Nevermind the Store: How to Find the Best Shopping Deals Online

June 1, 2016

I wouldn’t say I’m cheap. How about financially aware? My philosophy is if you can get some deals on this purchase, then that leaves more to spend on the next purchase.

One of my particularly proud coupon-combining moments was at a department store. I wanted a bench to place next to the front door so everyone could comfortably remove their shoes upon entering (yes, I’m one of those people). Well, I just happened to find one on clearance (SCORE!). I also had a $10 off coupon, a 20 percent off coupon, and “store-cash” coupons that the store gave me on my previous purchase. With all of that combined, I walked out of the store with the bench and $1.53 cash. My husband asked, “Did they really just pay you to take that bench off their hands?”

Some of the best shopping deals are found online, which is what I prefer. It saves me the hassle of trying to find time of going to the store—dealing with traffic, finding a parking spot, and hauling all of my treasures back out to the car. Online shopping also allows me to find last minute coupons and to comparison shop to find the best deals.

Two important things to remember when online shopping are:

  • How easy is it to return the item?
  • When I add in shipping, is it still a better deal?

Here are a few of my favorite websites to research for deals:

  • RetailMeNot is probably my go-to when I am shopping anywhere online. Just type in the name of the store/website and more times than not it will pull up discount codes. One great feature of the site is that they give the codes a success rating so you know whether or not to waste your time with it.
  • FatWallet is also another great website to find out about additional sales and coupons, but my favorite section is the forums. Here, various readers will post hot deals that they have found locally, nationally, or on the internet. The forum is not recommended for shopaholics. You can become easily addicted to the deals that are posted. Willpower is required.

To find local deals, these are my websites of choice:

  • Restaurant.com has certificates that you can purchase. The premise of the certificates is that you pay $10 for a $25 certificate to use in the restaurant, and the minimum total of the bill must be $50 before the certificate is applied. For example, by prepaying $10 on a $50 meal, you will get $25 off and a final bill of $25 to pay at the restaurant. Your total out-of-pocket cost is $35 plus tip.* You have saved a total of $15 on that meal. Yeah, doing the math on that hurt my head, too.Sometimes you can find special codes at RetailMeNot to purchase these certificates. For example, the above $10 certificate might be available for only $4. This would make your total out-of-pocket cost $29 plus tip.* If you sign up for Restaurant.com’s emails, they will let you know when they are having sales on their certificates. Keep in mind, most discount codes to purchase these certificates only last 24 hours. This has been a great way for us to try new restaurants or go to some of our favorites at a discount. Be sure to read the restrictions before you purchase as every restaurant is different.
    * Remember to tip on the original total, not the discounted bill.
  • Mile High on the Cheap has a daily newsletter they send out with inexpensive or free events going on in the Denver Metro area. Despite their name, they do have some mountain deals as well as areas surrounding Denver. Their Friday newsletter has a “30 Free and Cheap Things to do in Denver This Weekend” section. The list is broken down by day so if you want to plan a day trip with the family, or have someone coming in from out of town, you can plan something fun that won’t break the bank.
  • Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) provides free admission days to various Denver attractions This includes Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Museum of Outdoor Arts, Denver Zoo, and the Botanic Gardens, to name a few. This is my all-time favorite! I like to consider myself a tourist of Colorado. A few years ago I realized that I spend thousands of dollars to visit other states and tour their attractions. Why not spend that money in my state and tour the wonderful place I call home?

When it comes to shopping, dining out, or just visiting local attractions it pays to spend 5-10 minutes scouring the web to find discounts and deals. With the wonderful technology of smart phones you can even search for deals while waiting in line or before the restaurant bill arrives. If you’re going to spend money you might as well try to keep as much of it in your pocket as possible.

This post was written by Melissa Bowers, a senior administrative assistant at Colorado PERA. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please email us at dimecontact@copera.org.