I think it’s pretty obvious by now how much I enjoy online shopping. In fact, I’d say I do at least 90% of my shopping online and in-store purchases are primarily reserved for electronics, some beauty products, and impulse buys. The primary reason I prefer to shop online is because you really can find excellent deals (and there’s nothing like the thrill of having packages delivered to your door)! I decided to compile some of my favorite online shopping tips into one list and ended up with these 21 easy tips for saving money shopping online.
While you may not use all of these tips at once to save money shopping online, I guarantee you that using some of these techniques will save you money. Here’s my mantra: Unless it’s an extreme rush or emergency, there’s never a reason to pay full price for anything. Seriously, anything. (Well, unless you like super high-end designer items, although those will usually go on sale at some point as well at sites like The Outnet!)
If you’re looking for advice for saving money shopping online, look no further. Use one or use all of the strategies below and you will quickly become an online shopping money saving ninja.
1. Online coupons
Using coupons to save money online is the most obvious tip of all. I cannot think of any scenarios when using a coupon won’t save you money. If there’s something you want to buy and you can’t find a coupon be sure to check sites like RetailMeNot.com for any offers that may be available.
2. Stacking coupons
While it’s true that some stores will only allow you to use one coupon per order, some stores — like Kohl’s and Victoria’s Secret — will let you stack multiple coupons for maximum savings. Both of these stores will actually let you use 3 coupons per order, so always be vigilant about any extra coupons that may be available, as more coupons = more ways to save money!
3. Use bonus certificates
We’re going to use Kohl’s and Victoria’s Secret again because both of these stores offer bonus certificates throughout the year. With the Kohl’s Cash promotion you can accumulate $10 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend. Kohl’s Cash can be redeemed during certain weeks during the year and used in addition to any other sales or coupons! Victoria’s Secret has an Angels Reward promotion a couple of times each year where you will earn free angel rewards with any $10+ purchase. The angel rewards are special coupons that will save you anywhere from $10-$500 on your next purchase! Be on the lookout for any store that offers bonus certificates like this and hold on to them for your next online shopping spree!
4. Subscribe to email lists
If there are places where you regularly shop, I highly recommend registering for the store’s email newsletter. Stores frequently send out coupons that are only available to newsletter subscribers. This is also an excellent strategy if you cannot find a coupon elsewhere. Need a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon in a pinch? Register for their email newsletter and one will land in your inbox in minutes! Many, if not most, stores offer an incentive in the form of a coupon for registering for their email newsletter, and you’ll also be the first to know about any upcoming sales and promotions.
Tip: If you don’t want to have your inbox inundated with advertising emails, set up a separate “junk” account specifically for these types of communications.
5. Get social
While some stores will send out special offers to their email subscribers, other brands prefer to post their deals on Facebook, Twitter and, now, Instagram. Kate Spade is a huge fan of this! Some Kate Spade sales are only advertised to their Facebook fans while other times their Facebook fans will get an early preview before the sale gets sent out to email subscribers. Following the brands you love on every social media outlet certainly can’t hurt if you’re looking for a sale or coupon!
Tip: I use Hootsuite for Twitter and have set up a separate list JUST for the stores I like to follow. This keeps their “ads” separate from everyone else on Twitter.
6. Shopping the sale racks
If a coupon isn’t readily available, be sure to shop the sale racks! This is especially helpful if you don’t mind shopping a season or two out. For instance, while you might be thinking about new fall fashions at the end of August, shopping the end-of-summer sales at that time could save you big bucks the following summer! If you’re not interested in shopping ahead, it seems like most items hit the sale racks within a matter of weeks at this point because the turnaround in stores is so quick. If you don’t mind waiting a week or two (and compulsively checking), you might find that the item you want will go on sale quicker than you may have imagined.
7. Use a sale tracking browser plug-in
If you don’t have the time (or patience) to constantly check to see if the item you want is on sale, install a browser plug-in like Hukkster. Once you register for an account you will be able to search for and indicate all of the items that you’re interested in purchasing and then the program will tell you when said items go on sale. Hukkster even allows you to customize how big of a sale it needs to be before you receive a notification, which is a pretty neat feature!
8. Wait for a holiday weekend
One of the best opportunities for saving money shopping online will come on long holiday weekends. President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day and, of course, Thanksgiving weekend with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, are some of the holiday weekends where you will find the biggest sales.
9. Free shipping
Many stores will offer free shipping as long as you hit a certain order total, while others will occasionally offer free shipping coupons. Some awesome stores, like Zappos.com, ALWAYS offer free shipping (and returns)! Amazon Prime members can enjoy free two-day shipping, which is just one of the many reasons I think an Amazon Prime membership is worth the cost. If on-demand free shipping is a priority of yours and you can’t find a coupon, investing in a membership to ShopRunner may prove worthwhile. Currently, many AMEX card holders and Amazon Prime members can get a free one-year membership to ShopRunner, and everyone can get a free 30 day trial, but otherwise the service costs $79 per year or $8.95 per month and you will receive free two-day shipping at more than 80 online retailers.
10. Shop Amazon
For many items, Amazon is the easiest way to save money because they frequently offer the cheapest online prices. I always think it’s worth taking a peek at Amazon to see how their prices compare to other stores before purchasing an item. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found an item for what I thought was an amazing price, only to find it for less on Amazon.
11. Subscribe and Save
Stores like Amazon, Target, The Honest Company, as well as a slew of others, are now offering subscribe and save options. When you subscribe and have items automatically delivered to your door at intervals of your choosing you can save some extra money! We use Amazon Subscribe & Save to get baby items delivered and it’s amazing. The cheapest way I’ve found to purchase food for my dogs is by signing up for auto delivery from Chewy.com. Not only is the food cheaper at Chewy.com than anywhere I’ve found in Chicago, but we also get a special subscriber discount AND free shipping. Most sites generally allow the delivery to be adjusted without penalty if you don’t need a shipment when it is next scheduled.
12. Get a refund check when you shop
We talk about cash back shopping sites like Ebates and ShopatHome.com around here fairly regularly, because they present one of the best opportunities for saving money shopping online… and by that I really mean EARNING money shopping online. When you place an order through a cash back shopping site you will earn a certain percentage of your order back. The cash back amount isn’t huge and usually varies anywhere from 1-10%, but if you’re doing a lot of online shopping those percentages and savings can add up quickly!
Tip: Combine your cash back shopping with coupons, sales, and free shipping offers for the maximum savings!
13. Join rewards programs
If a store that you shop at frequently has a rewards program, be sure to join it! Stores like ULTA and Sephora have some of the best beauty rewards programs that will earn you free products based on the amount of money you spend. The Barnes & Noble membership program, on the other hand, costs a nominal fee but offers site-wide discounts and free shipping for a year. Paying a fee to join may not be optimal, but if you frequently purchase books from Barnes & Noble it may be worth investing in a membership to receive the discount and shipping benefits.
Tip: If you don’t want to carry around cards for every rewards program you join, I recommend using the Key Ring app, which is available for iPhone and android. You can use it in-stores, but I also use it in a pinch to reference award account numbers.
14. Use a credit card that will earn you rewards
Whether you use a store credit card, or a regular debit or credit card, make sure that it’s a card that will earn you cash back or rewards. This is a no brainer, but every little bit helps!
15. Leave items in your shopping cart
Some stores are notorious for sending out emails offering discounts on the items you abandon in your online shopping cart. West Elm has been emailing me on a weekly basis about a duvet cover I put in my cart and then didn’t purchase a full year ago. Not all stores do this and you will have to be logged into your account on the site (so they know where to email you), but you could get lucky and get a surprise coupon!
(Image via Mashable)
16. Pin your shopping list to Pinterest
Like leaving items in your cart, if you pin your shopping list to Pinterest you will occasionally receive updates when the items you pin go on sale. This isn’t a guaranteed way to save money online, but you might get lucky and receive notification about an awesome sale!
17. Watch for sales tax
Since I live in Chicago where sales tax is a ridiculously high 10%, paying tax on large purchases can be brutal. If you are shopping online at a store that has a brick and mortar location in your state then they are required to charge you sales tax. Most stores without a physical presence in your state are not required to charge you sales tax, however, which can result in more money saved! Part of the reason the prices are so low at Amazon is because they are not required to collect sales tax in most states.
18. Stalk the items you want
Most items are available from multiple retailers, so don’t rely on one store to offer the best discounts. Keep track of everywhere that the item you want is sold, and watch out for coupons/sales/discounts for each of those stores and you may get lucky and find an incredible discount somewhere.
19. Find a look for less
If it’s a specific designer clothing item you want, don’t be afraid to purchase a similar item for less. Fast fashion stores like Forever21 and Romwe often have this season’s top styles at a fraction of the cost (and quality) of what you would pay for the real thing.
20. Shop online resale & consignment stores
Online shopping isn’t just for full-price retail stores anymore. Of course, eBay was the first online resale shop but now online consignment stores like ThredUp, Twice, The RealReal, and Poshmark are all fantastic options for finding the items you want at a fraction of the original retail price.
Tip: ThredUp is a great location for everyday mall brands, while The RealReal carries high-end designers. Both accept items for consignment (meaning you can make some extra money!), and both frequently offer online coupons!
21. Don’t buy it
The easiest way to save money of them all: don’t buy it, especially if it’s an impulse purchase. If you’re ever looking for a reason to not purchase an item, I recommend reading online reviews. I can’t tell you how many impulse purchases I have been dissuaded from buying after reading myriad negative reviews. Another option for resisting temptation? Leave the item in your cart and think about it for a few days. If you don’t feel as strongly a few days later (once you start getting the email reminders + coupons) it probably wasn’t meant to be.
As I mentioned above, the great thing about using most of these tips for saving money shopping online is that many of them can be stacked for the maximum savings! All stores have different rules for saving, and you never know where you might find a special coupon or way to save, so always keep your eyes peeled!
Do Tell: What tips do you have for saving money shopping online?