he holiday shopping season is in full swing!
To help you get the best deals, discounts and prices, here are some tips and strategies that will help you save the most on your online purchases — any time of year!
Online Shopping Guide: Find the best prices every day
Shop on the right browser
Did you know the browser or device you shop on can affect the price you pay? Some major retailers employ “dynamic pricing” to serve different prices based on the browser you shop on. If you’re shopping on a Mac, stores assume you have more expendable income and might be willing to pay more than someone on a PC.
Similarly, the browser itself can affect what you pay. For the best price, try shopping on Chrome, Firefox or on a mobile device.Research shows that desktop Safari and Internet Explorer users can be shown a higher price.
Shop in incognito mode
A Wall Street Journal study revealed that some stores serve higher prices to higher income ZIP codes, as well as to rural areas with less competition. They also might jack the price up for repeat visitors. Browsers know your approximate location (through your device’s IP address), as well as your shopping patterns and preferences (through data saved in “cookies”).
Usually, cookies make our online experience more convenient and rewarding by helping deliver the content we want to see more quickly. But they may not work in our best interest when we’re shopping for the best price.
There’s an easy way to keep this information to yourself: Shop in private/incognito mode.
At the top right of your browser, look for the Settings icon which will look like a gear or a 3-bar icon: . Then choose:
Chrome: Settings > New Incognito Window
Firefox: Settings > New Private Window
Safari: File > New Private Window
Internet Explorer: Settings > Safety > InPrivate Browsing
More ways to shop privately to prevent price gouging:
- Use DuckDuckGo: This fantastic search engine never stores any information on you as you search. In your browser search bar, you may see this as an available alternative. If you don’t see it, just do your searching on the DuckDuckGo website.
- Clear your cookies and browsing history: Look for the Privacy tab under your Settings to find the link to clear your history and cookies. (You can choose to clear cookies only from the websites you’re shopping on if you prefer.)
Extra tip: Since history and cookies can make your everyday life easier, you might not want to clear it all out and lose your preference in the browser you always use. So to avoid that, you can shop around using your usual browser, and then when you know you want to buy a certain item, use Fireox or Chrome — in igcognito mode — to make the final purchase!
Automatically compare prices as you shop
Tools that will alert you to a better price
Chrome, Firefox and Safari offer easy-to-install “add-on” tools that will automatically tell you if the item you’re looking is available cheaper elsewhere. You don’t have to do a thing — while you’re searching/shopping, your browser will pop up a link to where you can get that item at a lower price.
For years we’ve told you about Invisible Hand. Now there’s a new add-on we love called Priceblink that goes a few steps further. It not only compares and links you to stores with cheaper prices, it also compares shipping costs and alerts you if there are any active coupons to apply. Learn more and get the add on here.
Automatic price tracking tools
Got a specific item or brand on your Christmas list? You can track the price to know when it’s cheapest to buy it.
Enter a link to any product at SlickDeals Price Tracker and you’ll get an email alert when the price drops. PriceZombie tracks, alerts and also provides pricing history on items, which is helpful for knowing when a deal’s really a deal. ShopItToMe.com works similarly, but is geared toward fashion (perfect for those must-have boots on your list).
Check for coupons before you buy
Found an item at a good price? Before you purchase, check promotional code sites like our own Clark Deals, Coupons.com or RetailMeNot as a final step to see if you can save a little more, or maybe score some free shipping. (Tip:Read the comments under the codes to get additional saving tips from other shoppers — these can give you valuable clues to getting a better deal with that store or item). See Clark’s master list of Deal-a-Day websites and online coupon sites.
Get automatic price adjustments after you purchase
Already bought something at a store that has a price guarantee? Paribus is an app that will automatically issue you a refund if the price drops.
For regular returns, find out if the store will refund you the difference if you discover a price drop after you buy. Save that receipt and be mindful of the return window, as it varies by store.
Ready, set… SHOP!
Now that you’re armed with the right tools and saving strategies, you can get back to your shopping!