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11 Tricks for Saving Money While Shopping Online

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More people than ever are shopping online, but many of them are missing out on easy savings opportunities like free shipping, digital coupons, and price-drop refunds. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.

1. SEARCH FOR COUPONS 

Finding coupons doesn’t have to be a tedious, site-by-site search. Websites like RetailMeNot, CouponCraze and others compile thousands of coupons that are searchable by retailer.

2. USE PRICE-COMPARISON TECHNOLOGY 

Even if you only do a small amount of online shopping, you should use a browser add-on like PriceBlink or Honey. These apps will automatically scan the web while you shop and offer comparison pricing on any item you’re viewing. When you’re not shopping, the apps stay hidden.

3. SIGN UP FOR NEWSLETTERS

Seems obvious, but this is something a lot of shoppers avoid for fear of cluttering up their inboxes. Thankfully, email apps like Unroll.me can streamline all of your subscriptions into one daily digest. You can also create an email address solely for retail newsletters, then search within that account whenever you’re buying from a particular merchant. Companies will often send you a discount (we’ve seen up to 30 percent off) just for signing up.

4. PICK THE RIGHT DAY

Prices change throughout the week, meaning some days are better than others to buy certain goods. Tuesday afternoon is the best time of the week to buy airfare, for instance, since that’s when the airlines roll out their weekly fares. Thursday is reportedly a killer day for deals at retailers like Macy’s, PetSmart, and American Eagle. For those partial to Gap, shopping on a Tuesday could net you up to 40 percent off your online order.

5. “LIKE” YOUR TOP RETAILERS

Companies like Gap, Target, and Banana Republic often post special discounts on their Facebook pages. So make sure to give them a “like” and follow along with daily and weekly specials.

6. DON’T CHECK OUT RIGHT AWAY 

A little patience can go a long way when shopping online. If you’re not in a rush to buy something (and it’s not in danger of selling out), try putting it in your cart, then walking away. You can track items over time to see if they go on sale. If you’re a registered user and stay logged into the site, you might even get a coupon to entice you to buy.

7. CHAT WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE

Customer service reps are often able to dole out special discounts and promo codes. They won’t just give these to you, though. You’ll need to play the inquisitive customer—and be nice, of course. In some instances, reps are even able to renew expired coupons.

8. LOOK FOR PRICE-DROP REFUNDS

Have you ever bought something online only to find out the price dropped the very next day? Well, some merchants will issue a price-drop refund if you contact them within a few days. Tracking apps like Camelcamelcamel will help you keep an eye on prices after buying.

9.  STEER AROUND DYNAMIC PRICING 

Here’s a dirty little secret of online retailing: Companies will often upsell you based on your past purchases, location, browser history and other factors—airlines and discount travel services are big perpetrators of this. To get around this data mining, clear your browser history, log out of your email and social media accounts, and switch to “incognito” mode on your browser before you shop.

10. USE COUPONS STRATEGICALLY

Some companies will let you “stack” multiple coupons for a single purchase. To save the maximum amount, make sure to use percent-off coupons before using dollars-off coupons. Use that 20 percent-off coupon, for instance, before you input the $10-off coupon so you’re taking a percentage off the full price.

11. COMPARE IN-STORE VS. ONLINE PRICES 

Even with all the promo codes and digital coupons out there, online shopping isn’t always the cheapest option. If you’ve got retailers in your area, check in-store prices using apps like ShopAdvisor, or by calling up the store. You might find discounts available only on shelves—and it never hurts to get out every once in a while, right?

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ATM Fees Reach a New Record High
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You have good reason to flinch every time you withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM. The cash machine operator and the bank each hit you with a separate fee for these withdrawals, and both types set record highs this year, according to a new Bankrate survey.

In Phoenix and Atlanta, grabbing cash from an out-of-network ATM will set you back more than $5. But even the cheapest metro area isn’t actually much less expensive: In San Francisco, the average fees are now $3.90. “The national average is $4.57, which means stopping at an out-of-network ATM for $20 will cost nearly 23 percent in fees,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior vice president and chief financial analyst.

To skirt the fees, stay in network. Virtually any bank will let you withdraw money from its own ATMs, of course. But if you want easy, low-cost access to more cash machines, ask your bank if they participate in a larger ATM network. Some do, to provide their customers with more widespread access.

While ATM fees climbed higher in 2016, one type of bank fee actually broke its 17-year streak of increases: overdraft fees. The average is now $33.07 (yikes!), but that's 0.1 percent below last year’s average. It’s probably too soon to celebrate the downward trend, says McBride. Overdraft fee increases still outnumbered decreases by 5 to 1 in the national survey.

McBride’s best advice for avoiding the hefty penalty? “Sign up for email and text alerts that let you know when your balance is getting low, so you can proactively move money into the account,” he says. “And keep tabs on your available account balance through online and mobile banking—particularly before initiating transactions.”

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Which State Has the Most Millennials Still Living at Home?
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Escaping your parents’ home doesn’t seem to have quite the same urgency it once did. According to Time, recent Census data indicates that a substantial number of Millennials—typically considered to be those 18 to 34 years of age—are choosing to remain in their childhood residences, with one state in particular crowding out the rest.

The winner? New Jersey, which has just under 47 percent of that demographic living at home. Eastern state neighbors New York and Connecticut each have roughly 40 percent choosing to stay in the nest, a significant spike from the national average of around 33 percent. That’s up from 23 percent in 2000. (The state with the lowest percentage of Millennials rooming with their 'rents? North Dakota, with just 14.1 percent.)

It can be difficult to extrapolate why some states have more clingy kids than others. The price of real estate might be one explanation (rent is much more expensive in New Jersey and New York than it is out West); the trend of Millennials getting married later in life might be another. Without the need for their own mortgage, utility bills, and consumer spending, it’s possible that the homebodies may even be contributing to an economic downturn.

Then again, who can resist free laundry? “There’s the comfort of someone to help you out at all times,” college student Irsia Khan told USAToday.com in June 2016. “Having your meals ready and your laundry done for you takes the load off on the rest of the things you go through in college.”

[h/t Time]

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