Before the days of the Internet, I never really enjoyed shopping for the sake of shopping, especially after the open air “shopping centers” of my youth gave way to the enclosed, artificially lit “shopping malls” of my teenage and early adult years. Shopping meant that I had to get into a car and drive for 20 or 30 minutes, even if I only wanted to window shop. The effort outweighed the benefits of going out to see what deals I might be able to find.
Time passed and the Internet changed the way we shopped. I was cautious at first, or so I thought, because I was not willing to make any on-line purchases until about 1997, even though I had been on-line since the early 90’s. Internet security – really insecurity – made me reluctant to make my first purchase.
Then I started to read about Amazon.com and I was intrigued. I loved books and I loved knowing that there was an on-line source that was never likely to be out of stock of a book that I wanted to purchase. I took the plunge and made a purchase on Amazon. It changed my life.
I found myself spending more and more time on Amazon and, very quickly, on a lot of other e-commerce sites. I loved the new shopping medium but I was still finding that some purchases were not the bargains that I felt that I could get at brick and mortar stores. I was right, but only because I was not using all of the money saving techniques that were available on the web.
Finding deals became one of my daily routines and I enjoyed it. By about 2003 or 2004, I was Christmas shopping all year long and radically cutting back on my costs. I mentioned my on-line shopping experience to a colleague and she was shocked. She had never really explored on-line shopping so she asked me to give her my secrets.
I was only too happy to offer savings advice, and I spent a few minutes thinking about how I saved. When I looked at my savings routines, I realized that saving money merely required a few extra clicks of my mouse and that everyone could and should be enjoying them.
To this day, I remain surprised when I find people who do not know “how to shop” on the Internet. Here is my formula:
First and foremost, never spend just because a deal is good. If you cannot identify a good reason to purchase something, don’t buy it. Saving 90% on a hundred dollar item that you will never use is still a waste of ten dollars. Never forget that.
Bookmark one or two “deal alert” websites that you can visit each day. I rely on this site and Slick Deals. I have not encountered too many great deals that do not quickly appear on one or both of these sites so I do not need to look elsewhere. I check both of them each day and sometimes several times each day.
Before I decide to visit an on-line store, I check the availability of online coupons. The site on which I most heavily rely is Flamingo World but I have also used Bizrate and Fat Wallet. There are plenty of other coupon sites but these have been around for a long time and usually do not miss too many of the deals that are available.
After I am armed with the knowledge of what coupons are available, I then check my shopping portals to determine whether I can save an additional percentage by entering a store via my on-line portals. I rely most heavily on ebates which offers a tremendous number of rebate opportunities. Under the ebates model, I can receive up to 25% or more in rebates whenever I make a purchase at a store that I enter via an ebates link. When I cannot find a store that I want to visit on the ebates site, I will usually then look at other portals, such as UPromise which deposits rebates into a 529 account for my childrens’ college funds.
With those four steps, I can have a great deal of fun looking for amazing deals, many of which have given me savings of 75% or more off of the suggested retail price of an item. The hoops through which I must jump are just complex enough to make me feel that I have “beaten the system” each time I make a purchase but far less burdensome than having to drive to a shopping mall. If I make a purchase online, I have a sense of adventure and accomplishment. Also knowing that I can return to on-line stores whenever I am at my computer allows me to walk away from shopping without the dread of forgetting to buy something that might require me to have to drive back to a brick and mortar store.
Do you enjoy the adventure of on-line shopping or is the search for coupons and portals more effort than you wish to put into making a simple purchase. How much money do you feel you need to save in order to justify going through a few hoops to save it? Do you like the ease of shopping on-line or does it make impulse spending too hard to control?