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Sneaky Tricks to Save a Bundle this Holiday Season

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Online sales are expected to increase by as much as 12 percent this holiday season, surging to around $96 billion, according to the National Retail federation. But all that cyber shopping doesn’t have to take a massive bite out of your holiday budget. Experts say these tips, secrets and deals readily accessible around the web will help you save a bundle.

Clipping cyber coupons

There are great deals to be found both online and clipping from the newspaper. But online coupons might have a bit of an edge.

Gerrid Smith, co-founder of social cause savings Save1, says online coupons help consumers save an average of $20 every time they shop by incorporating coupons into online purchases.

A quick search for coupons online retailers are offering that you can apply at checkout is the first step to saving all that dough.

“Consumers looking for the best deals this holiday season have a number of codes and deals from many popular e-retailers freely available online. Start by checking out comparison sites like PriceSpider.com to compare prices and read customer reviews,” says Smith.

But don’t be fooled by “free shipping.” “When browsing for coupons, skip on the free shipping ones. Most sites are already offering this during the holidays,” says Smith.

If you plan on purchasing many gifts from one retailer, sign up for their email lists and follow them on social media. Many retailers announce exclusive savings through these channels, offering special online deals and flash sales.

“You can also save even more by picking up discounted gift cards to use for your holiday shopping,” explains Smith. Sites like ABC Gift Cards offer up to 35 percent in savings. And when you combine those savings with online coupons, you can uncover the ‘ultimate deal.’

Maximize your shopping time

The best time of day for looking for online coupons is usually first thing in the morning. Many retailers send out e-newsletters announcing sales and coupons early in the morning hours so check your inbox first.

What’s hot in online coupons?

Price-matching policies, once reserved solely for ‘in-person’ shopping, have expanded to e-commerce. “We’ve traditionally seen this policy offered in brick and mortar stores, but this year, PayPal the largest online payment site, is offering cash back for customers who find a lower price, adding even more value to online coupons,” says Smith.

Spotting duds masquerading as deals

Not all online coupons and shopping experiences are created equal.

“In some cases, sites offering the best coupons will disguise the low price by tacking on shipping charges,” says Smith. Avoid this budget buster by reading the fine print and comparing the total cost of an item, not just looking at potential savings offered via a coupon. And familiarize yourself with return policies and warranties offered before checking out. “If you think you might be returning an item, the “best deal” offered courtesy of a seemingly attractive coupon might end up costing you more in return shipping and restocking fees,” says Smith.

While shopping online this holiday, keep in mind holiday sales and coupons don’t always offer the best deals. Retailers adjust prices based on supply and consumer demand, says Smith. “If you wait until the last minute to buy common last-minute gifts like jewelry and watches, you can expect to pay more – regardless of coupons offered – the closer you got the Christmas. Retailers tend to raise those prices as the holidays get closer.”

On the flip side, Smith says the best time to pick up video game consoles is on or around Cyber Monday, based on last year’s pricing trends. “Sites like Decide.com can help you determine price predictions and when the best time to buy certain products.”

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