27 Online Shopping Secrets So Good You’ll Want to Keep Them to Yourself
Learn how to save money—and perhaps even earn some—on your next spree.
Online shopping is the easiest way to buy pretty much anything and everything you need. But though it’s convenient, it can often feel like there are deals to be had that you’re missing out on. With a little extra effort, however, and some excellent insider tricks, you can become an e-shopping expert. Between checking rebate sites and adding just the right amount of stuff to your cart to save more money, it’s all about being strategic! After reading through these online shopping tips, you won’t just be saving money on online purchases—you may even be earning it. So start reading, then get to shopping. And while you’re at it, make sure to avoid these 40 Things You Should Never Buy Online.
Use rebate apps.
Though it sounds too good to be true, it is very much possible to get paid just for shopping online like you normally would. It really is a simple process. Step 1: Sign up for a rebate site like Ebates. Step 2: Shop at its affiliate stores—and there are a lot of those, from Sephora to Walmart. Step 3: Earn as much as 20 percent cash back on your purchases at those affiliates. Step 4: Wait for your check in the mail, deposit it, and back to shopping you go!
Look out for double—or even triple—cash back offers.
Once your Ebates account is all set up, start to take a look through the site’s “double cash back stores” section. When you shop at any of the stores highlighted in this section, you’ll earn twice as much cash back as you normally would for a limited time only. Right now, for instance, if you buy something at Shoes.com via Ebates, you can score 12 percent cash back on your purchase. And be especially vigilant during sale-heavy holidays—because that’s when rebate sites have a tendency to triple their cash back offers.
Become a VIP.
If you have a favorite store, then make sure to sign up for their rewards program, which is usually free. Not only will this likely score you exclusive savings and discount codes, but many stores also offer early sale access to their VIP rewards customers. It’ll come especially in handy during intense savings seasons. (Black Friday, we’re looking at you.)
Buy in bulk.
There are several arguments to be made for buying in bulk online. For starters, buying several items from the same retailer almost always guarantees that you’ll qualify for free shipping. And on top of that, many retailers will offer special savings when your cart reaches a certain value. So, if you’re smart with your cart, you might just be able to buy more for less.
For example, Last Call by Neiman Marcus is offering $100 off every $200 spent until January 10. Were you to buy these boots on their own, you’d be spending $109. Not bad. But if you combined them with this sweater and these earrings, you’d only be spending $103—and with two more items in tow! And for more genius spending hacks, don’t miss these 5 Millionaire Money Secrets You Can Use.
Clear your cookies before shopping.
Your browser history has a surprisingly large impact on your online shopping search results. Thanks to something called dynamic pricing, retailers (airlines especially) will look at your search history and use it against you in order to increase their prices. To avoid these price hikes, always make sure to clear the history and cookies on your web browser before shopping. If you want to play it extra safe, you can even shop in incognito mode on your browser so that any traces of your former searches are all but gone.
Never shop for airline tickets on a Friday.
If you want to score the best possible price on plane tickets, then avoid buying them on Fridays. When the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) analyzed ticket price trends, they found that Friday generally had the most expensive flights, while Sunday was the best day for booking both a domestic and international journey.
Search for lower prices.
Never assume that the first price you see is the best one out there. Once you’ve found the exact name of the item you want, do a quick Google search just to make sure that you’re getting the best possible deal on it. For instance, let’s say you have your heart set on the Beats by Dre Powerbeats 3 Wireless Headphones. If you saw them at Kohl’s on sale for $140, down from $200, you’d probably think that was the best price you could get. But a simple search would reveal that the same item is actually being sold on Amazon for as little as $94.
Check for coupon codes.
Retailers don’t always make it obvious when they are offering extra savings. To be absolutely certain that you’re utilizing all of the discounts available, always check with sites like RetailMeNot for current codes and install browser extensions like Honey that will automatically apply potential promos for you before you check out. And if you want more advice from the pros, check out 33 Genius Tips Only Pro Shoppers Know.
Subscribe to your favorite items.
If you find yourself buying many of the same items online over and over again, then you can save money in the long run by opting into a subscription service. On Amazon, for instance, using the “subscribe and save” option can help you save up to 15 percent off of your purchases. And if you use Instacart for your groceries, paying a single yearly price for deliveries will ultimately save you some well-earned cash. It may be more money upfront, but it’s also more money in your bank account in the long run. Help your future self out.
Don’t toss store catalogs.
Though it seems counterintuitive, not every online coupon can actually be found online. Believe it or not, several stores, like Kohl’s and Macy’s, will reward their devoted catalog-subscribing customers with special coupon codes inside their weekly and monthly catalogs. Sure, getting what feels like millions of booklets in the mail is a nuisance, but it’s worth it when it means scoring extra savings. And if you love saving money, then you won’t want to miss these 14 Money-Saving Habits You Need to Adopt This Year.
Opt for in-store pick-up.
Don’t bother spending $10 on shipping for an order that’s only $20—or on any order, for that matter. If you don’t qualify for free shipping, just go for the free in-store pick-up option instead. By doing this, you are both avoiding unnecessary shipping fees and ensuring that when you go into the store, your item will be both available and in your hands quickly.
Follow thrifty social media accounts.
While it may sound like a lot of work to save, there are tons of social media accounts out there devoted to scouring sites for all the best prices so you don’t have to. All you have to do is follow them, and you can easily uncover deals on designer goods and expensive electronics. We suggest starting with Instagrammer @luxe__hunt for info on high-end brand deals and @dealhuntingbabe for the best bargains on home goods and everyday essentials. Then, you can take your time to find more influencers and bloggers who have the deals you’re after.
Sign up for the credit card with the best benefits.
When it comes to online shopping, not all credit cards are created equal. Each card comes with its own specific rewards, and some certainly favor the online shoppers among us. Not sure which card to get? Check out this ValuePenguin guide to discover some of the best options out there. And once you have your credit card account open, check out the 7 Best Ways to Boost Your Credit Score.
Take advantage of verified secondhand sites.
Love getting designer deals at thrift stores, but don’t feel like leaving the house? Luckily, there are sites for that. Thanks to The RealReal, ThredUp, and Poshmark, it’s easier than ever to buy secondhand Valentino shoes and Louis Vuitton bags for a fraction of a cost. And don’t worry about getting duped: All of these websites take the time to guarantee that their products are 100 percent authentic.
Double check discount sites.
Though Google searches are useful, they aren’t always able to find every single deal out there. So how to do you make sure your price is as low as it goes? After your Google search nets you what you think is a good price, head to discount sites like Saks Off Fifth and T.J.Maxx and type in the product you’re on the hunt for. These sites don’t tend to show up in Google results, but they’ll often have incredible prices on the items you’re after.
Know the right ways to shop Craigslist.
Tons of hidden gems are hiding on Craigslist—you just have to know how to find them. One of the easiest—and strangest—Craigslist shopping hacks is purposely misspelling the names of the items you’re looking for. Sellers have a surprising habit of misspelling the names of the items they’re listing. In searching for these misspellings, you might just come across a highly coveted item that nobody else has managed to find. And for more killer Craigslist hacks, don’t miss these 23 Genius Tricks for Shopping Craigslist.
Put a few items in your cart—and then abandon them.
Clearly, online retailers love the chase. As soon as you leave items unpurchased in your cart, some stores will email you a discount code in an effort to get you to finish the checkout process. You know, the creepy emails with the subject lines like, “Looks like you left something behind…” All you have to do is make sure that you’re signed into your account when filling up your cart; otherwise, the retailer won’t know where to send a code. Savvy shoppers swear by this strategy.
Whether you’re shopping in store or online, it’s easy to save money without sacrificing quality by ditching name brands and opting for generic products instead. Things like aluminum foil, detergent, and even basic T-shirts are just as good when made by store-based brands. Swapping out some of your staples for these generic products will leave you with even more money leftover at the end of the month. And to get started, check out these 20 Products You Should Always Buy Generic.
Save the shopping for Mondays.
When price comparison site Idealo tracked 7,642 products online over a three-month period, they found that the majority were at their lowest prices on Mondays.
Specifically, items in the video game category were 15 percent cheaper on Mondays compared to Saturdays, which is when prices were at their highest. Even if you’re not a gamer, there’s still something to the magic of Mondays. On average, shoppers were able to save 17 percent more on sunglasses when they bought them on Mondays instead of Saturdays, as well. It might not be as convenient, but your savings account will thank you.
Play the waiting game.
Don’t settle for a price that you’re not 100 percent satisfied with. Instead, use websites like CamelCamelCamel and SlickDeals to track the changing price of the item you want or need, and wait until the price tag is in a more reasonable range. It’s really as simple as that.
What’s Paribus, you ask? It’s an amazingly useful app that scans your email for e-receipts from major retailers and, if it sees that you paid more for an item than what it’s selling for currently, it will reach out on your behalf to try to get you your money back. Every $3 back in your bank account will add up.
Stock up during sales.
If you see an item on sale that you know you’re eventually going to need a lot more of—say, laundry detergent or toilet paper—don’t hesitate to stock up. You might not want to carry the extra weight now or think too far into the future, but buying these items when they’re on sale will do wonders for your wallet. You can’t avoid buying them, so you might as well buy them for less, right?
Buy gift cards on the cheap.
Certain stores like Costco are always selling gift cards at a discounted price. There are also sites like Gift Card Granny and Cardpool that act as marketplaces where users offload unwanted gift cards, usually for 10 to 15 percent lower than their face value.
By using these priced-down cards to purchase your items online, you’re already saving money—and that isn’t even taking into account all of the coupon codes and sales you’re taking advantage of.
Look for online deals on experiences, too.
Buy items “as is.”
If you’re not overly concerned about purchasing goods in their original packaging, then you can save quite a bit of money by buying them “as is.” Usually, this just means the item has been returned. Sites like Overstock and Amazon will even let you search “as is” in order to find deep discounts on items that are already on sale for as much as 70 percent off.
Use retailers’ coupon apps.
Retailers are practically begging you to save money, seeing as so many of them have their own apps and websites just for finding coupons and deals specific to their stores. Seriously: Target, CVS, and even Rite Aid all have apps that you can use to find further markdowns.
Never pay retail!
Retail prices are typically preceded by the word “suggested.” Well, you can and should reject that suggestion. Life is too short to pay retail!
Even designers like Gucci have outlet stores where items can be bought at a discount, and there are very, very few items out there that don’t make it into the sale section at some point. If nothing else, just remember that there are few items out there worth paying full price for. And now that you’re armed with these incredible online shopping secrets, check out The Stores Where True Moneysavers Are Shopping.
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