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Cheap Online Shopping 40 tips to slash the cost of buying online

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Want to safely find the best deals in the virtual jungle? This compendium of cheap online shopping tricks shows you how.

We've 40 top tips, including how to get price-drop emails, compare prices at speed, spot hidden brand sales, check unknown e-tailers' legitimacy and much more.

01Find the cheapest online prices with one click

Shopbots, or shopping robots, are geeky tools which trawl through selected e-tailers' products and prices to find the cheapest deal.

They zip to scores of web retailers and compare prices, whether you're searching clothes, games, gadgets, books, perfumes or owt else.

To push it to the max, our specially-designed MegaShopBot auto-searches the best shopbots for each type of product with just one click.

02Build your own Amazon bargain basements

It's the original e-giant, and like any megastore the challenge is to see behind Amazon's shelves to dig out mega-discounts. Our ever-popular Amazon Discount Finder manipulates Amazon web links to create customised bargain basement pages, eg, Beauty 70% off*, TVs 25%+ off* and handbags 75% off*.

Though remember, just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's a bargain. So in the tool you'll find a box where you can search the CamelCamelCamel site, which lets you instantly check a product's Amazon price history to see if it's ever sold for less. Then use our MegaShopBot to check its price in other stores.

03 Map hidden local eBay bargains

Whether Wiis or children's books, eBay sellers often specify items must be collected in person. As this often means fewer bids, there are bargains to be had.

You can't normally search collection only, so we've built a mapping tool. Tell our Local eBay Deals Mapper your postcode, how far you're prepared to schlep, and it pinpoints nearby gems.

It's also available as a free Android app or iPhone & other mobiles website. These map your current location and tell you how far you need to go to pick up a bargain.

For more help tracking down underpriced goods, our eBay Buying Secrets guide lists tools to exploit spelling mistakes, auto-bid and more.

04You've MORE rights online than in-store

Many people are surprised to learn you've EXTRA rights buying online (or by telephone/catalogue) due to the Distance Selling Regulations.

These give a legal right to send most goods back within a week for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery. See the Consumer Rights guide for more.

However, this is balanced by the fact that ordering online means there's a time gap between ordering and delivering when the company has your money. So if it goes bust in that time, the distance selling rights don't help.

Buy in-store:You have NO right to return goods unless they're faulty. Some stores will allow you to return items, but that's their policy rather than any official obligation.

Buy online: Under the distance selling regulations, you have a seven-day legal right to return goods without any fault for a full refund (including delivery costs, though you may need to pay to send the goods back).

All this means researching offline but buying online can be your best bet. See Martin's blog - Mrs MSE's a robo-shopper - to learn why many people choose to go to a store to view the product they want to buy, but then seal the deal online - also known as robo-shopping.

05Search 50 outlets for bargains with the Outlet Discount Finder

Many drive miles to outlet villages to snap up end-of-line bargains. Yet now, lots of high street and high-end stores have online outlet stores, either via eBay or special websites.

Tell our Outlet Store Discount Finder what you want, the price and discount, and it'll find it for you. You can also drill down to specific stores - big names include M&S, Monsoon, The Body Shop, Argos, House of Fraser and many more.

06Uncover hidden big-brand flash sales

If you're going to stick with brand loyalty and shop upmarket (bah, humbug) then we've tricks to slash costs in our list of Secret Sales.

To hint at exclusivity, a range of branded and designer goods e-tailers run 'membership clubs'. You register for free, then they send alerts for online flash sales lasting two to five days. A bit poncy, but it can mean big discounts such as 70% off brands such as Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

07Get the latest discount codes and hot bargains

This site's chock-a-block with daily-updated, fully checked-out deals, sales and loopholes. To get started, check the following pages:

DISCOUNT VOUCHERS

Check out MSE's online Discount Vouchers Codes page, where we compile the best discounts available.

We only list the best discounts on offer. So if you can't find what you're looking for, check out other voucher sites such as VoucherCodes*, MyVoucherCodes* and VoucherCloud*. Check they're valid on the item you want and are open to all.

THE HOTTEST BARGAINS

For all the latest, hottest deals, bargains and loopholes, see Hot Bargains or sign up to the MoneySaving weekly email to get 'em straight to your inbox.

ONLINE SALES

See the MSE High Street Sales diary for a list of all new and ongoing sales, plus delivery cost info.

08Ask a free site to negotiate discounts for you

If you're struggling to find a deal, Flubit is a free site that aims to negotiate discounts for you.

You can register for free and ask Flubit to see if any of its partner retailers can beat the price listed on Amazon.co.uk. When it receives a demand, it goes to a bank of online retailers selling the exact same item and tries to negotiate a better price. As every offer is unique, Flubit claims this flexibility can mean retailers are willing to offer big discounts.

The results from our experiment

When we tested Flubit and made a few demands of our own, we found an average 13% discount.

  • iPad 4 with Retina Display. Flubit offered £363.44 delivered, (listed as £372), an £8.56 saving/2.3% discount.

  • Kindle Fire HD 7" 16GB. Flubit offered £155.82 delivered, (listed as £159), a £3.18 saving/2% discount.

  • Fujifilm jZ100 Digital Camera. Flubit offered £46.99 delivered, (listed as £49.99), a £3 saving/6% discount.

How it works

How does it cut prices?

How does it make money?

This is a new concept - be careful

09Bag 5% off ALL your shopping

Cashback credit cards pay you every time you spend on 'em. The idea's you grab one and set up a direct debit to repay in full every month so it's interest-free. To boost the gain, use it for all spending instead of cash, cheques or debit cards.

American Express's Amex Platinum Everyday* gives new cardholders 5% cashback (max £100) for three months (and tiered up to 1.25% after). There's no annual fee but the representative APR is 19.9%.

If your credit score ain't great, Capital One Classic Extra* accepts some with older CCJs/defaults and pays 0.5% cashback on all spending. Though if you fail to fully repay, it's a monstrous 34.9% representative APR.

For full help and best buys, see the Top Cashback Cards guide.

10Check the cost on brands' site AND department stores'

Sometimes brands operate their own online stores AND have concessions (a mini-store for their products, if you like) within department stores' sites.

First check the price on the brand's own site (say Oasis, Office, or Diesel) and see if a sale or discount voucher's available (see the Discount Vouchers page).

If you can't find a code, check the price of the branded item on a department store's site too. Then see if you can find a hot code or a "blue cross" event for that. You're still getting the same item from the same brand.

For example, most Debenhams* stores include Oasis items and it regularly has 20% off branded fashion departments (concessions). Clarks* shoes are stocked at Brantano*, which often has blanket discounts across all its brands.

11Grab totally free £3 gift vouchers

You can get totally free no minimum-spend gift cards via Wrapp when you team up with Facebook buddies.

The gift voucher site allows you to send (and hopefully receive) gift cards varying between £3 and £5 (in the past it's included Karen Millen, Warehouse and Slurp). Don't forget to factor in delivery costs if you're redeeming online.

How it works

As well as willing friends, you'll need to be on Facebook. To get the freebies, follow these steps. Every Facebook friend involved needs to do each of the following:

  • Either download the free app from Apple or Google Play, or sign up to Wrapp.
  • Log in using your Facebook account and find a friend to give one of the gift cards to via email or Facebook (they don't have to accept).
  • The gift cards will be ready to redeem within 30 days via their Wrapp account.
  • To get your own voucher, ask your friend to do the same for you (you don't automatically get one because you sent one - a friend needs to send you one back via the steps above).

What to watch for

You can send up to three free gift cards to each of your Facebook friends (and they can each send you three), but only one can be used at each retailer and per transaction.

You'll need to allow Wrapp access to your Facebook account so if you're not happy with this, Wrapp may not be for you.

We have little feedback on Wrapp so please post your comments in the Wrapp forum discussion thread. However, as you don't need to give payment details for this deal, the risk is minimal.

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12Sign up to retailers' newsletters for big discounts

E-tailers try to reel you in by offering incentives to shop online when you sign up to their marketing emails.

It can mean a percentage discount code, or straight discount off your first shop.

Our top ongoing picks include:

  • Dorothy Perkins* - 10% off your first order.
  • Gap* - 15% off (also valid at its sister brand Banana Republic).
  • Amazon Fashion* gives 20% off clothing and shoes for new newsletter sign-ups.

13Bag big online store discounts using Tesco Clubcard points

First, quickly check if you can Reclaim Tesco Vouchers online. So many people find big cash, often £100+, so we can't stop nagging about this.

Yet don't save them for food or other treats when shopping in-store. Instead, check ways of getting 3x or 4x their value (£10 becomes £30 or £40) at a host of online retailers. See the Loyalty Scheme Tricks guide.

14Spend on a credit card for extra protection

Section 75 adds
protectionThe Section 75 law means if you use a credit card (not a debit card, cheque or cash) to pay even partly for something costing between £100 and £30,000, the card company's jointly liable if anything goes wrong.

Better still, even if you only pay a deposit on the card, provided the goods cost over £100, the card company is liable for the ENTIRE amount.

If the firm goes bust, you can get redress from the credit card provider instead, giving you valuable extra protection. Though only do this if you can clear the card in full each month to avoid interest.

Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still an option which can help if you use a Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit card, or any debit or charge card.

If the goods don't appear or are faulty, you can ask your bank/card provider to reclaim the cash from the seller's bank, so long as you start the chargeback process within 120 days of realising there's a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.

15Make £100s from cashback sites

With cashback sites, you sign up for free, then click through them to buy something. They get paid for sending traffic and give some of this cash to you. Some people make £100s a year.

Never let the cashback dictate where you spend or what you buy. It's never 100% guaranteed, either. Focus on the cheapest or best deal, then see if cashback's available on it. Full explanation in the Top Cashback Sites guide.

Also, if you've money squirrelled away in your Topcashback* account, you can boost your Tesco points stash by trading in every £10 of cashback for 1,050 Tesco Clubcard points. See the Boost Tesco Points guide for full info.

16Get nifty price-drop alert emails

Price-drop alert site Stuffster allows you to add items from online retailers to your 'stuff list' and name the price you're willing to pay. It then sends you an alert when the item hits your target price.

You need to register first, then when you're browsing a particular item from one retailer, you pop it in your list. After that, the wait is on for the price to fall and the email to land in your inbox.

Always check MegaShopBot to compare prices in case you could get them cheaper elsewhere.

When we tested Stuffster, a couple of items hit our target price:

La Redoute dress priced at £39, target price £31, bought for £27.30, a 30% saving.
De'Longhi filter coffee machine from John Lewis priced at £22.97, target price £18, bought for £13.99, a 39% saving.

How to do it

  • Register for Stuffster.
  • Download the Stuffster toolbar for your browser, which allows you to quickly add items to your list.
  • When there's an item you want to buy for a lower price, click the Stuffster toolbar to add it to your list.
  • Wait for alerts to land in your inbox.
  • Then check out the Discount Vouchers page to cut the cost further.

What to watch for

Stuffster prices are checked on a daily basis. The price may have changed from the point you were alerted to the actual time you click through to buy.

While it's good to see your wishlist from every retailer in one place, it's a fairly new concept and we have no feedback. If you've used Stuffster, please let us know how you got on in the Online shopping tricks forum thread.

17Use Martin's Money Mantras

It's easy to get swept up in online shopping as payment can be taken in just a click. To keep you disciplined, use Martin's Money Mantras.

Different scenarios require different approaches, so there's one mantra for those who are skint and one for those who aren't.

If you say 'NO' to any, DON'T BUY!

  • If you're skint, ask

    Do I need it?

    Can I afford it?

    Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?

  • If you aren't skint, ask

    Will I use it?

    Is it worth it?

    Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?

The most important question here is "is it worth it?" This is a way of saying that while you may use it, could your cash be better spent on anything else? Or could the same money be used on something more practical?

Get free mini Money Mantras to print and put in your wallet as a reminder. If you're buying a big item, and paying by finance or credit card, use the Budget Planner to work out how much you can afford to pay and whether you can afford the long-term payments in advance.

18Net discounts for who you are or what you do

E-tailers target specific groups of people with discounts - see below for the best.

Student discounts

If you're in full-time education, many e-tailers often give students discounts ranging from 10%-25% off. See the NUS website for a full list and check the MSE Student MoneySaving forum discussion thread for more discounts and advice.

Health Service discounts

If you're a nurse, doctor, dentist or even a hospital volunteer, you can net discounts for your online purchases at stores such as Dorothy Perkins. See the Health Service Discounts site and the NHS website for a full check-up.

Armed Forces personnel

The Defence Privilege card is available for serving and reserve armed forces, MoD civil servants, bereaved family members and more. It costs £4.99 and is valid for five years. It gets discounts both in-store and online such as Buyagift, Austin Reed, Joules, Cloggs and more. See the UK Armed Forces MoneySaving forum discussion thread for more suggestions to save.

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19Check if you can grab goods cheaper from overseas retailers

If you're looking to buy higher value goods, then consider taking advantage of the world wide web by clicking to foreign retailers. You may be able to pick up bargains, especially when the pound is strong.

As well as big-name retailers, there are bargains to be had on overseas eBay sites, particularly eBay US for clothes and gadgets (see eBay Buying Secrets).

See the Cheapest Travel Money guide on the best cards for spending abroad to get near-perfect exchange rates every time you use an overseas site.

what to watch for

There are few things to consider when buying from abroad:

  • Customs duty becomes payable on postal imports from outside the EU when goods are over £135. If the customs duty totals less than £9 though, you won't have to pay this amount.
  • Value added tax of 20% applies to commercial goods £15+ in value and on gifts £36+ from outside the EU.
  • Consider buying on a credit card for extra Section 75 protection. See the Section 75 guide for full info.
  • Will it work in the UK? You need to think about the voltage, DVD regions and if TVs are compatible. If not, then factor in the cost of converting.
  • Is the site safe? Make sure the site's legitimate before parting with cash - see the Check it's legitimate section in this guide.
  • Delivery cost and time. Think whether higher shipping and delivery costs still make the item cheaper. Factor in any time differences for the date and time of the delivery. Remember, if the item's not for you, return postage fees could be hefty.

An easy rule of thumb is that the charges for delivery, customs and VAT can add around 30% to the list price, so unless it's over 30% cheaper, it may be best to stick with the UK. Check the HMRC site for full details.

20 Stay on top of the MSE forum's hottest online bargains

Our forumites have an insatiable appetite for deals, and post an unstoppable stream of them. Check the latest on the forum's Grabbit board, or sign up to receive a feed from the Wow Forum alerting you to the hottest deals around.

The deals have been posted by users so aren't official MoneySavingExpert.com content. They're normally fine, but take care and double-check before using them.

21Pick up corking wine and bubbly deals

We've created a way to dig behind online wine sellers' virtual shelves for hidden mega-discounts.

Whether red, white, champers or you've a country or grape in mind, tell our Wine Discount Finder to find the biggest discount or cheapest crate at Tesco Wine, M&S, Majestic and Slurp. We also list codes to save you more.

22Sniff out cheap online perfumes and smell-a-likes

Forget department stores for perfume. A whole bunch of specialist online sellers offer it for a fraction of the price.

Better still, buy the even cheaper unboxed bottles, then get a pretty box and wrapping for a couple of quid. This way, gift recipients think you went to extra effort, but actually you saved extra cash. Read the Cheap Perfumes guide for full help.

Also see the Great 'smell-a-like perfumes' hunt, where MoneySavers have sniffed out some dirt-cheap dead ringers for posh perfumes available to buy online and in-store. They say Next's Just Pink smells like Ralph Lauren Romance, while M&S True Red is similar to Hugo Boss Deep Red.

Check out the Health and Beauty MoneySaving board for other forumites' suggestions to bag goods at bargain prices.

23Know your rights with online glitches

Mistakes can and do happen, especially in the fast-paced internet world, and there can be some right whoppers online. If a £50 brand new iPad seems too good to be true, it usually is. See Martin's blog: Tesco scores second own goal.

With these kind of offers where items are listed well below their RRP, you can't force retailers to sell them to you at that price. Retailers don't have to sell anything to you if they don't want to, regardless of price. Yet deliberately misleading you is criminal and Trading Standards can investigate.

If you spot a mis-priced mistake, you could try your luck. It can sometimes honour it if the price difference isn't too big.

Just be aware that if you do order a glitchy item, it can get cancelled, can run out of stock or at the worst, you're charged full-price, so weigh up these factors before going for it.

24Planning to buy something at Boots? Wait for bonus points weekends

With Boots, it's all about the timing. The Advantage card gives four points for every pound you spend (worth 4p). It doesn't always make Boots* the cheapest, but there are times to take advantage of your Advantage card.

Boots often runs bonus points weekends giving, for example, giving 1,000 extra points on a £50 spend in-store and online, especially around Christmas. So look out for these if you're doing a big shop.

Otherwise, Boots Treat Street is an online catalogue listing 100+ retailers where you can spend to gain Advantage card points to use in-store. It sometimes runs a newbie offer where you get £5 worth of points with a £1 spend, so it's worth waiting for the next time this comes around to make a profit.

Boots loopholes


If Boots advertises extra points when you buy any product from a particular range, the points' value is sometimes worth more than the cost of the product. In fact, sometimes the store even PAYS YOU to take it away.

For example, it once advertised 500 points (worth £5) with selected fragrances. As cologne water cost £4.39, you could have got it free and made a 61p PROFIT.

25Always spend gift cards as soon as possible

If you've received gift cards or vouchers, use them as soon as possible for three reasons:

Sometimes retailers go bust

A host of big-name retailers have gone into administration recently (including HMV, Comet and Jessops). When this happens, they stop accepting them altogether. See our Gift Voucher Warning.

gift cards have expiry dates

Most gift cards must be redeemed within a certain amount of time, so make sure you spend them before time runs out.

You could forget or lose them

There's also a chance you may forget to use them if you don't do it as soon as possible. Or you could lose them, or accidentally run them through the wash if you happen to keep them in your pocket.

26Scan barcodes in shops, then order online

An eBay barcode scanner app, RedLaser, is great if you're out and about and spot a potential purchase. We're not fans of impulse buys, but if there's something that catches your eye, make sure you're getting it at the cheapest price possible.

Harnessing the power of the web on your phone, you scan the barcode of the items and it tells you if you can get the same product cheaper online elsewhere.

So if there's a big price difference, make an informed decision using the app and save the shopping till you're online.

27Beat Amazon's new delivery charges

It's added a £10 min spend for free delivery on most items. But you can beat it...

This Amazon Prime trial* link (usually £49/year) gets Prime newbies a month's pass for free delivery (though a few previous triallists may also be offered another trial). To check, log into your account, follow the link and see if it says "try Amazon Prime free".

Make sure you cancel before the month's up or it's £49/year. This is an ongoing offer. See the Cheap Amazon guide for the full info.

28Reclaim costs for failed delivery

It's enough to make you growl. You've been told you need to be in for a delivery of large white goods and have taken a day off work. You twiddle your thumbs as they're either hours late or don't bother turning up at all.

Yet you can fight back if you know your rights. You may even be able to force compensation for the lost time. See the Delivery Rights guide to make sure you're armed with the full info.

29How to check websites' legitimacy

Nothing is perfect, and there are flaws in all these methods – but in general it helps if you follow these tips. Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products such as Ugg boots and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if it's an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check. Use our quick checklist:

  • Search for a padlock sign and "https"
    Most folks know to look for a security padlock on a website's bottom right, but that doesn't mean the site's legit, just that payment's secure. When making a payment, the "http" should appear as "https" so you know it's secure.

  • Is it a registered UK company?
    To find out who registered a UK site and when, search the Whois database. Reputable limited firms (not sole traders) should also appear on the Companies House site, the UK Government's official companies register. Be very wary of businesses with just a PO Box or email address.

  • Google for feedback
    The internet's a powerful way to hunt out other consumers' experiences. Easiest of all, do a quick Google search for the company name next to the word 'complaints', eg, "Delboy Ltd complaints" and look for trends and feedback.

  • Press releases/newspapers/comparison sites
    Again Googling the product or site could bring up press releases on its launch, plus any online newspaper stories could also give you a good indication whether it's safe to use. When using comparison sites, does it appear in searches?

  • Is its web ranking decent?
    Study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big - a good, though not foolproof, indication of legitimacy.
  • Understand sometimes there's no protection
    Ultimately, there's always a risk that a company can go bust and sometimes you have to make a decision on whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.

    Don't be overly scared of this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that.

30Always read the terms and conditions

We're not denying it's boring, long or full of covoluted business-speak, but the little tick-box confirming you've read, understood and accepted the T&Cs could be a deal-breaker later if things go awry.

See MSE Wendy's blog, I read the T&Cs and was pleasantly surprised, which highlights the importance of reading through the black ink.

Even if you don't read the legalese, always at least read the standard terms and conditions before you pay to know exactly what is included and excluded in the exchange. Plus, always ask questions beforehand if there's anything you don't understand, in writing or by email if possible, before you seal the deal.

31Buy the cheapest Uggs, Kindles, iPads and more

MSE is a massive site giving you tips and tricks to cut your shopping costs, including on big brand items:

Uggs

The Cheap Ugg Boots guide lists the top trendy sheepskin Ugg offers plus, most importantly of all, has a list of official, legitimate retailers and a checklist of features on genuine Ugg Australia footwear.

E-readers

The Cheap Kindles and E-book Readers guide features a rundown of the cheapest electronic reading gadgets, plus lists how you can get a stash of books for free.

iPads

Top of the gadget wishlist, iPads aren't MoneySaving by anyone's definition. But if you must have one, our Cheap iPads guide lists the best and cheapest ways to get your hands on one.

32Score £30 online vouchers by playing credit card freebies

You can perform a legal smash and grab raid on credit card companies.

Freebies such as £30 gift vouchers are available by spending in the normal way on a credit card. The key is to always pay off in full each month to avoid debts and frightening interest rates.

Why do cards offer freebies?

Credit cards are a lucrative business and companies are often willing to pay up to £100 to acquire a new customer: small potatoes compared to their potential profit from debts. Free gifts or inducements to sign up are becoming the norm.

Top Freebies

  • TWO BA Paris returns, or £100 gift cards with Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* charge card (not credit card). You get 20,000 Reward points when spending £2,000 in the first three months (as it's a charge card, fail to fully repay and there's a £12 fee) which can get two short BA return flights or £100 gift card for M&S, Homebase and more. There's a £125 fee in year two.
  • 'Free' £30 voucher when you spend £300 on a Freedom Rewards Barclaycard*. It gives 10,500 points, enough for a £30 voucher, when you're accepted and spend £500 in the first three months. It's valid at Boots, M&S and more. (18.9% representative APR).
  • Free £15 Play.com voucher for CDs, DVDs and games (16.9% representative APR).

See Credit Card Freebies for full top picks and warnings (Official APR Examples).

33Think before you tick the extra warranty

Often when you're buying larger white or electrical goods online, there's a tick-box if you want to add a warranty, care plan, breakdown cover, "product protection policy" or any other name that's given for the guarantee.

They cover your appliance for mechanical or electrical failure, but most are a complete waste of money, often costing as much as the product itself.

Yet if you want peace of mind, there are tricks to get totally free or cheap cover via credit cards, standalone policies and sometimes through your home insurance cover. See the Cheap Free Warranties guide for the full info.

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34Don't always assume it's cheaper online

It's worth noting that speaking face-to-face in shops allows you to negotiate and haggle in a way you can't do online, especially if bulk buying or bartering for discounts on faulty items.

So it can be worth benchmarking prices online, then using the tips in our High Street Haggling guide to get the costs slashed further.

35Get organised to avoid pricey last-minute delivery charges

If you need something by a specific date, for example Christmas or a birthday, then it's important to think about last order dates to make sure you don't get caught out and forced to pay costly last-minute delivery charges.

As miraculous express or next day delivery options come with equally dazzling costs, it's best to get organised to allow enough time for the item to be posted to your address at the cheaper or free price.

At Christmas time, see the Last Order Dates guide for all the info.

36Before splashing out, could you hire?

If you've got your heart set on a designer number (not MoneySaving), you could hire rather than buy to shave off the cost of a little luxury for an evening.

Sites such as Wish Want Wear and Girl Meets Dress* allow you to rent designer dresses, handbags, shoes, coats and accessories.

We found a vintage Chanel small quilted bag to rent on Wish Want Wear for £95. The cheapest elsewhere to buy was £306 on eBay.

An Alexander Wang Panne Velvet dress from Girl Meets Dress rents for £49, the cheapest price we found was £128.25 from The Outnet. When you sign up to Girl Meets Dress, you get £10 off your first hire and by signing up to Wish Want Wear, you'll get 25% off your first order.

Do watch for soilage and damage costs and extra charges if items are returned late. Also check eBay - it can be far cheaper to grab items second-hand there, then resell them when you're done. See MSE's Jenny's Buy, Party, eBay blog.

37Mum-to-be club discounts

As a new parent, retailers are super-keen to bag your custom with baby promos. Just make sure you only take them up on the good ones!

  • Early Learning Centre's Birthday Club. Open to parents of kids aged 1-5, its Big Birthday Club* is free to join. Sign up online and you'll get 20% off, valid for three months.

  • Boots Parenting Club. Sign up to the Boots* Parenting Club for offers, free mags aimed at your child's age group, and 10 Advantage points for every £1 spent on baby items (you'll get a coupon to scan in-store to activate this).

See the Baby Checklist guide for a full ABC of tips to save if you have, or are due to have a little one.

38Beware '£15 off next purchase with our online discount' promises

Even legit sites such as The Trainline and Ticketmaster have reportedly made an extra 30 pieces of silver allowing membership clubs like Shopper Discounts to push offers once you've bought stuff on their sites.

Many have been caught before, like forumite sweetie27, where you find you're signing up to pay £10-£15 a month: "Bought a train ticket and must have clicked a link, as for two years Shopper Discounts has been taking £10/mth from my account, now totalling £200. I did not know anything about this and am totally gutted."

While communication about these clubs has marginally improved, you should still be very careful. Full help in: Sneaky Online Subscriptions.

39Before buying, check if you can get it for free

Before you part with your cash, first check if you can get the same or similar item for free via Freecyle or Freegle. Sometimes new as well as second-hand goods are offered on these local web communities so there are real bargains to be had.

How do they work?

It's all about web communities - go via the main site and you're sent to free-to-join, volunteer-run local email groups (though nowadays you can also view much of it on their sites).

It can be a source for freebies to kit up your pad with a sofa, espresso maker or even dungarees to lounge in. But the spirit of it is that it's a recycling community, so you should give, as well as get. See the Freecycle & Freegle guide for more info.

40Buy out-of-season

A golden oldie this one, and the number one principle of economics: supply and demand. If demand dips, prices fall to attract buyers. If demand's high, the power's in the hands of the e-tailer, which can charge a little extra.

The weather and season can be big factors shaping how much an e-tailer is willing to sell goods for. For example at the peak of summer, it's flip-flop and bikini season. The price of Havaianas will set you back £20+.

But buy them in winter and you could save yourself a small fortune. The cheapest we found them was £5 in Matalan*.

Also, many MoneySavers stock up on Christmas and Easter goods after the event and stash goods in their cupboards for the following year. See the MSE poll: Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?

41Land web prices on the high street

Many high-street retailers will price-match internet prices when pushed and some offer price-beater deals.

To find the cheapest e-tailer, use a shopping comparison site. See MegaShopBot for more info. Then print the results and see if the shop will match the price. Don't feel you need to buy the product in the more expensive store to get the discount, just tell them about the cheaper deal. If you're feeling naughty, keep your thumb over the delivery cost.

If you can't go online, you can compare prices wherever you are via mobile handsets. Both Kelkoo* and Pricerunner* offer mobile comparisons.

The following stores have a price-beater policy:

  • Richer Sounds - takes off the difference, plus £5 to £100 (depending on value of product) when you ask in-store.
  • PC World/ Currys - takes the difference plus 10% off (30mile radius), ask in-store.
  • Mothercare - price match when you call 0844 875 5133.

This involves a bit of thumb and legwork but can see good results:

I got a Panasonic DVD recorder which was £240 full price, on sale in Richer Sounds for £170. I found it for £150 online and so they price-matched and beat it by £10 to give a total cost of £140. - ncrossland

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