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In our modern world, more and more people each year buy products and services online. Nowadays, it is commonplace to be sitting in the comfort of your home drinking coffee or wine and at the same time shopping with your laptop, tablet or smartphone for clothes, household goods, gifts, and just about anything else you can imagine. In some countries, e-commerce is so developed that shopping in “brick and mortar” stores seems so backward, outdated, and boring.

Shopping online offers many benefits and one of them is the various coupon, rebate and money-back programs available. If you click through a link, or use a coupon code, your savings can be substantial. In addition, you get all the myriad benefits of shopping online – no children to drag through stores, no fuel costs to get there and back, no other travel costs, and no hassle of dealing with crowds.

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If you’re an online shopper or if you intend to start using this cool way of shopping, I’d like to share with you a few tips on how you can make savings. There are several ways to save money online but today I’ll only discuss three. Let’s start with coupons.

COUPONS

Coupons are a fairly standard money-saving method. Go to one of the coupon sites (a few will be provided below) and look for the store you want to shop with, or search by category, depending on your needs. Be sure to click “Apply” when you enter the coupon code during checkout.

Although in the early days of online shopping, coupon codes were plentiful and generous (frequently you could find $10 off a $10 purchase with free shipping), good coupons these days are hard to find. Some stores (like Lands’ End) rarely offer coupons while others (L.L. Bean) often offer free shipping on any size order. When you order, or even if you don’t order, be sure to sign up with the website either by registering or signing up for coupons. These direct-email coupons are often some of the best you’ll ever find

Here are some excellent coupon sites to get you started:

MyBargainBuddy.com — Here, a mom compiles good deals and coupon codes for you. Some of the best deals need no coupon at all, but if there’s a good deal and a coupon to go with it, all the better.

FatWallet.com — Lots of codes here along with active message boards where other deals can be found.

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MyCoupons.com — The most beneficial part of this site are the message boards, which are alive with the sound of people saving money. Check out the posts that have stickies on them at the start of each forum – there are often some good links to printable coupons here for favorites like Toys R Us and Chuck e Cheese.

Retailmenot.com – Another great coupon site to try with more than 500,000 coupons for 50,000 stores, including deals on domain names, web hosting packages for your own web presence.

Tip: If you are looking for a code for a certain store, don’t assume that if it’s not available at one website, it doesn’t exist. There are different codes at different sites. Visit several coupon sites before giving up hope that a code doesn’t in fact exist for that store.

REBATES

Here’s how the big daddy of online rebate programs works. Go to Ebates.com and sign up for an account. There’s a sign-up bonus of $5, so you already have a free $5 coming to you. Then, when you go shopping, check Ebates before heading directly to an online store. Even if you have a coupon from another site, click through the store link on the Ebates page for more savings.

Let’s say you choose a new jacket from Kohls and you have a $10 off a $75 purchase. Great. Keeping the coupon code in hand, you head to Ebates and find Kohls among the list of stores. This store offers 2% back, so you click through the Kohls link on the Ebates page, and make your purchase. Not only do you benefit from the coupon code you applied, but also got an extra 2% back on your purchase. Not a bad deal. Ebates will send money to your Paypal account or send you a check.

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POINTS

Many people don’t know about the various point programs available online, but since you can earn points without doing any shopping, the point programs are worth trying.

Visit MyPoints.com and sign up for an account. My Points will send emails (sometimes daily, sometimes several in one day). You click a link in the mail and automatically get 5 points. Sign up for an offer or make a purchase through that link and earn even more points, from hundreds to thousands of points per offer.

My Points is most useful, however, when you’re shopping online. It’s like Ebates in that you click through a link on the My Points site, and you get points for your purchase. Most stores offer a certain number of points (2 to 4 on average) per dollar spent. Once you have at least 1,000 points, you can redeem the points for gift certificates for restaurants, gas, travel and clothing.

You can’t use Ebates and My Points in the same purchase, so if a store is linked through both Ebates and My Points, you have to decide which is the best deal for you. Whenever possible, try to combine a coupon code with the My Points or Ebates deal.

There you have it! Happy shopping and enjoy the savings.

-Ephrem

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