How to find discount codes for (almost) everything you buy

Just because you don't have a promo code at the ready doesn't mean you can't find one before clicking Submit Order. The key is knowing when and where to look.

You know the old saying: nothing ventured, nothing discounted. Or something like that.

If you buy a lot of stuff online, you've no doubt experienced the pang of longing that occurs when faced with a Discount/Promotion Code box on an e-tailer's checkout page. If only you had a code, maybe you'd save a few bucks. Or even score free shipping.

Before you click Submit Order, it pays to spend a few minutes code-searching. There might just be one out there waiting for you to copy and paste.

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A code, a code, my kingdom for a code!

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For example, I recently ordered a bunch of household water filters from Filters-now.com. (Seriously, I buy everything online.) When I got to the checkout page, sure enough, there was the Promo Code box.

So I did what I always do: I opened a new tab, ran a quick Google search ("Filters-now code"), and looked for options from the various code-aggregating sites that appeared in the results: CouponCabin, Dealspl.us, RetailMeNot and so on.

Sure enough, I found a 10-percent-off coupon -- and it worked! My 60 seconds of searching saved me a total of $8.36 -- not a fortune, but certainly worth the effort.

Don't feel like putting in the effort? Consider a browser plug-in that will do the heavy lifting for you. Coupons at Checkout, CouponSumo and Honey will automatically search for and apply codes for whatever store you're currently shopping.

Wait, I can get $25 off $200 if I pay with PayPal? Thanks, Honey! I'd never have known about that without you.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Now, caveat search-or: This kind of code wrangling doesn't always pay off. Sometimes my searches come up empty, or the codes I find don't work. Likewise, an automated tool like Honey doesn't always score. On the flip-side, if it finds a lot of codes for any given store, your checkout might be delayed while it tries them all.

But you know the old saw: nothing ventured, nothing discounted. It never hurts to try. A few extra minutes might just save you a few bucks -- and maybe even more than a few. Give it a whirl the next time you buy.

And if you've scored a particularly awesome code, hit the comments and tell me how much you saved!

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