July 21st, 2015
Clipping coupons can save a lot of money, but it can also waste a lot of time. You don’t have to join the ranks of extremecouponersto ensure you get a great deal. With a few tips and tools, you can automate those discounts and save yourself money without any of the work.
I don’t like paying full price for anything. If I can’t get some sort of discount, or offset the cost by selling at the right time for the most money, I’ll usually wait for the right opportunity. But I have more important things to do than scour the web for deals all day long, so I let software do the work for me. In this post, we’ll go over a few simple methods that will keep you aware of only the discounts you care about so you can make your purchases at the right time for the best price.
Sometimes you come across a product you love but don’t have the money to buy, or would simply prefer to pay less. Wishlists help you remember these products so you can come back and buy them later when your situation changes. That said, you’re only making a list. Price alerts make for a better, more functional alternative.
Setting up price alerts doesn’t take much work. Price-tracking site CamelCamelCamel is a great place to start. It can monitor Amazon, Best Buy, and Newegg (click the links to visit their respective CamelCamelCamel sites). Simply create an account and enter in any products you want to track. Doing so will essentially create a tracked wish list and you will receive alerts by email and/or text message (your choice) when any product drops below your specified price threshold. To make life even easier, you can install a browser extension called The Camelizer(Chrome/Firefox) and add products directly from their product pages. If CamelCamelCamel tracks the retailer, you’ll see a little camel pop up on the right side of your address bar. Just click it to start tracking.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes you’ll miss a better price because you don’t know about a store or you just forgot to check. To avoid this problem, you just need to install one of our favorite browser extensions (available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari):Invisible Hand. Whenever you’re shopping, invisible hand will check its database to try and find a lower price. Whether you’ve got the best one or there’s a better option available, it’ll let you know through a bar at the top the web page. It even works with flight search. You don’t have to do anything other than look at it when it shows up.
When you need to make a purchase sooner than later, you can still get a discount. Several sites exist that allow you to look up coupons and discount codes to save on almost anything you can buy online, butCouponFollow can add their database into your (Chrome or Firefox) web browser with an extension called Coupons at Checkout. Rather than going to their site, you can simply click on the coupon field while you’re checking out at most online retailers and you’ll see a list of discount codes automatically. This way you can find one that works without expending the effort. Larger retailers that carry many kinds of items (like Amazon) may have many coupons that do not relate to your purchase, so the system isn’t ideal. Still, you only have to go through a list and test a few to find a working code. Another amazing Chrome extension called Honey will test out and apply the best code for you, saving you every last bit of coupon effort. While it supports a slightly smaller number of retailers and doesn’t work on Firefox, if you don’t care about either of those things it’s a better option. Either way, employ one of these extensions and you won’t miss a deal you might otherwise forget or not bother to look up.
Numerous discounts you’ll actually want won’t show up through clever tools or alerts, so you’ll need to pay attention to newsletters. To avoid scanning every one of them all day long, you can simply create a unique Gmail account to receive them all and forward on the ones that match what you’re looking for. Just follow these steps to set up your custom discount monitoring system:
- Sign up for a unique Gmail accountthat’ll receive all your newsletters (e.g. CouponsForPrudie@gmail.com).
- Sign up for as many newsletters as you want, but sign up for the plain text version (meaning no HTML).
- Create filters in Gmail that look for specific terms in the newsletters, like “240GB SSD,” “XBOX 360,” or whatever it is that you want to watch out for. For the filter action, tell it to forward to your primary email account so you only get a newsletter when a relevant discount shows up.
If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can use a similar tool called MyDealNews. Because DealNews posts tons of deals every day, they can watch for the ones you want about and send them to you when found. The downside is that DealNews, and other deal sites with similar alert tools, may not watch every newsletter you want to watch. Of course, these tools offer more convenience.
Just like you can create price alerts and instant coupon notifications through your browser, you can get similar functionality for the shopping lists on your smartphone (although most relate to groceries). If you have an iPhone,Pushpins can find coupons based on the items in your shopping list. In fact, it found coupons at my local Vons store that the official Vons app couldn’t. Grocery iQ offers a similar experience on both Android and iPhone (and we have a guide about all of its neat features). Zipongo does, too, but focuses on healthy eating. The InvisibleHand app for iPhoneallows you to save and watch prices on more than just groceries, but unfortunately there is no Android version currently available. Generally speaking you’ll find deals more easily through your browser, but having a few mobile options doesn’t hurt.
Keep a Shopping App Folder for Local Stores on Your Smartphone
No coupon tool covers every single discount, even if you create it yourself. Sometimes retail stores offer local discounts that you just won’t find online—or at least not as easily as national offers. While you don’t want to check for local coupons every time you’re shopping, you’ll want to have shopping apps available for when you’re actually at the store. Sure, they’ll have coupon pages printed and available at the entrance in most cases, but when you have the app on your phone you can carry around those discounts on your phone. For example, Target makes this very easy by knowing your location and helping you find your preferred store. After making a selection, the app will provide coupons specific to the store you’re shopping at. Other store apps may do this as well, or at least provide easy access to standard offers without the need to go searching for them online.
Don’t Go Crazy
Automating your discounts can save a lot of time and money, but the point is to avoid sacrificing your sanity in the process. Getting the best price shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when making a purchase. Even with automation, you can make yourself nuts by trying to always buy at the exact perfect time. Sometimes you don’t have to get a deal and can afford to pay full price for something you really want (or need to acquire sooner than later, such as a birthday gift)because you regularly save so much. If you look at auto-couponing as something that provides you with that freedom, you’ll never feel overwhelmed by your own frugality. [via lifehacker]