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Every busy woman knows that online shopping can be a girl’s best friend. Sure, it’s great to touch, feel and see what you’re buying before you make a purchase, but sometimes the luxury of getting what you want without wasting time in a store trumps the tactile experience. But, with all those virtual outlets vying for your attention and your dollars, how can you be sure to get the best, and safest, deals on the Internet? Here are a few things to think about before you click that “order” button.
- Check for Group Deals: Whether you stick to industry stalwart Groupon or try more recent players like LivingSocial and 8coupons.com, you'll find that group-buying websites are picking up steam as a simple and quick way to find the best local and national deals on the Internet. A love-child of social media and Internet shopping, these online deal brokers are luring savvy clientele to purchase everything from meals at swanky restaurants, to manicures, to kids' birthday parties—all at a significant discount. Just sign up, find a deal you like, buy it and share it with your pals. Though business models vary, many times the more people who buy, the better deal you get. Facebook addicts can also rejoice now that Deals on Facebook offers this same service using your location and your personal network of friends.
- Get Connected to Favorite Stores: Some shoppers know just what they want and where they want to get it. If you're one of them, why not make sure you’re plugged into your favorite retailer online? Signing up for newsletters, Twitter feeds and Mobile alerts will assure that you get first peek at upcoming sales and exclusive deals, as well as a chance to read customer reviews or find a store near you. Friending a retailer on Facebook is another great way to stay up-to-date—some even use GPS to offer you better deals when you use your mobile device to check-in at brick-and-mortar stores. And remember, companies like Gap also give you full digital access to other brands, such as Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta.
- Yup, There’s an App for That: Many retail websites and discounters provide a mobile app so you don’t have to be in front of your computer to shop online. For instance, Diapers.com and Soap.com (free on iTunes) are a fabulous and cheap way to get most of your household needs without a trip to Walmart or Target (which also have free apps by the way at both iTunes and Android Market). Using the shared app, you can place your order on-the-go for booty like a jumbo box of Pampers or 20 rolls of toilet paper--for home or your next vacation. Two-day shipping and free shipping for purchases over $40 make the deal even sweeter. Other helpful apps: CodeReadr (free on iTunes, Android Market and Blackberry App World), which turns your phone into a barcode reader; PayPal (free on iTunes, Android Market and Blackberry App World), for buying stuff on the go, managing your account or sending money; and Dealradar (free on iTunes), which helps you find the best offers from over 100 daily deal sites in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
- Find an Online Sample Sale: Now you don’t have to schlep to some warehouse off the grid to buy luxury brands for [much] less. Sample sales have always been part of the savvy shopper’s repertoire, but it's easier than ever to find flash sales on daily discount luxury websites, which are the equivalent of those sometimes infuriating private sales. And, if you’re careful about return policies, you won’t have to stand in a room with a dozen half-naked women to try on your treasures. Though lots of these sites are aimed at women’s fashion, many also include sections for men, kids, home, and even travel. Both Hautelook and GiltGroup are well-trusted sites and offer an excellent selection of famous brand names for less in several categories. Both offer discounts up to 75 percent and daily email and mobile reminders (though return policies depend on the individual sales, so make sure to check carefully before you buy). Gilt also recently launched GiltTaste, an area for artisanal foods edited by Gourmet’s former editor Ruth Reichl, which also doubles as a culinary magazine. Others to try include Rue La La, Ideeli and the new MyHabit from Amazon.
- Get Cash Back at Rebate Websites: If you do a good amount of Internet shopping, you may want to sign up for a rebate website. Once you’re in the system, just shop your little heart out on that particular site to get money back on purchases. Sure, they’ll get commission for your purchase but, in return, they send a small percentage of that savings your way. E-bates gives you access to over 1,200 online stores and also throws in free shipping and e-coupons to use while you shop. You can get your rebates, paid quarterly, mailed in check form or through PayPal. Look for Daily Specials which double your rebate according to what you spend. Other sites to check out include Fatwallet, known best for its online forums, and Upromise by Sallie Mae, which lets you shop in over 600 online stores and then place your earned money in an account for college.