Stores want your business, in person and online. If you read weekly circulars in the newspaper or clip coupons, chances are you’re aware of sales and discounts happening in stores near you. But did you know that the same mechanism applies on the Web? You can shop online, saving money with discount and promo codes as well as digital coupons.
According to recent data, U.S. shoppers expect to pay $830 on average when shopping for holiday gifts. One of the best ways to cut that number by 10, 20, 30 percent or more is to start your gift shopping early , with a comprehensive list and a budget. Our tips suggest that if you take your time and do a little bargain hunting, there’s no reason you can’t get great presents for your loved ones, AND stay on or under budget.
Check the gift brand website(s)
Let’s say your Mom likes candles and you hop on over to the website that sells her favorites to buy her a gift. Off the bat, you can save money in multiple ways…just by showing up.
Some stores will offer a first time purchase bonus if you sign up for email alerts. You’re thinking: I don’t need more junk email! But, if this is a brand you or your regular giftees like, getting an announcement of upcoming sales from time to time isn’t bad. You might see a pop-up window over the website offering you such a deal. Once you sign up, you’ll likely find a discount code in your inbox, which you can use the first time you buy. (No pop-up? Check the website footer or upper right corner for notice of such an offer.) New to social media? You can also “like” or follow a brand on Facebook or other social media channels. Brands like to share promotions and gift ideas with their “friends”, and might even offer the sign-up bonus for social media acquaintance.
On a brand’s storefront page (that’s the main website page or home page), you’ll probably see a lot of banners: some might rotate in and out, while others will be static. For this mom’s gift example, the website might offer a Buy-One-Get-One-50%-Off special, listed on one of its banners. Scroll down to peruse offers and ideas listed on these banners.
If the homepage banners don’t offer you the kind of money savings you were hoping for, there is one more thing to do before leaving the site and looking for a better deal. Take a look at the footer, full of text links at the bottom of the page. You’re scanning for words like “Special Offers”, “Discounts” or “Promotions”. If you don’t see anything specific to saving money at the base of the homepage, try clicking on Customer Service or Site Map. That might trigger opening another page with the value link available.
Check out online coupon aggregators
If a company’s website doesn’t tell you what specific promotional events they have going on now under Customer Service > Special Offers and Coupons, but it does provide a decoder of sorts on how to understand promos you might find throughout the site – AND it provides clear instructions on how to input a promo code you might have found offsite. Sometimes you’ll know a code from an email campaign or a flyer you received in the mail. But you can also visit third party discount sites like RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com, Groupon.com and others to find relevant promo codes to try.
While not all codes will work (some might have expired or others might have fine print that prevents the code from applying to your order), it’s not a bad idea to google the company name and “coupon codes” before completing your online purchase with Mom’s new sparkly spruce glitter tin candle gift set. Usually, you put in a discount code during the checkout process.
Shop via third-party sites
The rise of Google Shopping has brought with it an easy way to source and find competitive prices on merchandise. Searching “buy candles” and then clicking the “Shopping” tab at Google.com will get you roughly 20 retailers ready to vie for your holiday shopping dollars. That means that maybe you can find Mom’s candle at a variety of websites, and lump that order in with one for Uncle Bill’s ugly sweater and cousin Janet’s plaid kitchen tablecloth. Because your order is growing, you’ll likely be able to take advantage of discounts you find on or offsite at stores that sell more items than just scented candles.
Opt for free shipping
If all else fails and Mom’s stinkin’ specialty candle can only be bought directly from a specific candle company, look for one final way to save a few bucks. Many websites offer free shipping when you spend over a certain amount. You can usually spot the free shipping offer in the upper right corner of the website’s homepage. If you’re buying gifts at any given site for more than one recipient, you can likely exercise this discount option and save the cost of shipping – as well as the gas you would have used to drive to the store, and the headache and time wasted trying to find that elusive parking space.
It has never been easier to save money on birthday, holiday, Christmas and other gifts. If you’re an online shopper looking for deals, look no further than brand websites with shopping options, coupon/promo code websites, and department store websites with free shipping thresholds. Be smart: take your list of presents to the Web and find the best ways to save money.
Rachel Moehl is a mother, wife and writer – in that order. She is the Digital Content Strategy Director at Prudential Financial. She also has a black belt in bargain hunting.