The way we shop now: via virtual window browsing, electronic payments, and clicks of a button. Which is great for making things easier, but it also means you may become less discerning about your purchases. Avoid settling for the quick fix when you’re spending online—with a bit of research, you might find yourself saving more than you thought possible. Of course, half the struggle of attempting to be frugal online is being overwhelmed by discount search engines or slightly sketch third-party websites. Lucky for you, we’ve done the work for you, and have rounded up the best websites and online tools to keep you money smart.
A word of warning: just because a site offers great discounts, it doesn’t mean you have to cash in on it. When you find amazing things for cheap, it’s often tempting to purchase them simply because of the deal. Before you spend, think about whether you’d actually be buying the item in the first place. The rule of the game is to sub in these options for times you’d ordinarily spend full price. So without further ado … The Frisky’s favorite web spots for shopping, planning a vacations, redecorating, and even partying. Check them out after the jump!
Style and Fashion
- When in the market for something vaguely specific, we hit up ShopStyle‘s sale section. The super-easy search engine combs tons of e-commerce websites, so all you have to do is type in “bikini” or “floral prints” to find discounted items. Better yet, use the price range tool to whittle down your search.
- Not everyone is into the rent-a-bag phenomenon, but when it comes to high-fashion or couture dresses, a website like Rent The Runway can come in hand. If you have a big event coming up, skip dropping $300 dollars on a dress you won’t get much wear out of. Bonus: they send you two different sizes to ensure fit.
- Before checking out on your online purchase, consult Gretchen’s Codes to see if there are any special discount codes you’re missing out on. Depending on the day, you might find deals at big outlets, like a 30 percent discount at Banana Republic, but also perks on niche items like Ananas bags or LnA tees.
- Subscribe to DailyCandy‘s Deals, which offers markdowns on indie designers and sites at which you wouldn’t ordinarily find discounts. There’s also DailyCandy’s relatively new sister site, Swirl, which hosts sample sales of coveted labels like Loeffler Randall or Earnest Sewn.
- If you’re a frequent shopper of a particular chain store (The Gap, for example), find out if they have an iPhone app, which may offer exclusive discounts.
- We’re all about the online sample sale craze. Use SheFinds to consult an organized calender of the best private sales, plus check out their Sales and Deals section to get updates on good offers around the web.
Food and Lifestyle
- iPhone user? Check out Foursquare, a mobile check-in app that’s mainly about finding your friends to party. But, brands and businesses have also teamed up with the service to offer its users discounts. You may get things like a free beer at your local bar, or a cheaper cup of Starbucks.
- Hey, New Yorkers: Check out Zagat’s House Specials section for occasional resto perks. There’s also newcomer Village Vines, which is a members-only service meant for people who dine out, like, a lot. It’s a bit tricky, however, as you have to pay $10 to secure your restaurant deal, but you can then get 30 percent off your bill at certain venues.
- Drink for free. My Open Bar is exactly what it sounds like: a site that finds you places to get soused without reaching for your wallet.
- The way we grocery shop now: the Grocery iQ app allows you to take a picture of a product’s bar code, and you’re able to see if there are any applicable coupons.
- Find the cheapest gas in your area by consulting GasBuddy.
- For local deals galore, check out 8coupons. You never know when your Quizno’s sandwich might just be a dollar or two less.
- Under 26? Guess what—you’re still eligible for those kickin’ student fares on STA Travel. And nope, you don’t have to be a student. Just gotta be young.
- If you’re going on vacation but want something a step above the Budget Inn, check out Splendia, which offers gently priced rates on design and boutique hotels. There’s also Tablet Hotels, which searches similar accommodations, and also offers a private sale feature to members. Also in the private sale travel business: Jetsetter, the members-only site brought to you by the folks at Gilt.
- Online travel mag Jauntsetter brings you under-the-radar sales on airfares, hotels, vacation rentals, and hotel packages.
- Surprise! You can afford to fly business class. OpenSkies is an “all business airline” offering non-exorbitant prices on airfare. From time to time, these tickets are even equal to coach.
Culture and Entertainment
- Before making your iTunes purchase, check eBay’s Digital Music Center. Songs are 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29.
- If you’re in need of a quick fix to satisfy a reading craving, iPhone users can check out the free Audiobooks app, or Stanza, an app that lets you read books on your iPhone or iPad (if you can stand to do that), also free.
- You didn’t hear this from us: avoid movie rental charges by seeing if your flick is on Movies-Links.tv. Ahem, it’s not the most legal of websites, but you can often find high-quality versions of films there.
- Find free events in your area like festivals and concerts by browsing the Recession Busters section on Going.com, or searching the free category of Flavorpill‘s event listings.
- A members-only sample sale website for all things home, One Kings Lane offers deals on super classy decor brands.
- Did you know that Crate and Barrel has an online outlet store? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.
- There’s always Overstock for high-quality basics in furniture, sheets, and towels.
- Like the world’s biggest tag sale, we’ll forever browse Craigslist for folks selling off their random goods. You never know what gems you’ll find in there (a Chanel car, anyone?), and there’s always a moving sale or two to hit up.
The Money section and all articles within it are sponsored by Free Credit Score; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.