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7 Surprising Ways to Save When Shopping Online

Use these smart strategies to score discounts on your next Web purchases.

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Cyber Monday is a good time to shop online for bargains on holiday gifts, but it is far from the only day of the year when Web shoppers can score big. Although many online retailers offer deep discounts the Monday following Thanksgiving, savvy consumers know that sale prices are just the tip of the iceberg.

SEE ALSO: 15 Web Sites for Finding Deals Online

Of course, there are plenty of Web sites that offer coupon codes you can use to get better prices on the items you want. That's a good start. But there are several lesser-known strategies that also can help you secure even bigger bargains. Here are seven surprising ways to save when shopping online during the holidays – and year-round.

Use the online chat function. One of the best ways to get an unadvertised discount online is to ask for it, says Charlie Cohn, senior director of content strategy for CouponPal.com. If you see a live chat function on a retailer’s site, click it to engage a customer service representative. Tell the rep you are interested in a product, mention that you’re shopping around for the best price and ask if you can get a discount. You’ll be surprised how frequently you’ll be offered a better deal, Cohn says.

Pick up the phone. Go one step further than the online chat and actually call customer service to ask for a discount or free shipping. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch says this strategy has worked for her several times. In addition to getting a discount and free shipping from several retailers just by asking, Woroch says a customer service rep also honored an expired $10 gift certificate. And when I called a retailer’s customer service recently because the coupon code I was trying to use for an online purchase wasn’t working, the rep applied the coupon for me and threw in an extra 10% off to compensate for the trouble I was having placing my order online.

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Abandon your virtual shopping cart. If the item you want isn’t on sale or the discount isn’t deep enough, add it to your virtual cart but don’t purchase it. Some retailers try to lure back shoppers who abandon their carts by offering discounts to complete their purchases, Woroch says. If you’ve shopped at that retailer before and provided it with your contact information, you may get an email reminding you that you left items in your cart and a coupon code to get you to make the purchase, she says.

Try social media. Cohn recommends checking retailers’ Facebook pages for coupon codes that might not be published elsewhere. Scroll down the page to load as much content as possible, then use the find function to search for “discount,” “coupon,” “promo,” and “deal.” Sometimes you have to “like” retailers on Facebook to get access to their coupon codes. If you can’t find a coupon code on Facebook or noticed that one recently expired, send the retailer a message and let it know that you would love to try its site and just missed out on a coupon, Woroch says. She recently asked a retailer to extend a buy-one-get-one-50%-off offer that she missed by a couple of days, and it emailed her an exclusive extension on the deal. Check retailers’ Twitter feeds, too, she says, because they can be a great source of coupon codes and information about promotions. See How to Save Money Using Twitter to learn more.

Buy discounted e-gift cards. You’ll score instant savings by buying electronic gift cards that are sold at a discount to their face value at sites such as Gift Card Granny and Cardpool.com. You’ll receive an email with the gift card code that you can use when making purchases online (or in stores).

Angle for free shipping. More and more retailers are raising the minimum purchase amount required to qualify for free shipping. If your purchase doesn’t meet a retailer’s threshold, don’t feel compelled to spend more to get free shipping. Instead, try to find the product you want at a retailer that offers free shipping or has a coupon code that waives the cost of shipping, Woroch says. Then ask that retailer to match the price of the retailer that would charge you for shipping. You also could wait until free shipping day on December 18, when hundreds of merchants will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase requirement and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

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Get a price adjustment. If you can’t find any coupon codes or get a discount on the item you want, you still might be able to buy it now and get a better price later by exercising a little patience. Several retailers offer price adjustments if the item you bought at full price goes on sale within a certain period of time. Use a browser add-on from PoachIt or TrackIf to track prices on products you’ve purchased and receive alerts when they go on sale. Then contact customer service, provide your order number and a link to the discounted product to get a refund for the difference in price, Woroch says.