The ease of purchasing and the access to greater discounts has often been credited for the monumental rise of online shopping. We all know that the more time you spend looking for a cheaper deal for your desired product, the more likely it is that you'll be successful in securing a discount of some description.
Here are two of the most common methods of saving money when buying online, and how they measure up to one another.
1. Discount codes
Many people won't hit ‘checkout' without first heading to Google and putting the name of the company they're about to purchase from and ‘discount codes' into the search bar. Typically, discount codes can bring mixed results. If you've bought from the company before, you may well have one to hand. If not, prepare to invest a considerable amount of time scouring forums and websites hunting for codes that, invariably, have already expired.
Discount available: Typically up to 25% or more if you're lucky.The catch: Difficult to find, time consuming, and generally along the lines of ‘Spend a small fortune and get 5% off. 'Verdict: Brilliant if you already have the code to hand.
2. Group buying sites
Made popular by the infamous Groupon and many others of its ilk, these typically offer outrageously good ‘Daily deals', which will allow you to purchase anything from lawn mowers to beauty treatments, gadgets or hotel rooms. They work by convincing sellers to sell their products for less - often at a loss - with the promise that repeat business will bring rewards. These are perfect for cheap last minute getaways when you're budgeting, and if you're lucky enough to find a product you've been after for some time. However, it is only on very rare occasions that you can go onto these sites and find a specific product you've been looking for.
Discount available: Extremely large; on occasions in excess of 50%.The catch: Limited to offers they've already sourced, and the subject of some controversy over consumer regulations as sellers seek to recoup costs by providing sub-par service.Verdict: Good - though you may end up spending money on things you didn't really need or want beforehand!
3. Personal discount sites
A new model, one of the leading examples of this is Flubit.com, who create bespoke offers for their users. If you are ever wondering whether there was a guaranteed way of saving money, this is it. Just find a product online, copy and paste the URL into their site, and they will get back to you within 48 hours with a personal offer that is typically between 10-15% cheaper than the best offer you've found. Flubit.com is just what the money doctor ordered in these penny-pinching times.
Discount available: Typically 10-15%The catch: Offers can take a little while to process, so this might not work if you need something in a hurry.Verdict: We know where we'll be doing all of our online shopping from now on...
Obviously using a combination of methods is probably the best method of saving you a few pounds when shopping online. Discount codes can be a lifesaver if they're available and daily deals sites are almost certainly unbeatable in terms of value for money if there is something you want. With this advice, you'll never be paying full price again!