There’s nothing that gets my attention faster than a great deal. E-commerce is a hot ticket right now. Busy people with little time to travel from store to store can hop online, and with a few clicks, have the merchandise delivered to their front door. Raising teenagers isn’t cheap, and with college looming just around the corner, finding the right discounts online can be a great way to save a little cash. But what about the price and shipping costs?
It seems more and more “dot com” commercials are popping up everywhere each day. Online retailers are anxious to get you to their sites and that makes for a highly competitive market. This competition means better deals for consumers. Retailers are willing to give awesome discounts to lure you to their sites and hopefully keep you coming back. I was able to take advantage of these great deals and did most of my Christmas shopping online. My total was just less than $600. However, because I took advantage of discount codes and rebates found on the Internet, my final total was just more than $300. I saved almost 50 percent on my shopping bill!
Where are the Discounts?
When I’m in the market for a birthday present, novel, gourmet food or even a new coffee maker, I check the discount boards and coupon sites first. Discount shopping boards and coupon sites are filled with offers from online retailers. The retailer will publish a special discount code. These codes are used to save you money off your total bill. Sometimes the discounts will be for free shipping as well.
One of the easier sites to navigate I’ve found so far is found at mycoupons.com. Here, you will find numerous posts from other members about discounts, freebies, rebates and other special offers. Although you don’t have to be a member to read the posts, you do need to be one to make a post. Becoming a member is fast and free. The advantage of membership is that it gives you the opportunity to post questions you may have about a deal that has been posted. I am continually surprised at how many positive and friendly responses I get to my posts when I ask a question about a particular deal. Another benefit to using a shopping board is you will get the opinions of other shoppers. Their experiences, good and bad, can give you some extra information before you buy from an online retailer. I once stayed away from a potential good discount after reading numerous posts on the company’s history of over-charging and not delivering the merchandise promised.
Other sites just offer the discount codes and special offers without the posts. The deals are listed by date or you can click on a specified category, depending on your shopping need.
How Do the Discounts Work?
Shopping boards and coupon sites will post the specific information about the discount. Jot down the discount code. (Discount codes are case-sensitive, so make sure you write down the code as given.) Once you finish shopping, type in the code at the “check out” area of the site. Most sites have an area that clearly states “discount offer” or “coupon” for you to type in your code. Your savings should appear before you confirm your order. If you have a problem using a code, call the customer service number or e-mail the retailer.
What Kinds of Deals Can I Get?
Some of the best discounts I received were from being a first-time customer. For instance, a past deal I received from a herb/health food online store was for $20 off the first purchase. A minimum purchase of $20 was required to get the discount. I found products for about $22 and payed about $3 for shipping. I received $22 worth of merchandise for $5.
Another great find was through an online toy store. I was able to use a 50 percent instant coupon and a shipping rebate, both found on a shopping board. I ordered $119.56 worth of toys and games. With the 50 percent instant coupon and snail mail rebate, my final bill was $79.28. I saved $40.28! Not a bad deal for doing a little bit of homework first.
Be a Smart Shopper
My experience with online shopping has been quite good. However, I have had some canceled orders and my credit card was over-charged once. These situations were resolved quickly because I kept records of my transactions. Some tips I have learned along the way are:
1. Make sure the site you are shopping on is secure. A secured site encrypts your personal information, including credit card numbers. Check out the security/privacy statement at the site. My browser has a feature that displays a padlock on my tool bar to signify I’m on a secured site.
2. Print out your online receipt. This is your record of your transaction. Every online retailer I have purchased from also sent an e-mail confirmation of the sale.
3. Jot down the customer service number on your printout. In the event you have a problem, the number will be handy to correct the error.
4. Read your credit card statement when it arrives. Compare the amount charged on your statement with the amount from your online receipt. Report any errors to the online retailer immediately. Many credit card companies are online as well. You can track your transaction history and catch any errors right away.
5. To keep all my passwords and login names organized, I keep an index card file. Online retailers are alphabetized and my passwords and login names are easy to access.
Do Your Homework
The next time you’re in the market for a gift, an item for the home or just a little something for yourself, check out the discount shopping code sites first. A little bit of “homework” can yield substantial savings for you.
Did you ever think you and your kids could get paid for chewing bubble gum? I certainly didn’t think so, until a survey company contacted me and asked me to take part in testing a new sugar-free bubble gum for kids. I was asked to try the familiar name-brand product and have one of my children test the bubble gum as well. I must admit that we had a blast with bubble blowing contests. After testing the product for a few days, I was to log on to the link the company provided and complete an online survey. About a week later I received a check for $4.
Your family won’t make big money participating in surveys, but it is something fun that you and your teens can do once in a while. I have signed up to participate with a few survey companies. The following companies will pay a small amount, usually around $5 – $15. The dollar amount varies depending on the survey and the company. Some survey companies reward you with new products, coupons off the new product or a chance to win money.
Where Do I Sign Up?
Worldwide online survey company. They send a survey to complete, sometimes with the product to test (like the chewing gum). After the survey is completed, a check or prize is given. The reward amount or prize is stated before you participate.
International online survey company. Click on “panel” to register. They pay $30 to participate in a focus group and $5 for e-mail polls.
Consumer Views pays $5 for completed survey or coupons.
Mars Research. Participation is rewarded with new products or payment.
Vividence.com. For this company you download their browser. The browser records your activity and your answers to the questions that appear as you explore the site. After the test is completed, you exit from the browser. (At this time the browser does not work with Macintosh computers.) For completing a 30-minute test (exploring a Web site) you’ll receive your choice of a $15 gift certificate to online retailers such as Amazon.com, Wine.com or other major retailers.
Considering a new car for your teen or for the family? Car companies such as Oldsmobile and Saturn frequently offer gift certificates or other incentives for test driving their cars. Simply log on to their Web sites and print out the test drive forms. Complete the forms and take them to the participating dealerships and take a test drive. The dealership will validate that you test drove a car and you simply send in the form and in a few weeks, receive your reward.
Other “test drives” include product testing for online retailers. I was fortunate enough to be chosen for two from Drugstore.com. My first test drive was for a full-sized jar of Sedonna Red brand facial mask. All I had to do in return was to write an honest, short review of the product. The second product I was chosen for was the Caruso steam hair setters. Again, I wrote a short review (after a week of testing) and the curlers were mine to keep. You can register at Drugstore.com. Click on “solutions” in the upper right-hand corner of the main page to learn more. Test drives fill up fast and it may take a while to be chosen. It’s a delightful surprise when you are chosen and you may even get to try something you wouldn’t have bought for yourself.
There are so many survey companies to choose from. I have listed the ones I have had experience with. Just pick and chose which company looks appealing to you. It usually takes less than five minutes to register. The company will e-mail you if a survey or test drive is available for you to participate in. It may be a couple weeks or months before you receive an opportunity. And once accepted, you can choose to decline, but if you do have the time, why not? Every once in a while it’s fun to get something for nothing.
How would you like to save on groceries and other household items? Does the idea of clipping coupons, keeping them updated and organized sound like too much work for the reward? Perhaps you should try clicking your way to save that hard-earned cash. There are a few good Web sites that offer substantial savings on your grocery bill. Even Kmart has a weekly rebate site. With the click of the mouse and a printer, you can easily save anywhere from a few dollars to more than $50.
Will That Be Paper or Plastic?
Grocery shopping isn’t the highlight of many parents’ weeks. But with a little bit of planning, you can at least enjoy saving some money off your grocery bill. Listed below are the Web sites and a description of how they work. Choose which one works best for you. A typical rebate check for my family may be around $15. But you can save more depending on what products you buy. Of course, if you also use coupons, the savings will be bigger.
E-save.com. The plan is simple. Select your rebate items (use the “rebate directory” for quick access of the products). Next, print out your selections and go shopping. After you’re finished, simply write the tracking number on your receipt and circle the rebate items you’ve purchased. Mail it in by the specified date. You will receive your rebate check in two weeks. The plus to this site is you can shop at any store, as long as you are given a cash register receipt for proof of purchase. New offers are added each week, so check before you make your list.
ValuPage.com. The rebates you choose are disbursed as Web Bucks at the check-out. Web Bucks can be used as cash on your next purchase to that store. Here’s how it works: first, type in the zip code for the store where you usually do your shopping. If you live in a rural area, you may not find your local store as a participant. However, if you are willing to travel a few miles to do your shopping, you can still participate. One or more stores should appear. Click on the store of your choice and print out the entire list of offers.
Take your printout to the store and shop, circling the items on your rebate list so you don’t forget them! When you’re ready to check out, give the cashier your printout for scanning. Pocket your savings in the form of Web Bucks and use them for your next purchase.
Blue Light Specials
Remember those blue light specials? If you were lucky enough to be in the right store at the right time, you could save on a product you probably didn’t even need. Does a $1 bag of charcoal in December ring a bell? To get cash back on products that you do need, try Kmart. Many items on the weekly rebate offering are also part of the weekly flyer. An average rebate check for my family is around $10 to $20, and you can get some good deals. For instance, one week, a cough syrup was on sale and with a $4 rebate offered. Add the $1 coupon that I clipped, and the cough syrup only cost a meager $1.29. You can expect your rebate check in two weeks.
Here a Dollar, There a Dollar
I try to save a bit each week. Some careful meal planning (which alone will save you time and money) can yield a nice little bonus. With the money you save each week, you could take the family out to dinner or have a pizza and video night picnic in the living room. Saving for a family vacation, next year’s Christmas shopping or large purchase can be done painlessly this way. Just deposit the rebate checks in a savings account marked for a special occasion.
The Choice is Yours
Chose one or all of the above plans and you will save as much or as little as you want. One thing for sure: it’s nice to be rewarded for the weekly chore of shopping. You may even decide to spend a little of that money on yourself!
Zip! Zero! Free! Three little words that really get our attention. But what can you get for free anymore? I have received free T-shirts, hats, 1-pound bags of coffee beans, film, candy, magazines, stickers, crayons, candles and earrings, just to name a few. Obtaining freebies from the Web is easy and fun to do. Sometimes coupons will arrive for a full-size product. However, some will just be one-time use samples. You may wonder why you even sent for them in the first place. But collect them all for the dreaded day your teen leaves for college, and she’ll have shampoo, soap, toothpaste, perfume and candy — all without spending a dime.
For my children it’s a great thrill to get mail now. They have grown accustomed to the manila envelopes that appear in our mailbox. It’s a fun idea to address freebies that pertain to kids with your kids’ names. Soon their mail will be filled with bills and it won’t be so exciting to see an envelope addressed to them.
Just the Freebies, Please
There are hundreds of Web sites that list free samples, coupons and other give-away offers. I have also received some great coupon offers from e-mail newsletters. Practically every Web site you visit has the option of signing up for the company’s newsletter. An online store may e-mail you a coupon code for $10 off, with no minimum purchase required. Purchase something for $10 and all you pay is a minimal shipping charge.
Most of the freebie sites list the same offers. The sites below are great because of their attractive layout and easy navigation. These sites are updated daily and offer a variety of items.
Totally Free Stuff. Daily freebies with a description of the freebie before you decide to send for it.
Free Clutter. Daily freebie listing. Scroll down for the daily feature.
Freemania. Daily freebie listing. Scroll down to the “Newest Freebies” or “Hot Freebies” to get started.
TrialSize.com. New site that offers trial-size products. Usually there are at least three to choose from. New products are added every other week or so. Products are available on a first come, first served basis.
Start Sampling. Usually three or four samples are available. However, you can only choose one sample in a 24-hour period. New samples are added periodically.
Free Sample Club. Although the small box of samples you receive is generous, the survey you have to complete is a bit time-consuming.
Ongoing Free Offers
Here are some ongoing offers to get you started:
Jelly Belly. Who doesn’t love Jelly Belly jelly beans? Each day (Jelly Belly changes the time for fairness) at least 600 1-ounce bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans are given away. Click on the “free offer” icon and take a short survey. If the samples have been given away for the day, the window will let you know right away so you don’t waste time filling out the survey.
Hot Wheels. Have a young child in the house? Rev up your computer to get your child signed up for the Hot Wheels birthday club. Your child will receive a birthday card and a coupon for a free Hot Wheels car.
Payless. Expecting? How does a free pair of baby shoes sound? Payless Shoe Source is giving each baby born in the year 2000 a free pair of shoes. Just bring in your baby to the store and fill out a short form to get your free shoes.
Ingredients.com. Your mail never smelled so good! This online retailer sells bath and beauty products. The free sample includes two products with a wonderful fragrance.
TCBY. Get a free waffle cone on your birthday. Make sure to register in advance to get your certificate in time.
Mrs. Fields. This is for a free cookie on a child’s birthday for kids 12 and younger.
So Many Offers, So Little Time
The Web is full of sites to help us save money and get freebies — so full that it can be can be overwhelming. Whether you chose one method or all of them, the end result will be a little more money left in the bank for your family.
The money you save can be used toward a new purchase for the family, summer vacations or eating out. Perhaps you could even post a “wish list” including small- and big-ticket items to shoot for. And saving money is always a good lesson for kids to learn — especially as they’re about to head off to college with checking accounts of their own!
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.