Tip #1: Google an item before buying. Sometimes the deal isn't as good as it seems. Often the merchandise on offer is from a past season, so it could be found cheaper elsewhere. A quick run through a search engine can also turn up helpful reviews and additional photos and angles.
Tip #2: Filter by size, color or stye. In other words, don't waste time browsing items that are available only in sizes 0 and 16 if you're a 6.
Tip #3: Start from the bottom up. Since most people scroll from the top down, there will be fewer people fighting for the items down below.
Tip # 4: Add to cart (even if you're unsure). If you snooze, you'll lose that DVF blazer. Put an item in your basket, then do the pondering. You usually have 15 minutes to make a final decision. (Word of caution: On some sites, the item isn't yours until you've checked out-it can be snatched away by another customer.) Even after purchasing, you may not be locked in. Many sites have an hour-long grace period for you to change you mind.
Tip #5: Use the wait list. The retailer will sometimes go back to the manufacturer and ask for more merchandise.
Tip # 6: Return policy 101. Check if the item is marked "final sale" and nonreturnable. And even if your purchase is not final sale, find out if you'll be able to get your money back or be stuck with a merchandise credit. Also, keep in mind that if return shipping isn't free, you could be out $20 for round trip shipping. If you buy something that's final sale and end up not wanting it, contact the retail site anyway. The company may take it back to keep you happy, especially if it's for a reason that involved the retailer, like misleading color or description.
Tip # 7: Let others do the work for you. If you have your eye on a pricey sweater but it's not in the budget, sign up for Hukkster.com. This site alerts you when the brand, style, size and color that you like goes on sale. If you want to cast a wider net say, "black booties under $100," check out ShopItToMe.com/Threads, which serves up a customized list of what you're looking for that's currently marked down.
Tip # 8: Stop wasting time on bunk coupon codes. Many coupon sites don't remove old discounts from the mix, so the web is littered with expired offers. ZenDeals.com verifies all codes on a daily basis, so you'll know that what you find there is legit.
Tip #9: Play hard to get. Put an item in your basket... then leave the site. You may get a follow-up email offering a discount or free shipping.
Tip #10: Change your web browser. Sites that recognize you may quote you a higher price based on your spending history or zip code (seriously). You can sometimes get around this by clearing your cookies or opening a new browser.
Remember: Factor in shipping. High shipping costs can spoil what seems to be a bargain. Typically, shipping runs about $10 but it could be more.