Smart shopping can mean a lot of things – from buying only the most up-to-date electronics to getting an exclusive deal on that shag rug for your front hall. Regardless of what smart shopping means to you, there’s one place where you can easily achieve your goal: online.5 Strategies for Shopping Smart Online

Being savvy when it comes to online shopping is becoming more and more important, seeing as how some of the online purchases people make can be quite substantial. “People are not averse to spending big money online on luxury purchases,” online shopping expert Michelle Madhok tells Straight Talk. “We’ve sold $30,000 handbags from Moda Operandi,” adds Madhok, who’s the founder of SHEfinds, a fashion blog and buying guide that shows women what to purchase and where.

Before you spend money online, you may want to consider these strategies to help you make the most of your shopping experience.

Use apps and tools

There are several apps that can make comparison-shopping more efficient than driving to a bunch of local stores to check prices. HLN recommends the smartphone app RedLaser, which lets you scan product barcodes to compare prices between thousands of online and offline stores. If you’d like to keep your search confined to brick-and-mortar stores, the app and website Milo will help you virtually search prices at nearby retailers.

Set sales alerts

When you’re looking to buy on a budget, Madhok recommends employing a site like Hukkster. While you can’t make actual purchases there, Hukkster offers a tool that lets you bookmark products you’d like to buy from other sites. When those items go on sale, Hukkster gives you a heads-up (another app, TrunqShow, performs the same function). HLN, meanwhile, suggests using PriceBlink, a browser add-on that alerts you to better deals as you surf the web.

Time the market

Deciding when to buy something isn’t always a matter of getting the best price. Sometimes making the smartest purchase is more a matter of buying at the right time. For instance, if you’re looking for electronics, appliances, cameras and computers, Madhok recommends looking up the products on decide. The website helps you lessen the risk of buying an obsolete product by advising you whether to buy the current model or wait for the next generation. Madhok explains that the site works by analyzing historical price trends along with news about upcoming models.

Madhok also recommends knowing when your favorite products may be available at special pricing. For instance, Madhok says, One Kings Lane has a clearance sale called Downstairs at One Kings Lane. The site offers new items every Sunday at 8 AM. But, Madhok notes, there may be only one of a certain kind of item in stock.

Meanwhile, if you’d like a general guide to the months and days of the week that are best for getting good deals, Lifehacker has a pie chart for you.

Know return policies

Across the Web’s retail shopping sites, return policies can differ significantly. “You can get great deals from online sample sales sites like Gilt,” Madhok notes, but “you just have to know that a lot of the things they’re offering are not returnable.” Even less niche sites such as Amazon require your attention. According to the site, “Our return policies vary depending on the type of item you’d like to return.”

Remember: Some rules still apply

Keep in mind that the same rules of thumb that help you get great values in stores can also apply to online shopping. For instance: “Wait to shop till off-season,” Madhok says. “If you buy fall clothes right now, you’ll pay full price. But if you wait till the end of October, you can get a better deal.” And of course, as O, The Oprah Magazine recommends, check taxes and shipping rates, since the lowest price you find online may not always be your best deal.

What are your strategies for buying online? What are your favorite luxury shopping sites?