Well, the early shopping numbers are in and while most brick-and-mortar retailers have had a tough time this year, online shopping sales have soared. U.S. Black Friday sales topped $3 billion during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, $1.93 billion on Black Friday alone — a 39% increase over last year.

I’ve talked about various online shopping tactics in a previous post, that you can use to make the most of your holiday shopping. But one that’s often missed is the email alert. I’ll show you some of the free online tools, of which I use, and methods that can help you keep track of your money, spend less of it and ultimately spend less time searching — by having it all delivered to your inbox.

Good old-fashioned email alerts

Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ve received some type of email offers about an upcoming promotion. Emails like that can get quite annoying when they’re not what you’re looking for. But there are many tools to manage and direct the right stuff into your inbox.

Google Alerts

When it comes to combing the web for info, no one does it better than Google. Businesses have turned to Google Alerts to help monitor their brand’s online activity and influence (as well as their competitors). Google Alerts sends out emails to notify you whenever your company name or your tailored set of keywords is mentioned. But many don’t realize its full savings potential.

Google alerts can also be a great tool to monitor any new promo codes for sites you frequent. As a graphic designer, I’m frequently sourcing images through iStock or Dreamstime. So I’ve set up an alert to notify me by email every time the words “iStock” AND “code” appear in the search results.

Another hidden Google Alerts gem is that it can also be customized to notify you of price drops. So let’s say you’re searching for the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, you can set an alert for the keywords “Samsung Galaxy S4 $1..$500”. That gives Google a price range between $1 and $400 to look for. If the price drops to $400, you’re sent an email. Just remember to include the two dots between the numbers.

Unfortunately, since Google has last updated the tool, it’s been a hit-and-miss. Other alternatives such as Talkwalker, have popped up — and I must say, it does a pretty good job.

If this, then that

If you haven’t used IFTTT (If This, Then That) before, it’s worth a look. You can schedule tweets to be posted on Facebook, StumbleUpon a blog post as soon as it’s published, or have your new RSS feeds bookmarked on Delicious. And vice versa. And a multitude of possibilities that allow you to use one event to trigger another.

One of my favourite uses of IFTTT is to monitor stock prices. Because I sometimes don’t check stock prices as often as I should, I set up IFTTT recipe to email me reminders when they get to a certain levels. It’s less hassle than me having to log into my account to see where I’m at.

Now, whenever I buy anything, I have a target sale price and sell price in my head. So you can set IFTTT to send you an email whenever $10 stock XYZ reaches $20 per share and another one, if it were to fall below $12 per share. And you can set this to send you the email ‘as it happens’. I usually set the email triggers slightly off my targets, so I’m notified well in advance, in case I need to react. I realize people have stock widgets installed and you can place stop orders and stop losses on your stocks as well, but not every discount broker I’ve been with, allows you to do that, and I can’t remember the last time I even looked at my stock widget.

Another great use of IFTTT is to use it to monitor deal blogs and websites. For example, I have one IFTTT recipe set up to scour the smartcanucks.ca RSS feed and search for keywords “free samples” or “brandsampler” (which happens to be a free sample site for users of P&G products). Instead of scouring the whole website day-to-day, I let IFTTT do all the work and scan the RSS feeds for me.

Looking to make some extra money this year? How about a raise? You can set IFTTT to shop job boards like Indeed.com’s RSS feed (or job boards like it) and specify keywords related to your job search.

One of its limitations is that it only produces one action at a time. So although it calls its mixes recipes, it only allows for two ingredients. So you can’t, for example, schedule a tweet to be posted on all your social networks at the same time, without creating multiple IFTTT emails. It also has limitations within certain channels, such that you now can’t search anyone else tweets but your own, for example. These do change from time-to-time, depending on the restrictions that Twitter and the other channels place on IFTTT.

Other social triggers

Nowadays, more and more companies are turning to social networks to deliver their promotions — exclusive promotions for those that connect with their business on a social network. Twitter allows you to set push notifications to your smartphone for certain people you follow. But who wants to search through hundreds of a company’s tweets just to find promo codes or whatever it is you’re looking for? Not me!

TweetAlarm

Enter TweetAlarm. TweetAlarm will scan Twitter and send you emails, as it happens, or once a day on all the keywords you’ve specified.

So now you can enter “Pampers GTG” to search for Pampers Gifts to Grow codes or swagcode for Swagbucks codes or any others you can think of and get tweets about promo codes and coupon codes delivered right to your inbox, without even thinking about it.

Pinterest alerts

As announced back in August, Pinterest now delivers email price alerts on products you’ve pinned. So let’s say you’re doing your Christmas shopping and have pinned a whole bunch of gift ideas to your “Christmas gift list” board. If any of those products have prices attached to them and the price drops, you’ll automatically be notified of the price change. All you have to do is log into Pinterest, go to your Account Settings, scroll down to Email Notifications and make sure you have “Price changes for Pins you add” set to Yes.

As an added tip: Just remember, if it is a gift for a friend or someone that’s following you, Pinterest now allows you to create “secret boards” that keep them from the gift shakers. They’re only visible to you and whomever you invite. So, happy pinning!

Things to look for

Many people are led to believe that price alerts stop when the product is purchased. This is the NOT the case. I’ve actually found I’ve saved sometimes more money, weeks after the product was bought. A lot of retailers now offer price adjustments after purchase, some even more than a month past the purchase date. So if the price falls and you still held onto your receipt, you’re entitled to your money back.

In summary, email alerts can notify you of:

  • Deals at your favourite store(s)
  • Promotional codes for your favourite store(s), as well as free points/offers to loyalty reward programs
  • Price changes on items you’re looking to purchase, or have already purchased
  • New job postings
  • Credit card payments and balances
  • Monitor your stock prices or even your favourite sports teams and most importantly, keep on top of Thrifty Dad’s new blog posts by subscribing to my email alerts at the top of this page :)

So, as you can you see email alerts can be a powerful tool. And if you prefer not to receive them as emails, many of the tools I have mentioned have other options as well, that will post it to an RSS feed or your favourite social network.

So sit back, relax and let the deals come to you. Happy shopping. I meant saving.

Image courtesy of sippakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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