10 tips for saving money online
If you're not using the Internet to save money these days, you're wasting dollars -- possibly thousands of them.
See the end of this post for a chance to win a $100 gift card.
Back in the day, before Groupon and Facebook and price comparison sites, how did we shop? (Hard to remember, I know.) We drove to a store or two, looking for a sale. We bought insurance from our neighbor's brother-in-law and purchased a car after kicking a few tires and taking it out for a spin.
All along, we were hoping -- fingers tightly crossed -- that we were getting the best deals.
Now shopping works like this: We sign up for airfare alerts from Kayak for an upcoming trip and do a quick search to make sure the hotel doesn't have hidden fees or bedbugs. We easily compare insurance rates to make sure our current premiums are competitive, and then we glance through the coupons in our email. Post continues after video.
And all along we're saving serious bucks. The Internet Innovation Alliance said a typical family can save $7,707 a year by using resources found on the Web before making everyday purchases such as gasoline ($95 saved), entertainment ($2,747), travel ($1,532) and food ($965).
How many ways can the Internet save us money? Here are 10 tips, plus some suggested sites -- by no means a comprehensive list but enough to steer you in the right direction.
Find travel deals. Use sites such as Bing Travel, Kayak and FareCompare to find and track the lowest airfares. With the airlines charging so many different fees, we all need some help. See also our partner blog Wise Bread's "40 most useful travel websites that can save you a fortune."
Compare insurance rates. Whether you're a first-time buyer or looking for lower premiums, numerous sites provide one-stop comparison shopping for homeowners, auto, renters, health and life insurance rates. Suggested sites: Insure.com and Insurance.com.
Find the best mortgage rates. Our pal Stacy Johnson has explained how to save many thousands of dollars when you buy a house with a three-step process. Step 2 is comparing mortgage rates online, then calling lenders to inquire about fees. Suggestions: MSN Money, Bankrate.com, MoneyRates and HSH.com.
Use online calculators. Getting the best mortgage rate is a terrific goal, but you also need to know if you can really afford the monthly payments. Online calculators aren't foolproof -- they're only as good as the information you provide -- but they can offer guidance on all sorts of personal-finance questions: Are you saving enough for college or for your golden years?
Buy a car. You can compare prices of pickups, hybrids or sedans -- new or used -- or you can handle the entire shopping experience online. SmartMoney explains why the online deals are so good:
Most sites will forward your request for a free quote to a dealership's Internet sales department. These people make their commissions based on volume rather than price. They understand the importance of offering a fair price to move the sales process along quickly.
Uncover coupons and deals. Wise Bread lists about 65 different sites to find deals, coupons, rebates, promo codes and other discounts in its comprehensive "190 resources for saving money." There are so many ways to save money, it's difficult to track them all. You need to find your own favorite price comparison and discount sites, based on your personal shopping preferences. Suggestions: dealnews.com, PriceGrabber, FatWallet, RetailMeNot, CouponMom, CouponMountain, Ebates, FreeShipping.org.
Participate in online communities.Groupon, LivingSocial and similar sites allow members to sign up for limited-time discounts. Likewise, "liking" your favorite brand on Facebook will entitle you to special deals.
Do it yourself. Whether it's 10 dog toys you can make yourself for mere pennies or figuring out how to install a low-flow shower head, you will find the information with a very quick online search.
Find free stuff. Craigslist and Freecycle are great for giving new life to stuff other people no longer want. When we're looking for free product samples and restaurant giveaways, we often check out sites such as Bargain Babe, Hey, It's Free! and Cities on the Cheap.
Using the Internet to shop and save can backfire unless you keep several rules in mind:
- Avoid impulse buys. Buying something because it's on sale isn't saving money; it's spending money you could otherwise squirrel away for retirement or use to reduce debt.
- Buy only from established and secure sites. "To avoid getting scammed, patronize merchants that have good reputations according to ratings sites such as Yelp, Angie's List and Bizrate. Check whether the merchants offer money-back protections and guarantees," an article at MSN Money says.
- Be careful whose advice you take. The Web is full of false claims and bad information. Make sure the websites you visit are fair and reputable by researching what the experts think.
How do you use the Internet to save you money? We want to hear from you on Twitter!
Share your money-saving tip with us on Twitter on Tuesday, April 12, to enter for a chance to win a $100 American Express gift card in our MSN Money "Money Tips" Twitter Sweepstakes. To participate, you must follow us on Twitter (sign in or sign up, then click here), @reply us with your tip on how to save money online, and include the #MSNMoneyTips hashtag in your tweet.
One winner for this question will be randomly selected and announced on the MSN Money Twitter page during the week of April 18. We'll collect the best tips and may include them in an upcoming Money feature. Good luck!
For more information about the weeklong sweepstakes, please go here.
More on MSN Money:
Nice Article but you should also think about trading or bartering goods or services, its so easy! I started trading my bike with my neighbors and now I'm doing it big, online on Barterquest.com, its unbelievable how much money you're able to save...
Kat Brennan | http://www.salemrentall.com/rental-equipment.html
Jason | http://www.nicholaselectric.com/Electrical-Repair-Pittsburgh-PA.html
Jason | http://www.tvsidingandwindows.com/boise-windows
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