1. HTTPS is your friend when checking out from a web store. While I will not go so far as to say website URL's that begin with https:// are ALWAYS 100% foolproof at preventing bad guys from stealing your credit card info and/or identity, I am very comfortable is saying that if the site doesn't have this distinction (at least at checkout) you should not give personal information through it. "HTTP" (minus the S designating Secure) is NOT the same. I will spare you the technical mumbo jumbo, but suffice it to say that with a few hours of Google perusing you can find out how to steal info from someone using HTTP websites if you are in the right situation. You may have never noticed that these two items exist, but if you go to any reputable website checkout you will see it on your address bar.
2. If it seems too god to be true, it probably is. Not MY wisdom, but wise nevertheless.
3. When Goggling for something in Google Chrome, move your mouse over the double arrow that will appear to the right of the link you found in your search. It will bring you a preview of the website on the right. A quick glance will eliminate some websites as cheesy, poorly-made attempts to get your hard-earned dinero. Note also the green star with a check mark on the right side of the links. This is a note for you from AVG that the antivirus is familiar with the site and/or it is verifying it isn't virus-ridden.
4. Do NOT click on links emailed to you from strangers or even from websites you think you know....unless you are very sure of the sender. I can show you in 5 minutes how to copy ANY most website and "make it your own". Emails are the same way. I can send you an email that looks like it is from anyone I want. When in doubt, go directly to the website you are interested in to verify the special deal. An email should NEVER make you click a link to log on to an account, especially Paypal or your bank. Call the company if necessary.
5. Create an extra email account in which you do not mind Spam filling your inbox. Gmail, yahoo, hushmail, outlook.com, etc... all have free emails available. Use these rather than your primary one and ESPECIALLY rather than your school one. Don't call me to tell me you are filled with spam/viruses on your school email because you click on every link you see and enter every free iPad contest you find without having a sizable plate of no-bake cookies available as an appeasement for my wrath. (In addition, it is against the Computer Use Agreement and I don't want to get you in trouble. You have been warned. :)
6. Keep your computer tuned up and fit for the race. Update Windows as needed. Update your Antivirus and add Malwarebytes Antimalware from ninite.com or download.com. It is a free program (you do not need the paid version) and it will help keep the bad guys away.
7. Read comments/feedback/forum/ratings/reviews posts on the site. While some companies most certainly delete bad comments at times, in general you can get a feel for whether a site or an item is legit by looking through these gems of insight.
8. Pay with Paypal or a CREDIT card only. You have a lot more legal rights under Regulation Z and other laws if you use these forms of payment. Affinity credit cards will give you cash back too...but pay in full to avoid cancelling out your savings with interest.
1. Do your homework at a brick-and-mortar store as to what item you are looking for, then let loose the Internet hounds to find a deal. Touch, smell and squeeze the item. Do not be afraid to ask the local store to match a web price. There is no cost in asking.
2. Subscribe to ebates.com and shopathome.com. These are free websites that give rebates on purchases you make major online retailers' websites. They are legit and can save you a substantial amount of dough. There are other, similar programs that are likely fine, but I cannot vouch for them until I see the money. There is a risk of adware/targeted advertising from these and other, similar websites, but you are using your extra email account anyway, right? You merely click on the retailer within the site and it directs you to that site with a little electronic tag on your shopping cart that reminds itself to give you some cash for buying there. The way they exist is by negotiating for referrals and ad revenue from the web retailers. You can get same deals by routing through them as you do without, and pick up some extra coin in the process.
3. BLOGS! Hip2save.com is an outstanding starting point although visiting this site will cause you to want to hit a bunch of other ones. Collin, the nice woman that created the site, truly makes it hip to save. Her fun and useful videos are worth their weight in gold! She has her tentacles out there finding deals everywhere on the Interweb. Shop quickly, though...she has oodles of followers who are also watching closely. frugalfritzie.com, couponerslivingfree.com, frugalfilam.com and passionforsavings.com are nice and fun sites.
4. Consider Shoprunner and Amazon Prime. There are fees for these services (typically $79 a year) although I believe if you are a student you can get an Amazon Prime membership for a discounted price, or free, depending on the promotion at the time. Shoprunner also gives away free memberships. These services give you 2 day shipping for free and cheap next-day shipping on oodles of items you already buy from several places. Amazon Prime also gives you access to THOUSANDS of free movies and TV shows to stream from your computer or Kindle, a KIndle lending library, and other big deals/price breaks. AP also has pay-per-view movies at a decent price. I love my Amazon Prime account. Shoprunner is mostly useful for me at Christmas.
5. Print online coupons. There are many sites for this. You can typically go to any grocery or food item website and print coupons. Email the company who makes stuff you love and thank them for their super-de-dooper products. They will typically reward the feedback with coupons or freebies. At some stores you can stack online coupons with manufacturer's coupons from the Sunday paper.
6. Google "Discount Codes" with the name of your website to find discount codes you can use to reduce your cost. Retailmenot.com is my favorite of these sites, but others may work as well. They are free and can save you in discounts or shipping. They are not illegal or immoral. The company makes generic codes available...we might as well use them!
7. Ship-to-store options are often available. This is nice for a product that may not fit or be exactly right. Be sure the retailer will allow returns/exchanges locally.
8. Don't forget eBay and Amazon when shopping for anything. Amazon.com sells foods much more than eBay, but both have an enormous selection of things you would never expect to find. The prices are generally much cheaper, but will always give you an idea as to what a decent price is for an item that you are considering elsewhere. Use their manufacturer's model number, the UPC code and a description in the search box in separate searches. This is very helpful on eBay. Sometimes the seller (like I often do) will accidentally switch some letters or numbers. When a number is switched it results in a supply and demand boon for you. Fewer people are finding the item and bidding it up. Pretty soon, Yahtzee...a bargain! Be leery of other auction sites that charge you to bid. If you can buy an iPad for $23.45 there, there HAS to be a catch.
Be careful...but use the Web to your advantage this Christmas season. There is a savings gold mine to be found among the occasional landmines on the Web. Good luck and Happy Shopping!