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16 Hacks To Make You A Master Online Shopper

List RulesVote up the tips that have worked for you.

Whether it's getting a jumpstart on holiday gift-buying or just doing the weekly grocery shopping, picking up a hard-to-find item or purchasing a bulk supply of a household staple, everyone loves to save money online. And as this list of internet shopping tips illustrates, the virtual world is full of secret discounts, untapped bargains, and little-used strategies for saving a buck wherever possible. The best part is that these pointers require surprisingly little in the way of effort.

Just as with bargain shopping in the real world, smart online shopping means knowing where to look. Retailers aren't going to spell out all the ways you can keep your money. But at the same time, unlocking the secrets of online discounts and deals is no mystery. Shoppers just need to be pointed in the right direction.

Consider this list your compass.

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    Take A Breather Before Hitting 'Buy'

    It is astonishingly easy to spend hundreds of dollars online in a single go; research even suggests we end up spending twice as much as we intend when shopping online. And the internet seems to specialize in impulse buys - those things we logically know we don't need but still somehow want.

    The best advice before making a big purchase is to take a step back. Go for a walk, get some air, do a bit of yoga... whatever it takes to clear your head. Change the scene for a while, then go back to see if you really do need what's in your shopping cart. You'll likely save some money this way.

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    Leave An Item In Your Cart

    Not entirely sure if you want to purchase an item in your cart? This might seem counterintuitive, but just leave it there and wait a while. Within a couple of days, the retailer may offer you a discount code for the item.

    It doesn't always work, but it's worth a shot - especially if it's an expensive product or something you're truly on the fence about purchasing.

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    Check For Coupons

    In the same way you would clip coupons and use them in your favorite brick-and-mortar stores, clip virtual coupons for online retailers. The internet is brimming with coupon storehouses - sites that collect thousands of virtual coupons and discount codes to be used online.

    RetailMeNot and Coupons.com are two of the biggest. Also, check the specific sites of your favorite retailers for coupons or discount codes.

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    Do A Little Homework When Buying From Unfamiliar Retailers

    If you're not familiar with a certain store, or you're purchasing directly from a manufacturer that's new to you, do a little homework first. You don't want to give a possibly shady organization your credit card information.

    Here are two helpful steps to take: First, make sure the online checkout is encrypted with security protocol (SSL). If the site is secure, a closed padlock or key icon will appear in the address bar, and the URL will start with "https" instead of "http." Second, visit the site's contact page to see if an address and phone number are listed. Always call before buying if you're uncomfortable.