Paying full price for anything kind of sucks, especially when a better deal is just a click away. A few years ago I developed some stealth shopping strategies for finding deep discounts on everyday items like groceries, books, electronics, and clothing. I’ve even discovered ways to fly away with some cheap flights found online.

Finding deep discounts when online shopping or uncovering savings on in-store purchases is easy. The secret is to go online before going shopping and search out the savings with online coupons and promotional codes. Try any of these 8 stealth shopping tactics to uncover some big savings. Just don’t give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome with all your clever clicking.

1. Google for Online Coupons and Promotional Codes

Launching an online coupon search with Google is a surefire way to uncover promotional codes on everything from groceries to a weekend getaway. It only takes a few minutes to Google It and see if there are savings in store.

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Here’s how to Google It:

  1. Open a web brower and launch Google.
  2. Enter the desired retailer’s name and then “coupon code”.
  3. View several results to see if the online coupons or promotional codes are valid.
  4. Download your printable coupons or try your coupon codes in your online shopping cart.

You may have to try several coupon codes before finding one that works — but you’ll get lucky eventually, so be patient.

2. Sign Up for Email Alerts

Surf on over to your favorite product sites and sign up for preferred customer email alerts, Web Flyers, or Special Web Offers. By getting on a preferred customer email list you’ll get sent weekly (or monthy) coupons, deals, and discounts good for in-store or online shopping not offered in the store.

I’ve found discounts as high as 60% on clothing from Banana Republic, cosmetics from various drug stores, sports gear from Sierra Trading Post, groceries from Superstore, and on electronics by using Circuit City discount coupon codes. I often get emailed last minute flight deals from major American and Canadian airlines which saves me hundreds on flights home and on weekend getaways. Many companies like Procter and Gamble run promotions that offer email subscribers coupons worth hundreds of dollars, saving you money on everything from soap to Pampers.

Before signing up to a bunch of company email alert lists though, consider setting up an alternative email address to deal with the onslaught of advertisements. No one wants their main email account bombarded with special offers daily.

3. Visit Coupon Websites

Point your web browser to a savvy shopping coupon forum or a website that posts discounts and deals save anywhere from 10% to 70% off regular retail prices. I’ve even found free international shipping coupons by just visiting the right couponing website at the right time.

Sites like RetailMeNot and RedFlagDeals boast strong communities who post coupons and codes regularly to save you big bucks on purchases in many categories, including: travel, electronics, financial services, entertainment, apparel, automotive, home wares, and even school supplies. These sites are amazing places to find both in-store deals and online shopping discounts.

4. Search Online Sales Flyers

Some stores call them “Sales Circulars” while others call them “Store Flyers”, but whatever they’re called in your area, searching your grocery store’s online weekly specials listed in a flyer is a good way to save some dough on bread, biscuits, and baby food. Just visit your preferred grocery store online to preview all weekly sales, online coupons, and special offers to cash in on the savings before cashing out at the till. If you’re Canadian, checking out the Real Canadian Superstore Flyer weekly can save you on everything from gasoline to camping gear. I’ve saved hundreds just by planning ahead and seeking out the door crashing deals.

Many big box and speciality stores like Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Lowes, Macy’s, Kmart, Kohls, Home Depot, and Canadian Tire also advertise their weekly flyers online. Check out the store’s website and find a link that says something like, “local sale flyer” and enter your Zip or Postal Code to find deals targeting your area. You may just find secret printable coupons available only to those searching the flyers online.

5. Surf Store and Mall Websites

If you’re planning to visit a particular store or mall then why not visit their website first – they may just have a few printable coupons available to entice you to visit their stores. I’ve found special offers for clothing online at H&M’s website and figured it was worth the $35 Dollar Off Coupon to shop in their store. Many of the big brand name clothing, footwear, and electronics stores post deals and coupons online to get you off the internet and into their stores. If you’re in the market for a particular item, then finding some savings online first is a sweet deal.

6. Skip Shipping Costs!

If you’ve ever gone online shopping and been dinged with shipping charges, then you know the costs of delivery can eat into your deal. Rather then pay for parcel delivery, always look for a free shipping option when buying from an online store. Getting your items shipped for free could save you tens of dollars or a percentage off the total price on your order — so it pays to shop for shipping deals. Many online retailers offer free shipping when you buy up to a specified dollar amount in merchandise.

Another creative method for saving on shipping is to order online from a store that also has a brick-and-mortar storefront and opt for in-store pickup for free. Not only will you qualify for web-only discounts not offered in the store but you can get your merchandise much faster but picking it up in person.

7. Dial Into Savings with Your Cell Phone

A sneaky way to grab an online deal while shopping in a store is to search for a coupon using your cell phone web browser. A friend of mine used this method to save $50 off the price of a DVD player by visiting the store in-person to check out the merchandise and then ordered this player using his cell phone with coupon. While online he selected the option to pick up his purchase in person and waited only a few minutes to pick up his package. Not a bad return on only 10 minutes of cell phone air time.

8. Subscribe to Retailers via Twitter

Update: A big thank you to “JMT” who counted up my points and noted I missed one. 😀 So to be fair and give you as much bang for your coupon saving buck, I’ll add an excellent Twitter tip from the comments!

Blogger and brilliant commenter Riscario Insider says,

I read that subscribing to retailers via Twitter can yield savings too, similar to email alerts. How do you deal with the noise in your Twitterstream? Maybe a separate Twitter account is the elegant answer.

Now there’s an eighth way to get stealth and find those wicked coupons. 😉

Over the years I’ve used all of these stealth shopping tactics to uncover big online coupons and savings. Got any other methods that have saved you some cash?