First and foremost: Take shipping cost into consideration
My best "secret"? I almost never pay shipping. And when I do, it is because I am getting a heck of a deal on the item. I think one place where a lot of people go wrong with online shopping is that they forget to watch the shipping charges. And retailers know this! I so very often see, especially on sites like Ebay or Amazon.com, where a retailer will be offering a heck of a deal on an item but charging something ridiculous for shipping. I am no retail expert, but there are two obvious advantages to doing this: First, their item will appear on the search screen with a far lower price than their competitors. Second, if they catch a shopper who isn't taking the shipping charge into consideration, they will trick them into feeling like they are getting a really good deal when they are really making all their money on the shipping charges.
The solution? The first and easiest way to make sure the item is still a good deal when adding in the shipping charges. If that movie is $5 cheaper than the stores, but the shipping charge is $10, it isn't a good deal! The second way is to watch for free shipping promotions and try to make your purchases during these times. More and more retailers are doing these as a way to compete. You do have to be careful here- I have noticed with some sites (such as Kohls and Children's Place) that their prices seem to raise when they aren't charging shipping. So again, make sure that you are taking the total cost into consideration and don't assume that you are getting a good deal just because you didn't pay to ship the item. Many stores also offer free shipping coupon codes or at a certain threshold (free shipping for orders over $50). I'll talk more about coupon codes later, but with the shipping thresholds, just be smart! Make sure you never make purchases you wouldn't have otherwise just to get to the free shipping! If you are close, you can always look on the store's site for items that you have been planning to buy anyway and see if they happen to have a good deal on that item as well. But if you are far from the threshold, consider just sucking it up and paying the shipping charges rather than ending up with $40 worth of stuff you don't need so that you could save $6.95.
Never buy without searching coupon codes
Make it a rule that you never checkout online before searching for a coupon code. Almost all major retailers will put out coupon codes occasionally that you can find online very easily. The easiest way to do this is to just do a simple google search: "Kohls coupon codes". Different sites will give you different coupon codes available for that site. You can browse if one fits your needs. This is also a great way to find free shipping codes! One thing to watch out for is that many sites only allow one coupon code, so you may not be able to get a percentage off and free shipping, so you need to figure out which choice will save you the most money in the end.
One way that I really save on kids' clothing is to shop stores when they have out good coupon codes. Many blogs such as www.moneysavingmom.com or www.myfrugaladventures.com post when store have good coupon codes out so that you can check if there are any good deals. For instance, when Children's Place has 25% off coupon codes, I will check their site (especially clearance!) for anything that is a good deal with the coupon code. You never want to feel like you should make a purchase simply because of a good coupon code, but stacking these codes with a sale is a great way to hit awesome prices.
Use sites that compare prices
This has become easier than ever now that search engines have become so user friendly. I generally will just google search a particular item to see what the item is selling for at various stores. If you need something more user friendly, sites like Nextag.com for froogle.com are specially made for searching different sites for their prices. You do still have to do a fair amount of the legwork since these will not always account for shipping prices or coupon codes available, but it is a great starting point and will give you an idea of what prices are realistic for the item.
Amazon wishlists are so helpful, especially when you are in the market for an item that you aren't in any hurry to purchase. For example, I have been wanting a particular toy for Delaney for awhile, but they are a little pricey. Since she is in no hurry for more toys, I am waiting until I can catch it at an excellent price. This is easier when I can check back frequently to quickly see the price the item is at. Though this won't tell me what the item is selling for at every site, Amazon tends to be the cheapest and most flexible with their prices, so it is a good place to watch.
Something new that I just learned about today is the search alert on Money Saving Mom. With this free tool, you can find an item on Amazon and set your buy at price for that item. This tool will email you when the item drops to that price so that you don't miss it! I do realize that there are probably at least 14,000 Smartphone apps that do this same thing, but for a boring phone user like me this is pretty exciting!
This has got to be one of my favorite tips ever, and one I only learned about a year or so ago! Did you know that there are actual, legit websites that pay you cashback when you start your shopping at their site? There are probably a lot out there, but my two favorites are Shop At Home and Ebates. These are both very easy to use and I have personally received checks from both so I can tell you they are legit! If you get in the habit of always starting at these sites (always check both, but I can tell you that Shop At Home is almost always the better deal) you can really get some good, free money! Most sites average cashback around 5% with promotions going all the way up to 20% cashback! This doesn't all seem like that much, but if you do a lot of your shopping online like I do, it really adds up. I use Shop at Home the most and about every 3 months I will get a check of around $20 from them (your cashback all compiles until you hit the $20 mark). I know that isn't a huge sum of money, but at about $80 a year for something that is risk free and takes almost no time, that is a pretty good deal. I have actually installed the Shop At Home toolbar on my computer so I don't even have to try to remember to go to the site first- I automatically gives me the cashback anytime I shop somewhere that qualifies.
I think that about covers all the little tricks I know- I am sure there are more? Do you have any awesome tips for saving money with online shopping?
Oh, none of these blogs paid me to talk about them. The Ebates and Shop At Home links are my referral links that give me credit for referring you if you decide to join, yada yada. :)