I’ve refined my online shopping habits over the years, and I now think I have a darn good system. Here is what I use:
I almost always start at Amazon.com – they typically have excellent prices and a wide selection. Their Marketplace feature, where individuals can list new and used versions of the item that Amazon sells alongside Amazon’s own listing, often let’s me find a less expensive version of the item I’m buying. Note, however, that Amazon’s outstanding “Free Shipping on Orders Over $25″ typically does not apply to the Marketplace listings, so be sure to compare the item+$0 shipping for the Amazon version with the item+$? shipping for the Marketplace version.
Next I do a quick search of Google Products to see if someone else has it for less. Given that Amazon is so reliably excellent, I’ll only take my business elsewhere if I can save significantly.
If Amazon has a decent price (including shipping), my process is over – I complete my purchase (there is no need to use the steps below for an Amazon purchase, as Amazon never offers coupons or rebates – they just give you the best price upfront). If I’m buying from another site, I’ve got a couple extra steps…
First I visit RetailMeNot.com to see if there is a money-saving coupon code available – this is by far the best coupon code site, as it clearly shows you how reliable each coupon is before you try it on the retailer’s site. If you find a coupon that works well for you, be sure to click the green checkmark under “Did This Coupon Work For You?” so subsequent RetailMeNot.com users know to try that code!
Finally, if I can’t find a coupon, I’ll check Ebates.com – this site offers rebates at an incredible variety of online stores. To use it, simply find the offer on Ebates you’d like to use, then click through to the retailer’s site, then complete your purchase. Within a few days, Ebates will tell you that you’ve got a rebate headed your way! Note that you have to establish an account with Ebates before you can earn rebates – this process is very quick and painless.
That’s it! I’ve found this technique to give me the ideal combination of minimizing time spent shopping and maximizing my savings. I used to spend way more time shopping many many sites, using multiple price-comparison tools, searching all over for coupon codes, etc. Now I use the sites above for quick shopping and great prices.