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Cheap Online Shopping

40 tips to slash the cost of buying online

Want to find the best deals online? 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 and much more.

Find 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.

Build 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.

Map hidden local eBay bargains

Whether it's 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'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 Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Search 50 outlets for bargains with the Outlet Discount Finder

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

Uncover 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.

Get the latest discount codes and hot bargains

This site's chock-a-block with daily-updated, fully checked-out deals, sales and loopholes, but there are plenty of other discount sites that can save you money too.

Ask 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.

Bag 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.

Check the cost on brands' AND department stores' websites

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

Sign 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.

Bag big online store discounts using Tesco Clubcard points

Check if you can Reclaim Tesco Vouchers online. Many people find big cash, often £100+, but don't save them for food or other shopping in-store. Instead, check ways of getting 3x or even 4x their value (£10 becomes £30 or £40) at a host of online retailers. See the Loyalty Scheme Tricks guide.

Spend 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.

Make £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.

Get nifty price-drop alert emails

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

Use 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.

Net discounts for who you are or what you do

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

Check 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.

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

Our forumites have an insatiable appetite for deals so heck 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. These are posted by users so aren't official MSE content. They're normally fine, but take care and double-check before using them.

Pick up corking wine and bubbly deals

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

Sniff 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.

Know 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.

Planning 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.

Always spend gift cards as soon as possible

If you've received gift cards or vouchers, use them as soon as possible to avoid losing out.

Scan barcodes in shops, then order online

The 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, it'll help make sure you get it at the cheapest price possible.

Beat Amazon's delivery charges

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

Reclaim costs for failed delivery

It's enough to make you fume. You've been told you need to be in for a delivery and take a day off work but end up twiddling your thumbs because they're either hours late or don't bother turning up at all.

How to check websites' legitimacy

Bogus websites are often set up to cash in on popular products such as iPads and Tiffany necklaces, so be wary if you're shopping on an unfamiliar site. And don't think that because it appears on a reputable search engine, that makes it a reputable site - always check.

Always read the terms and conditions

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

Buy the cheapest Kindles, iPads, perfumes and more

MSE is a massive site giving you tips and tricks to cut your shopping costs, and that includes special deals on big brand items.

Score £30 online vouchers by playing credit card freebies

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

Think before you tick the extra warranty

Often when you're buying larger electrical goods online, there's a tick-box for if you want to add a warranty, care plan, breakdown cover, "product protection policy" or whatever else they're calling the guarantee.

Don't always assume it's cheaper online

Speaking to staff face-to-face in-store allows you to haggle in a way you can't do online, especially if bulk-buying or bartering for discounts on faulty items. It can be worth benchmarking prices online, then using the tips in our High Street Haggling guide to get the costs slashed further.

Get 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.

Before 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.

Mum-to-be club discounts

Retailers are super-keen to bag new parents' custom with baby promos. Just make sure you only take them up on the good ones!

Beware '£10 off next purchase with our online discount' promises

Some sites such as The Trainline and Ticketmaster boost revenue by allowing membership clubs like Shopper Discounts to push offers once you've bought stuff on their sites.

Before 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.

Buy out-of-season

A golden oldie this one, and based on 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.

Land web prices on the high street

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

Got a top tip we haven't listed?
Add it to the Online Shopping forum discussion.