Bargain hunters know they can often get a better deal by shopping online. It's one of the reasons why we do 15% of all our purchases through websites. But while we're patting ourselves on the back for hitting the net to find the item far cheaper than on the high street, we may still be spending far more than we need to.
There's always a better deal out there if you know the ten secrets of online shopping. A combination of all ten should mean you never have to pay full price again - and could easily snap up items with over 50% off - plus cashback.
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1. Hit the outlets
Just like the outlet villages in the real world, major retailers have outlet websites. Lots of these are available on eBay, but it's worth doing a search to see if there's a specific site section of the main site too. Hobbes, for example, has an outlet tab on the homepage. At the moment, it's selling Melissa trousers that were originally £99 for £39, and the Cara dress that was originally £169 for £75. As with the outlet shops, you won't always be able to find every item in every size, but it's still well worth a look.
It'll mean more junk mail, so you may want to use a specific account for them, but in among the junk will be details of flash sales and discounts. Some will offer a discount the first time you shop after signing up, as a reward for handing over your details. Others will regularly send details of sales and discounts of up to 25% off, so keep your eyes peeled.
3. Fake your birthday
Lots of retailers will ask your birthday when you sign up, and then send details of a discount around that date. If you like to shop on your birthday, it could come in handy. Alternatively, you could consider adding a fake birthday at the end of November or start of December, so you get a discount just as you're starting your Christmas shopping.
4. Always check for a voucher
There are a plethora of voucher sites now, as well as the forums on deal-hunting websites. It's well worth checking these before you make any purchase, as you may find a big discount just waiting to be taken advantage of.
5. Leave things in the basket
If you want to buy a specific items from a particular shop, but there's no sale on at the time, then it's worth adding them to your shopping basket and then leaving the site altogether for a couple of days. A number of retailers will record abandoned baskets, and if you don't return to buy the items, then as long as you have logged onto the site, they will drop you an email with an offer. You could easily be offered 10%-20% off for playing the waiting game.
6. Buy at the right time
Timing can be everything, especially when prices fluctuate so much. You can get a useful insight into the right timing by using camelcamelcamel.com. This compares Amazon prices with third parties, and then tracks the price back for as long as it has a price history - often more than five years.
Take, for example, the Krups Nespresso XN300540 Pixie Coffee Machine - Titanium. At the moment, Amazon is selling it for £126.95 and the best offer through a third party seller is £112.88. A quick check of its recent price history reveals that over the past year it has been priced at between £60 and £140 - and was for sale at £60 in August and September last year. Even accounting for Brexit price hikes, it may be safe to assume that this is something that will be on offer again below £100, if you're prepared to register with the site and start tracking the price.
7. Get cashback
There's cashback to be had on almost every online purchase you ever make. Sites like Topcashback.co.uk and Quidco.com offer an enormous variety of deals, so it's worth signing up to both, and checking the best cashback for any retailer before you buy. The average user makes £300 a year - that's £300 for all the shopping you were going to do anyway - which makes it something of a no-brainer.
8. Get in touch
If there's a retailer or manufacturer you want a discount from, then don't be afraid to get in touch. You can drop them an email and tell them how much you appreciate their product, and you'll often get a voucher in return. Alternatively, use the live chat function if there is one on the website to ask them to reduce the price, throw in some extras or price match a competitor.
9. Try a site that shops around for you
There are plenty of these around - known as shopbots - which let you put in details of an item, and it will track down the best deal (usually including delivery). So, for example, a search for a Shopkins Cotton Candy Party Playset, for example, produced an Amazon price of £17.99, while Flubit found it for £15.73 (from Jacinabox). Moneysaving expert has actually put together a Megashopbot, which searches lots of shopbots - although in this particular instance it couldn't track down the Flubit price.
10. Sign up to Lovesales.com
This is a useful site that lets you sign up to specific items from the retailers of your choice, and when the price drops you'll get an alert. You can add a target price, so you only hear when the price drops to that level, and when there's a real bargain on offer.