11 Innovative Tricks to Make Sure You're Always Getting a Good Deal

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Finding a good bargain while hunting down gifts for family and friends is a surefire highlight of the holiday season, and if you cleverly harness the right tech, apps, websites, and knowledge, you can be the savviest shopper around.

1. “Clip” a Coupon

Though coupon clipping might seem like a dated practice, its digital equivalent is alive and well. Websites like Retail Me Not allow you to search for storewide or department-wide discounts at major retail chains.

2. Or Get a Bargain on an Experience

A variant of website deal hunting is Gilt City, which allows you to zero in on any number of field-specific experience, dining, and merchandise bargains available in your surrounding area—a particularly good choice if you’re hoping to entertain a friend or relative coming to town for the holidays, in addition to or instead of treating him or her to a material gift.

3. Have Tech Do Your Deal-Hunting for You

If you don’t have time for general searches, a number of websites will come to you with news of deals. Certain domains allow you to set up alerts for sales at stores or on products that appeal to you. The clothing-oriented Shop It to Me will email you when an item of your size and preferences hits the web with a slashed cost. Sites in the CamelCamelCamel family will provide the same service—in email or text message form—for desired goods on specific sites.

4. Use the Web to Get Discounted Gift Cards

If you’ve ever had a relative give you a gift card to a store where you don’t usually shop, you’re not alone. Good thing, too—these unwanted gift cards turn into huge bargains. People are so eager to get rid of these nuisances that they take to forums like CardCash, Gift Card Granny, or Cardpool to sell their cards to the quickest bidder, often at a reduced rate. The end result: You can buy a recipient a gift card to their favorite store at less than full retail.

5. Have Deals Sent to Your Phone

Upping the cutting edge factor, there are a number of mobile apps that alert you immediately upon catching wind of a sale that fits your personal tastes. This ever-expanding lot is quickly becoming the principal player in the American public’s quest for frugal living. Like their website counterparts, the apps come in many varieties: PoachIt, for example, will keep you abreast of any item in your field of interests that drops a few dollars in price, while the highly popular Groupon and Living Social offer services similar to that of Gilt City, cluing you in to local goodies at reduced rates.

6. Play Hardball Online

Let’s say you’ve swept through your sites and apps but have come up dry on your hunt for deals. There are a few tricks that can add a little wiggle room to the alleged concrete prices claimed by e-commerce stores. One tip: Add a desired item to your shopping cart, but resist checking out for a number of days. The retailer might think you’ve changed your mind on the purchase and could offer you a reduced price.

7. Put Your Phone’s Camera to Work

But if you’re the take-charge type who’d rather dive right into the breach, apps can make for valuable partners. Head to the store armed with tools like ScanLife or the Amazon Price Checker, two of several programs that scan product barcodes to determine if a better-priced alternative can be found at a separate venue.

8. Pay Attention to Prices

While you’re at it, keep a sharp eye not just on a product’s barcode, but on its price tag. Of course we should always be wary of the exact amount we’re choosing to spend on a piece of merchandise, but there’s a lot more to be gleaned from the exact amount assigned thereto than simply how much it costs. Most major outlets have their own “secret codes” to represent a product’s markdown status: Generally speaking, if a price ends in a “9,” you’re paying the full load, and might want to stroll through the aisles for a marked down alternative, as indicated by one of several other digits.

9. Keep an Eye on the Calendar

You’ve likely heard of Cyber Monday, but the deals don’t stop the Monday after Thanksgiving. Some less publicized dates to buy online include December 15 (for clothing), December 20 (toys), December 22 (gift baskets), and—for those who don’t mind a belated package—December 26 (books).

10. Get Rewarded for Shopping

Any good holiday bargain hunt is going to involve walking in and out of a lot of stores. If you are using the app ShopKick, you’ll get rewards for doing just that. If you have ShopKick open when you enter a participating store’s brick-and-mortar location, it will give you credit for “kicks,” or points that you can redeem for gift cards. Suddenly, those extended shopping trips will be helping you get better deals.

11. Shop Through a Portal

If you’re making purchases online, you may be able to get a few extra reward points or miles each time you shop. Many credit cards and frequent flyer programs offer online shopping portals that allow users to click through to their favorite online stores, then collect a few extra points on every dollar they spend. Check your accounts—you may be able to find some extra savings on every price.

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