Code Red (and Green): Don’t forget to check for promo codes before you buy

Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A quick reminder during this holiday season: It’s worth taking a moment to look for online discounts before you hit the “Submit” button on purchases.I’ve written about this before, but sometimes I forget my own advice. Last night I was ordering a Christmas gift from a website that was new to me. It was such a small, specialized site - focusing primarily on rubber stamps - that I ignored my usual rule of thumb: checking the shopper’s best friend, www.retailmenot.com, for discounts. Luckily, the payment screen provided a reminder, via these magic words: “Enter promo code.” So I went to retailmenot. Sure enough, Simply Stamps was among the thousands of companies it monitors, and there were discounts to be had. Before I could access them, though, Simply Stamps launched a counterpunch - its own pop-up ad. If I signed up on the spot for its mailing list, they’d send me a discount for this very purchase.I entered my info, and moments later I had a code good for 10 percent off.I didn’t bite, though. Retailmenot.com had listed three codes, for 5, 10 and 20 percent off. I am no fool, so I clicked on the information about the 20 percent discount and entered the resulting code in the appropriate box on Simply Stamps’ payment page. It worked.There are a couple of takeaway lessons here. First, don’t be shy about signing up for mailing lists, since they often produce discounts (the retailer will get your email address after you order anyway, so you’re not protecting your information). Second, always check a coupon aggregator site like retailmenot.com before shopping - and sort through the various options to find the best discount for each store.

Retailmenot, by the way, doesn't just deal in online retailers. It also lists discounts for national chain stores and restaurants.