Photo: Michael Homnick

How to stretch your savings when shopping on tech deal websites

No matter if you’re looking to get a gift for someone else or just yourself, everyone likes to save money when shopping for the holidays. And deal sites provide a way for savvy tech shoppers to make their spending money stretch long into December.

But how to get a jump on those bargains? We talked to the deal collectors themselves for tips on the best ways to use online deal websites.

Be prepared

“Deals are why we exist as a company,” says Mark LoCastro, PR director for DealNews. In business for 16 years, DealNews is something of the granddaddy of all deal sites. “There are tons of sales out there, the consumer is bombarded. How do you know if it’s really a good deal?”

DealNews has teams of editors [AKA professional deal-hunters] that research and verify each deal presented on the site, LoCastro says, with the number of those deals ranging from 200 to 400 daily. “We only list deals that are at the lowest price [for a given product]. You won't find our deals cheaper elsewhere.” he says.

LoCastro expects HDTVs to be the highlight of Black Friday deals in 2013. But rather than stand outside in the cold on the Friday after Thanksgiving along with the rest of the known world, stick to your computer, LoCastro says: DealNews expects the best HDTV offerings to be found online.

Look for deals on HDTVs to highlight Black Friday sales in 2013, according to DealNews.com.

LoCastro suggests that bargain hunters take a page out of Santa’s book and make a list of what they’re shopping for: “Do your research, find the true cost of the items on your list before you start.” Once you know the true price, LoCastro says, you can evaluate a listed discount on a deal site. “The only time you know if you are saving money is if you actually know what the product really costs.”

Having a list helps fight the urge to jump on any tempting deal that comes into view when you’re using a deal site, LoCastro points out. Get caught up in impulse buying, and you can easily blow your budget.

LoCastro also advises using promo codes whenever you can. A promotional code is basically a coupon that you can use online at many websites to get discounts on goods and prepaid services. Often you can plug a promo code in to lessen the price you will pay or to get free shipping on your order.

Taking advantage of those promo codes requires its own level of preparation, though. “I’d recommend you search for these promo codes or coupons by the name of the manufacturer, and by the name of the product, and by the name of a site where you are likely to find the product,” LoCastro says. “Nine times of out of ten, if you are using our site, we’ll tell you if there is a promo code available, but it doesn’t hurt to do another search.”

Sites that list promo codes/coupons include CouponCabin, Coupons.com, Dealsplus, RetailMeNot, and Savings.com, among many others.

LoCastro also suggests that shoppers look into the possibility of “stacking” coupon or promo codes. This is when you can find a store code, say from Target, as well as a promo code from the manufacturer, say Samsung. Just be sure to strictly follow all the terms for the redemption of each code. (As an example, here is the Target coupon policy .)

Abandon your shopping cart

LoCastro’s final tip comes from personal experience when he tried to buy an HDTV last year. “I went through the entire process of buying the TV online,” he said—he registered for the site, clicked on the HDTV he wanted, filled in all the information, including his credit-card info, and went all the way through to the “Click-to-buy” finish. He then abandoned the purchase, not because he didn’t want the TV, but because he was interrupted before he could complete the transaction.

”When I looked at my email the next day,” LoCastro said, “I had an offer from the seller for 20 percent more off.” He says he’s used this technique—“shopping cart abandonment,” he calls it—again; often, but not always, it yields a better offer from the seller.

Stay on alert

The deal-madness perspective is a bit different at Yipit, which focuses on local daily deals from more than 750 websites across the country.

Yipit is where you turn to find a deal on a gift certificate for a massage for a friend or on a night out at a favorite restaurant as a present for your parents. The site amalgamates the offers from daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and their competitors.

Yipit's front page

“One big thing we see now is that people are transferring from sitting back and looking over the deals that arrive in their email to proactively searching for the deals that they want,” Yipit CEO and co-founder Vinicius Vacanti says. To that end, his company offers an alert system where users can look up a business or a restaurant on Yipit: “If it doesn’t currently provide an offer, set up an alert to get an offer when the business has one,” he said.

Know where to go

We offered tips for safe online shopping a year ago, and the advice about avoiding dubious sites and sellers remains valid in 2013.

You can avoid a case of buyer’s remorse by knowing the return and exchange policies of the site you’re working with long before you click to complete your purchase. You should also check shipping dates offered on the site to ensure that any gifts you’re buying arrive when you want them to. And it certainly pays to know whether the site you’re shopping from has a low-price guarantee similar to the one that Best Buy offers. Finally, if you do a lot of buying from one site, lump your orders together to pay only one shipping fee, so that any savings you get from a deal aren’t immediately eaten up by the cost of getting your packages to their final destination.

It also helps to know where to shop. We surveyed our Facebook friends, asking avid tech shoppers what sites they used to score their favorite deals. Besides DealNews, deal sites that have proven their value in the past include:

Happy hunting.

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