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How to Find the Best Deals Online

How to Find the Best Deals Online

By Jen Jones

When a birthday or the holidays roll around at the Scharer household in Athens, Ohio, 39-year-old Greg Scharer has no need to make a shopping list and check it twice. Instead, he turns to his favorite online shopping destination, Woot , for daily deals. This year, he was able to buy shock-resistant cameras for his three children at $12 apiece (approximately one-third of the price at Toys“R”Us).

“It’s incredibly convenient -- as you’re waiting at a dentist appointment or traveling, you can be on your phone looking at different things you need,” says Scharer, who uses the mobile app WootWatch. WootWatch scrolls all of Woot’s various offshoots -- like Kids Woot  -- to aggregate its daily deal offerings. “Along with saving time, I find it typically saves me between 30 to 70 percent off retail prices.”

Scharer’s not alone in his shopping habits. Many busy parents are embracing the ease of online shopping in the cloud -- using websites, online services or mobile apps to bargain-hunt versus trudging to the nearest brick-and-mortar store. So how can one navigate the Web to find the best deals and steals? Here are the five best ways to discount-hunt in the cloud:

No. 1: Start your spree by comparison-shopping.
“Your first line of research should be price comparison sites, which are very powerful for getting a quick idea of what the item you want costs,” says Brad Wilson, editor in chief of Brad’s Deals . PriceGrabber  is SmartMoney.com’s top pick , while NexTag and Shopzilla  are other popular options.

No. 2: Snag both offline and online deals with coupon-based sites.
Whether shopping online or off, coupon codes can be a bargain hunter’s best friend. Coupon aggregators like Brad’s Deals and RetailMeNot  offer both printable and online coupons, which can be redeemed for everything from free shipping to can’t-pass-up prices. “People don’t realize just how many coupons there are and how easy they are to get,” says Wilson, whose site currently shares 4,500 active coupons for 1,500 retailers.

No. 3: Use social networking.
Let other savvy shoppers do the work for you! One mom, Stephanie Moisio, has filled her Twitter feed with family shopping bloggers (like @babygoodbuys, @dealseekingmom  and @freebies4mom), who post deals they find online. "It's nice to do all your deal-seeking in one convenient place," says Moisio. When shopping on her Android, she follows their tips to make smart purchases, often using the Ebates  mobile app in tandem to earn cash back at participating stores.

No. 4: Get your daily deal fix delivered to your inbox or phone.
You may have heard of the popular Groupon, but there are other deals to be had. Subscribing to free daily sale sites like Woot, Zulily and Yugster  gives you access to limited-time discounts available only to members. For a more local flavor and deals on meals and more, get the best of the rest with an aggregator like DealMap . 

No. 5: Be smart about sharing personal information.
When shopping online, always make sure your site of choice is encrypted for safety; you can tell by whether it has “https:” in its URL. Also, use a credit card with built-in benefits like extended product warranties, identity theft protection or customer-friendly dispute options. But try not to stress too much. Says Wilson: “If you apply a dose of common sense to the process, you’ll be perfectly fine.”

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Jen Jones is a freelance writer and author based in Los Angeles. Her articles have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Variety and MSN.