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Five things you should always do when shopping online

piggybank_360.pngBuying things online can save time, money and the headache of dealing with crowds at the store. We talked about ways to save more money when shopping online in a post earlier this month. Before you get click-happy on your next virtual shopping trip though, make sure you’ve taken some time to explore all of your options.

Retailers, by their very nature, want to part you from your hard-earned money. They’re especially good at it online. It pays to shop around and to avoid getting drawn in with add-ons and suggested products.

Here are five things you should always do before you fill up that online shopping cart:

#1: Make a list

It’s easier to stick to your budget when you shop with a list at the store, so make sure you’re doing the same when you hop on to your favorite retailer’s website. It’s just too easy to buy more than planned when the retailer is recommending items you should buy together (thanks,, or extending an online-only discount that expires soon. Make a list of must-haves and prioritize your purchases so you aren’t spending more than planned.

#2: Check out social media happenings

If you’re shopping at a major retailer or brand site, don’t forget to check out the company’s Facebook feed and Twitter stream for coupons or special offers. Some companies post flash sales and exclusive discounts on social media sites that could help you save money on that next purchase. Signing up for an e-newsletter or text message alerts could also help you snag an instant coupon for that next purchase.

#3: Do your research

It might seem like a great deal as you scroll through the sales page and read ratings and reviews from fellow shoppers but it pays to shop around. Use shopping apps like RedLaser to do a quick price check on that must-have item. An extension for the Chrome browser called Invisible Hand will automatically check prices for an item you’re going to buy and will tell you if there’s a better deal elsewhere. Another Chrome extension, Coupons at Checkout automatically searches the web to display the latest coupon codes for thousands of ecommerce sites.

#4: Check out in-store deals

Even though online shopaholics will swear they always get a better deal online, there may be some situations where heading to the brick-and-mortar store will be a better move. Some stores will honor manufacturer rebates, competitor coupons (even online coupons in some cases) for your in-store purchases. If you’re buying a higher-priced item, this can make a big difference.

#5: Pay with the right credit card.

If you’ve mastered plastic (as opposed to having plastic master you), choose the right credit card to max out your points or cash back rewards for your purchase. If you have a store credit card, that’s probably the best bet. If you don’t have a store credit card, use the one that will help you earn some type of reward for online purchases. Ensure you pay off that balance in full before the billing cycle ends so you don’t end up paying a premium the deal.

Recently, we took a look at five credit cards that offer great perks.

When in doubt, the smartphone app Wallaby can help you hone in on the right card to use.

What are some of your best online shopping strategies? Let us know in the comments below.