The internet is teeming with great deals, deep discounts, and flash sales. But of course, it’s also teeming with price gougers, knockoff items, and ripoffs. And speaking with candor, there are so many ways to get awesome discounts online that it’s kind of a ripoff just to pay full price for most things. After all, there are countless ways to knock a few dollars off a purchase whether it means finding savvy ways to compare prices or simply exercising the patience to make your purchase at the right time.
Naturally, shopping online should also be done with a healthy dose of caution. While the savvy shopper gets the big discounts, the inexperienced shopper can become an unsuspecting target for all kinds of scammers and schemers. Before you start hunting for bargains, make sure you understand all the Ways the Internet Tricks You Into Spending Money.
If you’re ready to start saving now, try these 10 Tricks for Saving Money Online…
1. Google Coupon Codes
Any time you check out using an online cart, you will probably notice a place where you can enter a coupon code or promo code. Every website does it. Don’t have a coupon code? Don’t let that stop you from trying. A simple Google search for a “Target Promo Code” or “Bed Bath and Beyond coupon” will likely reveal a few standard coupon codes and maybe even a few seasonal promotions. There are numerous sites like Groupon and Retailmenot that can provide suggested codes. Try a few combinations and see what happens. These coupon codes won’t all work, but a lot of them will. And when these coupons do apply, it’s basically free money.
2. Install a Bargain Hunting App
There are actually mobile apps and desktop plugins that can search out coupon codes for you. Services like Honey scour the internet in search of coupon codes that can be automatically applied to any purchase you make. According to Honey, you need only to download the application to your desktop and, every time you check out from an e-commerce site, Honey will “find working codes [and] apply the one with the biggest savings to your cart.” This is just one type of bargain hunting application. There are various others on the market. Most of these shopping apps are free and each comes with its own set of functions. Speaking from personal experience, I utilize a desktop plugin that Capital One makes available to cardholders. In addition to performing the same coupon code search function as Honey, the Capital One plugin runs a price comparison any time I prepare to complete an online purchase. This comparison identifies any lower cost options anywhere on the web. The app also shows me any vendors selling the same item along with a cash rebate for Capital One cardholders. If you are a credit card user, you can start your search for a price comparison app by visiting your credit provider’s website.
3. Sign Up for Mailing Lists
I know what you’re thinking. Who needs more email? But here’s the thing—a lot of retailers save their best promotions for the people who demonstrate customer loyalty by signing up for regular email alerts. You’ll get promotional codes sent right to your inbox, notifications about special sales events, and even personalized discounts based on your shopping history. And hey, if you’re really worried about clogging up your personal or work inbox with advertisements and promotions, it’s pretty easy to create a whole new email account just for mailing list signups.
4. Take Advantage of Big Sales Days
When you shop matters almost as much as where you shop. We all know about deep discount days like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. The price cuts on these days can lead to some profoundly amazing deals on awesome stuff. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Online retailers move prices based on all sorts of factors including the seasonal ebb and flow of business volume, a regularly scheduled influx of new supply (such as a weekly release of new commercial airline flights), and even more specialized dates like company anniversaries. Knowing when these opportunities become available can place you at the front of the line for limited time only offers. Indeed, according to Nerdwallet, there is a right time to buy everything. The secret is knowing exactly when to strike. Nerdwallet notes points out, for instance, that a television will typically cost less in February than in March. This is just one of countless idiosyncrasies in online pricing. Nerdwallet notes that “There’s a best time of the year to buy almost anything, including pencils, bedding, appliances, furniture and more. Look for steep discounts during end-of-season sales and major shopping holidays.”
5. Look for Free Shipping
Actually, you should do more than look for free shipping. In most cases, you should accept nothing less. Thanks to online retailers like Amazon Prime, free shipping has become so commonplace that paying for it yourself almost feels wrong. Granted, sometimes it can’t be helped. But the truth is, there are enough retailers out there who sell through outlets like Amazon that you should only pay for shipping as a last resort. A year of Amazon Prime will cost you either $14.99 a month, or $139 for the full year. If you are a frequent online shopper, the free shipping that you’ll get with that membership will more than pay for itself, which is to suggest that you should always look for desired items on Amazon first. Obviously, you should still do your due diligence when it comes to coupon hunting and price comparison. But if the item is available on Amazon Prime, you can generally figure free shipping into your cost comparison. Of course, Amazon is just one example. Countless other popular retailers provide free shipping, and just as importantly, free returns. There are even sites like FreeShipping.org that can either help you locate free shipping options, or provide membership details or coupon codes for free shipping.
6. Do In-Store Pickup
If you can’t find the item you want with free shipping, there may be another option. Many popular retail chains will offer in-store pickup for items ordered online. This may seem counterintuitive if the whole idea is to stay home and wait for the item to come to you. But there are a few reasons that this could be advantageous. For one thing, this is a great way to order an item online that might not otherwise be available at your local store. By ordering it directly to your local store, you can enjoy the expansive inventory available through online shopping while still visiting your nearby store to physically acquire the item. Another benefit—curbside delivery has become a standard option for most popular retailers. This means that you can order online, drive to a designated parking spot at your nearest Target or Walmart, and wait in your car while an associate delivers your item(s) to your vehicle for free. In other words, an online purchase followed by a quick and hassle-free drive could be a great alternative to spending on shipping.
7. Shop Undercover
Ramsey Solutions warns about something called dynamic pricing. Sounds kind of cool, right? Well, it’s actually pretty much the exact opposite of cool. According to Ramsey Solutions, dynamic pricing is “when retailers hike up the prices on online items based on your zip code, search history and whether you’re shopping on a mobile device or laptop.” In other words, all those cookies are being used to tailor pricing directly to your presumed preferences and budget. If you live in an affluent zip-code, this may be a good enough justification for sellers to crank up the price on you. Ramsey suggests a few ways to avoid this. Try clearing your browsing history, clearing your cache of cookies, signing out of social media sites, and using your web browser in incognito mode. Shop undercover for the fairest prices.
8. Get Discount Gift Cards
Did you know that you can buy discounted gift cards for countless popular sellers like Starbucks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, AMC Theaters and much more? If you happen to frequent any of the popular retailers whose gift cards can be purchased at a reduced rate, it’s basically the equivalent of buying free money. Check out a gift card resale site like Card Cash for immediately usable gift cards selling at between 8% and 25% off of their original value. How does it work? Card Cash explains that “Other people’s gift cards are your way to save. We buy gift cards for less than their value from people just like you who don’t want them, and resell them at a discount so you can save. So any time you’re about to purchase anything — online or in-store, at 1,300+ retailers.”
9. Look out for Third-Party Knockoff Artists
Before you make any online purchase, make sure you know a few things about the seller. While there are many reputable and well-known websites out there, and plenty of earnest startup sites still working to make a good name for themselves, there is also a massive landfill of junky websites that primarily operate by up-pricing bargain basement items. Before you buy a coveted item for a price that seems too good to be true, take a closer look at the website. Is it a familiar site? Can you find any reviews on third-party review sites like Yelp? (Pro Tip: Don’t just trust the reviews they include on their website. Anybody can write their own press). Do your due diligence before seizing on what appear to be deep discounts for sought after items. Otherwise, what looked like a great deal for a pair of designer jeans may turn into an overpriced pair of counterfeit Wranglers; what seemed like an amazing opportunity for a state of the art open-box kitchen appliance may turn out to be a used microwave; what looked like a once-in-a-lifetime collectible may turn into a fruitless fraud claim with the Better Business Bureau. Never buy from a website whose legitimacy can’t be verified. It’s only a great deal if the thing you get in return has value.
10. Make Watchlists
The cool thing about familiarizing yourself with common ecommerce practices is that you can empower yourself to do more than just shop online. You can also become a seller if you think you have something of value to offer consumers. Just as the web eases our access to countless purchasing opportunities, each of us has the freedom to become a seller. To learn more, check out these Five Ways to Sell Your Stuff Online