There's really no reason to pay full retail price for most products because there are so many resources on the Web that can help you compare prices, score discounts and get the best deals. Here are 15 of our favorite sites that can help you save money when you shop online. And all have free mobile apps that you can use when you're in brick-and-mortar stores or on the go.
SEE ALSO: 10 Great Money-Saving Apps
If your number-one goal is to score deals, start by checking out sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Deal sites scour the Web for discounted items -- saving you both time and money.
Our favorite is DealNews.com, which has a team of deal hunters who keep their eyes on a million products at more than 2,000 reputable online retailers and update the site with new deals at least 200 times a day. Plus, it works with merchants to offer exclusive deals you won't find elsewhere. There's a picture of each product and ample information, including the original price, sale price and whether it's the lowest price DealNews has found for the product. You can sign up for e-mail alerts for products or stores you're interested in and get shopping advice from the site's buying guides.
Ben’s Bargains tracks about 2,000 retailers and publishes about 150 to 200 deals daily. It includes price history data on products that have been posted before, and users can register to get deal alerts based on product, brand, store and price range. What we really like about this site is its “Cheaper Than Amazon” feature that highlights deals that are much better than what the retail giant is offering – as well as its small-business deals and freebies pages.
The editors at Brad’s Deals search the Web daily for the best sale prices, coupons, rebates and store rewards at more than 3,800 retailers. The site is easy to navigate and lets you sort deals by newest or most popular. It recently was redesigned to allow users to set up profiles with their favorite stores, coupons and deals. You also can sign up to receive daily, twice-a-week or weekly emails with deal alerts.
Offers.com features deals from more than 6,000 companies and stores, updated daily and organized into 300 categories including clothing, electronics, toys and travel. You can search by store and brand, by type of offer (coupon code, in-store offer, etc.) and by holiday and event (back-to-school deals, Black Friday deals, etc.). Offers.com also points you to local deals in more than 75 cities.
Both Slickdeals.net and GottaDeal.com feature deals on their home pages, but their forums are where you'll find hundreds of deals posted daily. If you have time to peruse the forums, you'll likely find bargains there that you might not find elsewhere.
Find the lowest price
If you’re trying to find the lowest price on a particular product, price-comparison sites make it easy. When you search for an item on these sites, they produce lists of the retailers offering the product, prices, shipping costs, and seller information and ratings. PriceGrabber.com and Google Shopping are both good sites for comparing prices.
However, you can get instant price comparisons with browser add-ons from FreePriceAlerts.com. When you download the browser add-on and shop online as you normally would, the tool searches other retail sites and displays an alert if a product you’re viewing is cheaper at another site. The FreePriceAlerts tool works on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari browsers. You don’t have to register on the site to download the tool, but if you do, you can set target prices for items you want and receive e-mail alerts when prices fall to the levels you want.
Shop with cyber-coupons
Before you make any purchase online, search for coupon codes that can help you score a discount at the checkout (basically a sequence of numbers and letters you enter during the payment process). Some retailers advertise coupon codes on their sites when they're available. However, some coupon codes can be found only at coupon sites that work with retailers to create exclusive online coupons.
It's tough to beat RetailMeNot.com when it comes to the number of coupon codes and offers the site has. It provides 500,000 offers from more than 50,000 retailers and brands. It also provides exclusive codes through partnerships with retailers on a weekly basis. Its free mobile app will notify you when there are offers at nearby malls, stores and restaurants (if you let it track your location, that is).
PromotionalCodes.com has more than 37,000 coupons -- including exclusive coupon codes -- for more than 5,600 stores. What we like is the browser add-on you can download to notify you at the top of your browser window if coupons are available when you visit the sites of most of the merchants featured on PromotionalCodes.com.
Rather-Be-Shopping.com focuses on quality over quantity. Although it provides coupon codes for just about 800 retailers, it has a coupon guarantee. The site's operator will hunt down a coupon for a store if you can’t find it on the site and get back to you in 24 hours. Plus, the Rather-Be-Shopping blog features great tips to help you save money when shopping.
Never pay full price for a gift card again. CardCash and Gift Card Granny sell merchants' gift cards for less than face value. They'll also buy gift cards you don't want (for 80% to 90% of the card's value).
Buying a discounted gift card to use for your own shopping is a good way to score additional discounts. For example, buy a $100 Gap gift card for $90 (instant $10 savings), use it to shop online and use a coupon code for additional savings.
High shipping costs can be a big drawback to shopping online. FreeShipping.org offers free-shipping coupons for more than 4,000 merchants, including Best Buy, Lands' End and Target.
On a final note, if you're shopping online be sure to look for privacy and security seals on retailers' sites, know the return and exchange policies, and check shipping deadlines to ensure your gifts arrive on time. (See 10 Online Shopping Traps That Catch Even Smart Shoppers for more advice.)
And to make sure you're getting the best deal online, look for the item at the best price from a merchant with free shipping and a coupon to lower the cost even further -- the trifecta of bargain hunting.