Internet shopping represents an excellent way to save money. If you go about it cautiously and do the right amount of research, it’s not hard to find better deals than you would in retail stores on just about everything, even after shipping costs are factored in – assuming you can’t find a way to get your item shipped for free. Just like everything else online, however, there’s a right way and a wrong way to shop. Here are a few tips to help you distinguish the difference.

1. Be Safe
It doesn’t matter what kind of great deal you find, if you end up with your identity stolen, you’re going to spend a whole lot more money in the end. Never give out personal information like your Social Security number, and always check the credibility of any website before you enter any payment information, especially if you hadn’t heard of it before. Perform a generic Internet search for complaints or scams or check the Better Business Bureau website to learn more.

2. Do as Little Work as Possible
Of course, you could refer to your list of top 15 favorite shopping websites, search them endlessly,

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and pounce upon a deal when you see it. Or, you could let someone else do the work for you. Sign up for a deal-sharing website like FatWallet to get all relevant discounts sent straight to your inbox. Just keep in mind that someone is performing the legwork on those deals, so when you come across one during your own searches, join the discussion and post a few discounts of your own.

3. Turn It Into a Business
Take an objective look at the next five deals you find on Internet purchases. Limit them to some of the more common categories such as consumer electronics or computer software. Then, research what the items are selling for on both eBay and Amazon. If there’s enough of a margin, pull the trigger and then open up a reseller account on one of those sites and post the items for sale. Before you know it, you just might find yourself owner of a successful Internet reselling business.

4. Don’t Go Overboard
If you’re not careful, your desire to take advantage of as many deals as possible can easily lead to credit card debt. For that reason, limit your purchases only to those items that you truly need and leave all so-called “wants” out of the equation. Restraint is important.

5. Never Assume Something’s a Deal
People and businesses can post anything they want on the Internet and just because you see an item listed at “80% off” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the case. No matter what you’re thinking of purchasing, do a separate Internet search to see what other websites are selling it for. In plenty of cases, you may find that the supposed deal isn’t a deal at all.

Although you might think Internet shopping is too much of a process, it’s really not. There’s no need to drive yourself to a retail outlet, spend time comparison shopping at different locations, and lug a heavy purchase home. You can save a ton of money – and a ton of time – by being a savvy online shopper. Now, isn’t that a much better way to spend your spare time than watching TV or surfing Facebook?

What tips do you have for smarter Internet shopping?