Stay-at-home orders or not, we think it’s time to brush up on some useful tips for online shopping!
If you’re one of the thousands of Americans stuck at home with no choice but to resort to a virtual cart, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Filling your basket online could help many of your favorite retailers stay afloat, but you also have to be careful about overspending, which is why these 16 tips will help ensure you’re not going over budget.
Apply these as often as you can and you’ll be surprised by the amount of money you’ll save in the long run.
Comparison Shop ‘Til You Drop
It’s virtually impossible to comparison shop in brick-and-mortar shops. What are you expected to do, leave your cart behind and check out the nearest competitor’s prices?
That’s why online shopping has a leg up. You can check multiple sources and online retailers at once and you can take your time with the research.
That being said, it’s not always easy. You can’t be expected to open dozens of tabs for a single product. If you try this approach you might find yourself discouraged pretty fast, which in turn will ruin your shopping spree and cause you to give up on trying to save money.
That’s where Google Shopping comes into play. It’s a simple tool that’ll show you the lowest price of whatever item you’re looking for while also providing you with information as to how taxes and shipping could affect your bottom line.
Invisible Hand, a browser extension, works in much the same way. If it finds a cheaper option elsewhere online, it’ll let you know so that you can make the best purchasing decisions for your wallet.
Always See If There’s a Coupon Code
If you’re not using coupon codes, then you’re doing online shopping all wrong. Why should we only use sales and discount opportunities in regular stores? That’s right, we shouldn’t.
Sometimes, online retailers will apply valid codes automatically, but not always. You could even see pop-up boxes on the pages you’re surfing, or you might spot some through e-mail advertisements.
Yet there are still coupons out there even where you’re not looking. Don’t miss out on saving by assuming there are none by using handy tools like Honey, which scour the web for any codes that will work for you. RetailMeNot is another website that you can use to search for valid codes, so don’t ever click ‘order’ without first making sure you’ve checked it out.
Use a Cash-Back App
Using cashback apps usually require a bit of patience, but they’re well worth the rewards. Coupon codes allow you to save money before you even make a purchase, but these apps help you save after you’ve ordered.
Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, is one such service. You’ll earn a little bit of money via check or Paypal every quarter, so being diligent about using this is key.
Ibotta is another service that works in-store too. You can scan your receipts and after a certain period, or after you reach a certain amount, you’ll be able to reap the rewards.
But, again, remember that you have to be patient. Don’t expect instant gratification. Some people might find this particularly discouraging, but the trick is to keep at it until you get some money back, and then some!
Track Amazon Prices Over Time
You’d be hardpressed not to find a deal on Amazon… right? That’s what Amazon wants you to believe, but the truth is way trickier than that.
In actuality, item prices fluctuate very often, sometimes by huge amounts. You could be lucky enough to find something truly on sale, but why risk it?
Instead of just relying on what the website says, check out CamelCamelCamel, a website that tracks item prices and works wonderfully for Amazon purchases. With its help, you’ll be able to tell if you’re looking at a real deal or not. If not, step away and come back to it later- you might have better luck.
Consider a Rewards Credit Card
Worried about data theft when shopping online? Using a credit card is the smart thing to do, as they offer built-in protections. Of course, you have to be careful about the amount you spend and about paying your balance off every month. But that goes without question.
If you’re already using a credit card then consider switching to an option that’ll give you cashback too. Take the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa, which offers 5% cashback all year round for Prime members, and 3% for non-prime members.
Be on the lookout for other such offers. They might change over time- sometimes you might find credit cards that offer significant cash back deals over the holiday season, while others might work differently. Whatever the case, searching for these will really help you save money in the long run.
Abandon Your Virtual Cart
Abandoning your cart might seem counterproductive, but a little patience goes a long way. Of course, this doesn’t work for items that are notoriously out of stock most of the time, but you should try this for other purchases.
What you should do is fill your cart with everything you need while signed on to your account. Then, leave the website entirely and browse other corners of the web, such as Facebook. Before long, that online retailer will reach out through various ads on either Facebook or through email with a sweet deal to get you to finish your purchase.
Create an Email Account Just for Shopping
Having your email cluttered with dozens of offers from various retailers can be a pain, sure, but not signing up with your email means you’ll end up missing a lot of offers.
Online shopping veterans have just one email they use for this purpose alone. That way, their regular email addresses will remain clean, but they’ll still always know which websites have started sales or not.
Unroll.me is another tool you can use that serves the same purpose. You’ll get everything you need in one easily digestible email- plus, they make it easy to unsubscribe from retailers you’re no longer interested in.
Follow Retailers on Social Media
While some offers might be specially curated for those who subscribe to mailing lists, you can find others on your favorite retailer’s social feed. Following them might uncover deals for die-hard fans, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Big and small retailers alike use their social media for advertisements. In terms of smaller ones, you might even see them more often as they’re trying to attract a bigger and bigger following.
So check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms you like perusing in your downtime and take note of every coupon code or special offer for your next shopping spree.
Use a Private Browser Window
“Dynamic pricing” is just a fancy term retailers use when they alter the prices on their website based on favor factors such as your browsing history or location. Obviously, this means you might not be getting the best deal out of a purchase, even if it looks like you might.
Sidestepping this could help you save even more money. How? Simply open a private browser window, also known as ‘incognito mode’. All those cookies you’re asked to share online? Gone, just like that.
An added benefit is that you won’t see tons of ads for items you’ve looked at before and have no interest in purchasing anymore, which should make your online shopping experience a little bit smoother.
Check for Discounted Retailer Gift Cards
You don’t always have to pay $100 for a $100 gift card (or $50 for $50). Don’t believe us? Check out Raise or Cardpool for discounted gift cards- you could even find some that are 15% off.
The best part about gift cards is that you can add them on top of other discounts. So if you’re careful, you could save up a ton of money.
Let’s say you’ve already checked for coupon codes, and you’re also buying during a sales period. Adding a gift card on top of that could cut down your expenses even further.
Use a Receipt Tracker
How many times has this happened to you, online or otherwise?
You’re happy with your cart and finish up a purchase. Then, before you know it, some of the items go on sale a couple of days later.
It feels like such a big waste of money, especially online since not many people aren’t aware that you can benefit from price adjustments just as you would in brick-and-mortar stores.
Paribus, owned by Capital One, is one of the most popular services that can help with this issue. They track prices for more than 25 major retailers, so finding potential refunds won’t be an issue if you sign up with them.
Chat With a Customer Service Rep
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. The same goes for online retailers. Unless you ask if there’s a chance you can get a discount on an item you’re interested in, you’ll never know if that option is available for you.
Most online stores have easily accessible chat windows, so try them out! Most times you’ll be in contact with a real person and trust us, they’ll be more than happy to help you out. They’ll get complaints most of the time, so asking them for a discount might be a nice change!
If you ask a bot instead, it might give you a coupon code, so you’re still coming out on top.
This isn’t always guaranteed, but you never know if you’ll be in luck. It doesn’t take long to check, so why not?
Haggling… a practice rarely observed in major retailers. Online, it might seem like a ludicrous idea. But with apps like PriceWaiter, anything is possible.
It’s also very simple to use, so don’t fret! All you have to do is look for the item you’re interested in, offer a lower price, and wait. The seller could either accept or reject your offer. In the case of the latter, you can come up with a counter offer, so don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out great the first time around.
If our previous point doesn’t work out, you should definitely give PriceWaiter a chance!
Don’t Forget Secondhand Stores
Why pay extra for new items when you can thrift instead? You’ll be saving money, and the quality of the items isn’t normally diminished.
Of course, eBay is the first place to look for a lot of online shoppers, but just because you can’t find what you’re interested in on there doesn’t mean you have to pay full price for a new, unused item. Try Swap or ThreadUp for second-hand clothes.
If you’re in need of furniture, Craigslist and Facebook’s Marketplace is a great place to start, especially since you can haggle the price with the seller quite easily.
Also, why pay for overpriced books? Try ThriftBooks or Abebooks instead- or better yet, check out your local library for free!
Shop on the Right Day
Knowing when to shop is an important skill, especially if you want to avoid paying extra. It might be difficult to tell when you should access your favorite online retailers, but Rather Be Shopping has got you covered.
For example, they discovered that it’s best to shop from Target on Saturdays, as that’s when they update their online clearance section. Old Navy, on the other hand, is best perused later in the week.
Before you go on a shopping spree, it’s best to do a quick google search on when you should shop and then take it a step further by making up your own excel sheet in the process.
Save on Shipping With Store Pickup
You might be tempted to pay for shipping, especially now that online shopping has become such a norm for many households. But you don’t have to, especially if you’d rather save a few extra bucks.
Store pickup options are a safe alternative, but certain retailers might offer curbside pickups. You won’t even have to step out of your car, so don’t worry about getting close to too many people.
We know, it’s particularly tempting to have all your stuff delivered right to your door, but you’ll be thanking yourself in the long run if you pick the more affordable option instead.