike traditional price comparison sites, you are not constrained by whether a seller is willing to pay to have their goods listed. Listings are posted free by users so there is no angle. If people do not like the deal, they vote it cold and it does not feature in hot deal listings. The downside to HotUKDeals is it does not list all products for sale, only those on special offer or considered red hot bargains by users. However, if you fancy some lucky dip bargain hunting, this is the site for you.
Cashback sites give users cash back if they go to a retailer via a link on the cashback site. For example, with QuidCo, you register, go to a retailer via their site, and then get a% of the amount spent in your Quidco account after a certain period of time. The amount you get back depends on the retailer and product category. Posters on HotUKDeals will often add "Do not Forget the 5% Quidco" to remind users they can get an extra 5% off if they visit the retailer through their Quidco account. There are no outward sign that your purchase has been logged when you visit a retailer from Quidco, after a delay of minutes, hours or days, it will show up in your Quidco account with a calculation of how much cashback you are due. It's important to close down your browser window and do everything methodically to ensure Quidco records your purchase. Do not have dozens of browser windows open or skip back and forwards between sites when you are making a purchase via a Quidco link.
Before you buy something online, go to Google and write something like Name of Retailer Coupons. This will often throw up links to promotional codes you can type in on your shopping cart page to get an discount. If you see a box to type in a promotional code, it's worth having a quick hunt around on Google. Beware, there are lots of unscrupulous coupon sites listed in Google who promise you a coupon code for a particular retailer and then when you follow the link to their site there are no valid coupons, all they want to do is get you to visit their site and follow a link so they get paid. Coupons usually have an expiration date so you need to check this before trying to use it. HotUKDeal users often post coupon codes with their initial hot deal posting so this can save you the trouble of looking for a code. Another good place to look for coupon codes are forums. Another tactic is to put in Retailer Name 5% discount or Retailer Name 10% discount into Google to fish for links to pages with popular coupon code discounts. By adding the current year to your search, you can filter out expired coupons on old web pages.
eBay is a great place to find bargains if you shop smart. Only buy from buyers with hundreds or thousands of positive feedback recommendations, remember that if you buy from an overseas seller you may end up paying VAT and a handling fee to UK Customs. Do not forget to take into account whatever what you are buying is UK stock and if the seller is an authorized retailer because this may impact on qualifying for product support, upgrades or warranties. Postage can be an important factor in price comparison so if you can pick a bulky item locally and save on postage it can give you a big price advantage over someone having to pay for postage.
Other eBay tips, considering buying sniping software that will bid automatically on your behalf in the closing seconds of the auction if you are too busy to watch the auction end. If you bid manually, set a price in your mind and stick to it, do not get caught up in frenetic bidding in the last few minutes and end up paying more than you would have had to pay on Amazon. You may find auctions ending early in the week or at unsociable hours provide better value than auctions that end at the weekend when more people are at their PC shopping online. When you buy something on eBay you are taking a risk so expect to get a bargain in return.
Amazon sells goods directly but it also enables private sellers to sell goods via their marketplace. When you search for an item, the marketplace price shows up in additional to the price you can buy direct from Amazon at. Marketplace prices can offer far better value than direct Amazon prices, especially if you are prepared to settle for near new condition. Always check where the seller is based or if the goods are being sent from the UK, some big US based book depository marketplace sellers take weeks to send a book that you could have gotten in 1-2 days from a UK marketplace seller for the sake of 20p extra.
The easiest way to shop for bargains online is to type in what you want to buy in Google. This will often bring up paid for listings from retailers for the item you searched for. A final Mum.com tip, if this does not work, try adding in bargain related words and phrases like "best deal", "cheapest", "discount" etc with the product you want to buy. Retailers who compete on price will often use these keywords to attract price conscious buyers to their site.
Source by Bianca Campbell