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 46 top tips, including how to get price-drop emails, compare prices at speed, spot hidden brand sales and much more.
46 online shopping tips, including...
Find the cheapest online prices
Price comparison sites trawl through selected retailers' products to find the cheapest deal, whether you're searching for clothes, games or more. We found Google Shopping is the most consistent at finding the cheapest price – the MSE Deals team even use it as a starting point when checking out deals.
Google Shopping searches a wide range of retailers, including biggies such as Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Tesco. It also searches less traditional retailers such as eBay and daily deals site Groupon.
How does it work?
- Search for a product. Google will list relevant items sold by multiple retailers.
- Use the filters on the left-hand side. These let you filter results by price, retailer and more. You can also choose whether to view second-hand items.
- Select the item you're after and click 'compare prices from xx shops'. This will show you the full list of retailers.
- Compare prices. You can sort results by 'base price' (without postage) or 'total price' (including postage) – helping you decide whether to buy in store or online.
We compared Google Shopping with a number of similar sites, and although it usually found the cheapest price, it can still be worth checking another comparison site, such as Kelkoo, Pricerunner or Price Spy, before you buy.
Looking for groceries or toiletries?
Although Google does include supermarket results, we prefer Mysupermarket*, which compares prices at all the major supermarkets, plus Boots, Superdrug and more. Unlike Google, it compares similar products, eg, own-brand shampoo, and lets you know if you can save by swapping to a different product or store.
Hot summer sales, incl Tesco Direct and John Lewis, plus codes to cut prices further
The temperature's rising on high street aisles and online checkouts, as stores push big summer sales. There's up to 70% off at Asos, House of Fraser and Topman, and up to 50% off John Lewis, Ted Baker and Pandora. Plus there's the popular Tesco Direct 'closing down' clearance. See a full list of Summer Sales.
To cut prices further, always check if there's a discount code, whether there's a sale or not. This week, we've a 35% off Hot Diamonds code, plus get 20% extra off Hollister's 'up to 50%' sale, or 10% off Argos and Evans Cycles eBay outlets. See ALL codes.
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.
Remember though, just because it's discounted doesn't mean it's a bargain. So in the tool you'll also 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 (more on this in Amazon Buying Tips). Then check its price in other stores.
Abandon online shopping baskets to tease 'em into giving you a code
Fail to finish your online order and companies often send you codes to tempt you back. MoneySavers reckon they've nabbed discounts from 26 retailers, including Asos, Currys and Tesco.
See our Shopping Secrets guide for the full list.
Map hidden local eBay bargains
Whether it's a PlayStation 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 and how far you're prepared to schlep, and it pinpoints nearby gems.
For more help tracking down underpriced goods, our eBay Buying Secrets guide lists tools to exploit speiling mistaykes, auto-bid and more.
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.
These give a legal right to decide to return most goods back within a fortnight for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault. You'll usually need to pay for the return delivery – you've a further 14 days to actually return them. 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 cancellation 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 Consumer Contracts Regulations, you have a 14-day 'cooling off period' after ordering where you've got a legal right to change your mind. You've then got a further 14 days to return the goods. Note, there doesn't need to be anything wrong with them to get 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'.
Buy from China - but with caution
Rock-bottom prices are available on sites such as AliExpress - eg, £1.73 striped T-shirts, 60p iPhone 6 cases and 22p women's belt.
But you'll need to keep your wits about you to avoid unexpected charges and poor quality goods. We've got how to buy safely, what it means for consumer rights and what to avoid in our 12 Buying From China Tips guide.
Search 30+ outlets for bargains without going out of town
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.
We've listed the Discount Outlets including big names such as Argos, Mothercare, Office and many more.
Buy MORE, pay LESS - the simple trick to get free delivery
Always check what you need to spend to get free delivery - if you're just below it, it can be cheaper to add an extra item than pay for delivery.
For example, we found a £49 John Lewis clutch bag, delivery £3.50, but instead added a £1 pack of erasers to be over the £50 free delivery threshold. Even better, with Amazon, there's a 'free delivery trick' tool to help.
Uncover hidden big-brand flash sales
If you're going to stick with brand loyalty and shop upmarket (bah, humbug) then we've a trick to slash costs.
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 like Valentino, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.
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.To get started, see the following pages:
Discount vouchers. Check out MSE's Discount Vouchers Codes page, where we compile the best discounts available.
We only list the very 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*. Make sure the deals are valid on the item you want and are open to all.
The hottest bargains. For a list of all the latest deals and steals have a gander at MSE's Hot Bargains page.
Online sales. See the MSE High Street Sales diary for a list of all new and ongoing sales that are happening online, plus delivery cost info.
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.
You can use the site 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 each offer's unique, Flubit claims many 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 sometimes there were savings to be made compared with the best price on Amazon, but in other cases Amazon came out on top:
Tefal Bistro five-piece Cookware Set. Flubit offered £28.76 delivered (listed as £35.95 on Amazon) – a £7.19 saving/20% discount.
Polaroid IF045 14 Megapixel Waterproof Camera. Flubit offered £59.99 delivered (listed as £69.99 on Amazon) – a £14 saving/20% discount.
- Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean Rechargeable Toothbrush. Flubit offered £28.26 delivered (listed as £29.78 on Amazon) – a saving of £1.52/5% discount.
Feedback from forumites suggest good deals are available but as Flubit's a middleman, some say sorting out any problems can be difficult. User alex21 said:
I have been really happy with my savings through Flubit. But beware if you have a problem with an item. Amazon cannot help you as you do not have an Amazon order number."
Flubit competes against Amazon (including Marketplace sellers, the outlet section and those orders fulfilled by Amazon) by undercutting its prices.
So to ensure you're getting the best price, always compare with other stores first to make sure that particular item listed on Amazon is the cheapest around. Then ask Flubit to negotiate a better price than the one listed on Amazon.
You'll have to log in or create an account, then enter the Amazon link to the item along with how many you want (max three). Then enter who and what it's for (eg, female, 25-29, present).
Flubit only lets you have a limited number of requests active at a time (this varies from user to user). It then creates an offer within 48 hours, which you need to accept or decline. Delivery's included in the offer price.
Flubit takes the money. You pay it via debit or credit card (most are accepted except for American Express) but it says your contract is directly with one of its merchants (you'll be given the details of the merchant before you buy). You can't buy downloads, tickets, travel services or second-hand items.
Also, bear in mind Amazon's prices tend to fluctuate based on supply and demand. If the price of the item falls on Amazon before Flubit makes you an offer, the offer is based on the original price supplied.
Once a demand comes through to Flubit, it sources the exact same item from its bank of thousands of retailers, negotiates a cheaper price and takes a cut as commission for playing the middleman. Flubit says it has access to wholesale prices and as the prices are unique per request, the retailer can be a little more flexible in the offers it makes.
Flubit says it works by taking a small percentage from the saving to the user, after the best price has been found.
While your contract is with the merchant, you pay Flubit via PayPal (or card) and it passes your cash to the retailer. One worry is that if Flubit were to go bust before it handed the money over to the retailer, there could be issues – you would have to go via PayPal's chargeback system (or Section 75 if paying by credit card) to reclaim your money.
Plus if you pay by credit card via PayPal, Section 75 protection won't apply, as technically you're not using the card to buy the goods or services, but to charge a PayPal account. So consider using this for smaller purchases under £100.
This is a very unusual concept, and we've little feedback on it as of yet. If you've used it, please let us know how you got on in the Flubit forum discussion thread.
Bag 5% off ALL your shopping for three months
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% after). There's no annual fee but the representative APR is 22.9%.
If your credit score ain't great, Aqua Reward* accepts some with older CCJs/defaults and pays 0.5% cashback on all spending. If you fail to fully repay though, it's a monstrous 34.9% representative APR.
For full help and best buys, see the Top Cashback Cards guide.
No code for the store you want? Check department stores' websites for multi-brand codes and sales
Don't just check for discount codes and sales with the store you want – 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). But then check the price of the branded item on a department store's site too, factoring in hot codes and sales (and make sure the brand you want is included in the offer). 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). We also found a tunic dress for £38 at Yumi, yet a Big Brand sale at House of Fraser meant you could get the same dress for £27.
Here's our top 10 list of stores which offer this kind of multi-brand discount – check the MSE pages below to see what codes are available and some of the brands:
- Asos – Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Ted Baker
- Tesco – Disney, Trespass, Yumi
- Debenhams – Converse, Levi's, Ted Baker
- House of Fraser – Coast, Hugo Boss, Hunter
- John Lewis – All Saints, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren
- M&M Direct – Asics, French Connection, Superdry
- Next – Faith, Havaianas, Karen Millen, Puma
- Office – Birkenstock, Dr Martens, New Balance, Toms
- Cloggs – Fit Flop, Hunter, UGG boots
- La Redoute – Adidas, Converse, Levi's, Nike
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Wait for bargains – particularly at Christmas
When it comes to online shopping, timing is often everything, and that's particularly the case in the run-up to Christmas.
We've been running the snazzy Christmas Deals Predictor for the past few years to help you plan for pre-Christmas sales.
Based on previous marketing calendars, it's a good way to guess when you can nab discounts from big retailers.
Of course, it's seasonal but if you're Christmas shopping then it's the ideal way to pick up a high street bargain. Check our tool, wait, then pounce when it's cheapest. Simple!
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.
It can mean a percentage discount code, or a straight discount off your first shop. Our top ongoing picks include:
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 their value (so £10 becomes £30).
They can then be used on a whole load of things like meals at Pizza Express and Cafe Rouge, Odeon cinema tickets and Goldsmiths jewellery. See the Boost Tesco Vouchers guide.
Spend on a credit card for extra protection
The Section 75 law means if you pay directly on a credit card (ie, not via PayPal, or with a debit card, cheque or cash) for even part of 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, if the goods cost over £100, the card company's 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. Only do this if you can clear the card IN FULL each month to avoid interest though.
Section 75 doesn't apply to purchases under £100, but there's still some protection 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, if you start the chargeback process within 120 days of realising there's a problem. See the Chargeback guide for full details.
You're not covered by Section 75 if you pay for goods using PayPal – see our Don't Use PayPal to Pay on a Credit Card guide for more info.
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.
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.
Get price drop alert emails with a nifty service
Want something that isn't already on sale? Price-drop alert site Love Sales allows you to add items from online retailers to your 'wish list' and name the price you're willing to pay, or ask for an alert when the price drops. It works at e-tailers including Asos, Amazon, Zara and John Lewis.
You need to register first, then when you're browsing a particular item from one retailer, you pop it on your list. After that, the wait is on for the price to fall and the email to land in your inbox.
When we tested Love Sales, 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 £29.95, target price £25, bought for £22.50 – a 25% saving.
How to do it
- Register with Love Sales
- When there's an item you want to buy for a lower price, add it to your list (there's a toolbar which makes it easier).
- Wait for alerts to land in your inbox.
- Then check out the Discount vouchers page to cut the cost further.
What to watch for
The price may have changed between when you were sent an email and when you click through to buy, so always double-check you're getting the best price.
While it's good to see your wish list from every retailer in one place, we have little feedback as yet. If you've this site, please let us know how you got on in the Online Shopping Tricks forum thread.
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.
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?
Checked if it's cheaper anywhere else?
If you aren't skint, ask
Will I use it?
Is it worth it?
Checked if it's 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 a 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 in advance how much you can afford to pay and whether you can afford any long-term payments.
Net 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%-55% off. See the NUS website for a full list and check the MSE Student MoneySaving forum discussion thread for more discounts and advice. Also see the Student MoneySaving Checklist.
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.
Armed Forces personnel. The Defence Privilege card is available to serving and reserve armed forces personnel, MoD civil servants, partners of those serving, bereaved family members and more. It costs £4.99, is valid for five years and gets discounts both in store and online. See the UK Armed Forces MoneySaving thread for more.
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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.
See the Cheap Travel Money guide on the best cards to get near-perfect exchange rates every time you use an overseas site.
What to watch for
There are a 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 duty totals less than £7 though, you won't have to pay anything.
Value added tax of 20% applies to commercial goods £15+ in value and on gifts £39+ 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.
Any customs duty or VAT is paid to Royal Mail/Parcelforce in advance of delivery and they pass it on to HMRC for you.
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 shopping in the UK. Check the HMRC site for full details.
Stay on top of the MSE forum's hottest bargains
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.
Whether you've a country or grape in mind or are just after a decent red or white – or champers – we've a way of helping you bag a bargain (though please be Drinkaware).
Check out 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.
Sniff out cheap 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.
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.
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. (Deliberately misleading you is criminal though and Trading Standards can investigate.)
If you spot a mis-priced mistake, you can try your luck. E-tailers will 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'll be charged full-price, so weigh up these factors before going for it.
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.
Boots often runs bonus points weekends giving, for example, 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.
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.
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.
There are three reasons you should use them as soon as you can:
Sometimes retailers go bust. A host of big-name retailers have gone into administration in recent years (including HMV, Comet and Jessops). When this happens, they stop accepting gift cards 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 'em. 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 leave them in your pocket.
How to avoid Amazon's delivery charges
You've now got to fork out £20 to qualify for free delivery on Amazon - but there's a way to get round this.
An Amazon Prime trial* (usually £79/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". See the Cheap Amazon guide for the full info.
Make sure you cancel before the month's up or you'll be automatically be charged £79/year. We've heard load of complaints from people who've been charged for Amazon Prime without knowing why. For more, see the Reclaim Unwanted Amazon Prime guide.
Another tip is to use the Super Saver Delivery tool to find items to hit the £20 free delivery mark. It only works for items from Amazon itself (not the Marketplace), and finds items between £1.49 and £6. See Amazon Buying Tips for more information.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing is perfect, and there are flaws in all of the methods below, but in general it helps if you follow these quick tips:
Look 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 online newspaper stories could 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 judgement call on whether you're willing to take the risk of parting with your cash.
Don't be overly scared by all this. Every day we all make transactions based on trust, and this is part of that.
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.
See former MSE Wendy's blog, I read the T&Cs and was pleasantly surprised, which highlights the importance of reading through the small print.
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.
Buy the cheapest Kindles, iPads 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.
E-readers The Cheap Kindles and e-book readers guide features a rundown of the cheapest electronic reading gadgets, plus lists where to get a stash of books for free..
iPads Top of the gadget wish list, 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.
Perfumes The Cheap Perfume guide shows the best deals currently available on big name fragrances, plus tips for finding the best value even when they're not on sale.
Haggle online via online chats & more shopping secrets
Spot a window offering a live chat with a help person? Don't dismiss it – you can haggle via online chat to reduce the price.
Our 15 Tricks Shops Don't Want You To Know guide features this and other insider tricks from the retail world to help you slice down the cost of clothes, electricals and much, much more.
Score £100 vouchers by playing credit card freebies
You can perform a legal smash and grab raid on credit card companies.
Freebies such as £100 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.
TWO BA Paris returns or a £100 gift card with Amex Preferred Rewards Gold* credit card. You get 20,000 Reward points when spending £2,000 in the first three months which can get two short BA return flights. There's a £140 annual fee from year two so diarise to cancel before then if you don't want to pay. Repay IN FULL every month to avoid paying 22.9% annual interest (57.6% rep APR incl fee).
'Free' £100 when you spend £2,000 on a Amex Nectar* card. It gives 20,000 Nectar points, worth up to £100 in the Nectar catalogue, when you're accepted and spend £2,000 in the first three months. (28.2% representative APR).
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.
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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Don't always assume it's cheaper online
Speaking to staff face-to-face in store allows you to add a bit more charm and chutzpah to your haggling, 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 expensive 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.
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.
Sites such as Girl Meets Dress* allow you to rent designer dresses, handbags, shoes, coats and accessories.
We found a Gorgeous Couture dress rents for £69 for two nights – the cheapest price we found to buy was £189.
When you sign up to Girl Meets Dress, you get £10 off your first hire.
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.
Mums-to-be can grab special baby 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!
Early Learning Centre's Birthday Club. Open to parents of kids aged one to five, its Big Birthday Club is free to join. Sign up online and you'll get 20% off your child's birthday gift.
- Bounty. New Bounty members get four free goody bags throughout their pregnancy, which include samples and money-off vouchers. Members also get access to lots of discounts, from maternity clothing to days out and holidays.
- 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.
Reclaim unwanted £79 Amazon Prime
Have you been hit by a £79 fee for unwittingly using Amazon Prime?
We've seen scores of complaints from confused shoppers whose accounts have been debited by Amazon without them knowing why. Our Reclaim Unwanted Amazon Prime guide shows how to get your £79 back.
Beware '£10 off next purchase with our online discount' promises
Some sites boost revenue by allowing membership clubs like Shopper Discounts (as it was then called) to push offers once you've bought stuff on their sites.
Services typically offer a discount or cash back on your next purchase but users are signed up to a monthly payment and some have complained the terms and cost are not clear.
Many have been caught out before, like forumite sweetie27: "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."
This was big news a few years ago and things have improved since then. However, it's still worth keeping your wits about you. Full help in: Sneaky Online Subscriptions.
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.
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 out 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.
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.
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 and few people are buying winter coats.
Buy at the right time and you could save yourself a small fortune. Also, many MoneySavers stock up on Christmas and Easter goods after the event and stash goods in their cupboards for the following year.
Land web prices on the high street
Many high-street retailers will price-match internet prices when pushed and some offer price-beater deals.
Compare prices to find the cheapest retailer. 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.
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 ring or visit a store.
PC World/Currys – matches the prices of major competitors up to seven days after a sale. Call 0344 561 0000 or ask in-store.
This involves a bit of thumb and legwork but can yield 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."