Finding Coupons, Freebies and Online Shopping Deals
Shoppers come in various forms. Some prefer it quick and painless. Others stand in line at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving. Not much is different when buying online, especially when it comes to finding deals. There are plenty of ways to save moneyit just depends on how much of your mind, body, and soul you're willing to surrender. Whatever your style, there's a website to guide the way. Good hunting.
No time to search for deals? These sites are simple, low-commitment, and singular in purpose.
Dealworker.com and CouponCode.com, which offer up-to-date discount codes for hundreds of online retailers, will help you fill out those lonely- looking promotional code boxes upon checkout. Just shop at the merchant's website, and before completing the sale, fill in the code. Make sure to doublecheck that you're actually getting the discount when buyingsometimes merchants change or cancel promotions before the coupon sites are updated.
Then there are freebies for shoppers who don't actually like to pay anything. Most free stuff online is dedicated to virtual goodiesfonts, domain names, gamesbut you can also sign up for free samples of household items such as shampoo or toothpaste. TheFreeSite.com is a fine place to start. Its owner, Marc McDonald, screens out offensive content and freebies that aren't actually free, like anything that might require payment for postage.
As for all those offers of free $500 gift cards? Takers beware: Just as with any other free offer, be prepared for some legwork and a lot of junk mail or spam.
Friends with benefits
Consumers who have completely conquered their fear of online shopping are ready to upgrade their saving into getting cash back. By going through Ebates.com, shoppers receive a small percentage of their purchase back, either via PayPal or mailed check. The money comes from retailers, such as Best Buy or Old Navy, that pay Ebates a commission for the referral. The site then takes part of the commission and returns it to the customer. Online shopping enthusiasts can earn back quite a bit of money over time, not to mention the other discounts and promotions that can be stacked on top of the cash back.
Jellyfish.com works similarly to Ebates but takes it one step further with its prorated cash-back scheme (most sites will give a blanket percentage for each retailer) and its innovative take on the online auction: Smack Shopping.
Smack (the name comes from the word for a group of jellyfish) amasses its users to bid at a scheduled time in its reverse auction, where products go up for sale and, as each second passes, the savings increase. This goes on until the product sells out or becomes free, whichever comes first. Jump too soon, and you pay more than you could have; too late, you get nothing at all. It's the "Deal or No Deal" of online shopping. And by providing live chat where Smack shoppers can talk, well, smack, Jellyfish President Mark McGuire says the site has brought the "fun and social" back to finding a good deal.
In for the long haul
Cash back? Check. Coupon codes? Check. Latest deals and freebies? Check and check. FatWallet.com offers it all, and then some. The site's forumsa staggering collection of scoops, tips, and adviceis one of the best destinations for the committed discount-seeker. DealCatcher.com and CouponMountain.com also feature respectable forums, but FatWallet's is the granddaddy of them all. The site has about 620,000 registered users, who not only continuously post the latest deals but also critique promotions and the retailers that offer them. "All of us are smarter than one of us," says Kim Sebring of FatWallet. Other neat features, if you have the time and persistence, are the free magazine- and movie-screening posts. A beginner could certainly wend his way through these sites (FatWallet's 24-7 customer service helps, too), but ultimately these forums are better suited for those who have sold their soul to shoppingand in the spirit of things, at 20 percent off.