It’s no secret that online shopping has changed the face of retailing forever. As consumers, we’ve now become accustomed to ordering items at any time of day and receiving them at our doorstep in less than a week.
According The Wall Street Journal, this year marks the first time that consumers have bought more of their purchases online than in physical stores. And Forrester Research projects that “about 190 million U.S. consumers, will shop online this year.”
It’s clear that online shopping is super-convenient for us consumers, but after retailers load in shipping costs, is it still possible to find great deals online? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
Unlike shopping in most physical stores, online shopping gives you the opportunity to save money by leveraging cashback programs, promo codes, and deal sites (to name a few).
We made notes of our favorite smart shopping tactics and also consulted some industry experts to hear their secrets. What resulted is the following list of 26 tips to help you get the best online shopping deals:
- Use a cashback site every time you shop online
- Check cashback comparison sites to find the best cashback rates available
Cash back sites like Splender.com are not only free to use, but also can save you up to 40% off your online purchases. Surprisingly, many people either still aren’t aware of cashback sites or don’t take the time to use them religiously before each online purchase. Once you take the 2-3 mins to setup your account, using a cashback site probably adds all of 30 seconds to your online shopping trip, but can literally save you hundreds of dollars over time.
Most cashback sites have relationships with hundreds of major retailers (e.g. Best Buy, eBay, Sephora, Macy’s, Home Depot, Staples, Sears, Expedia, etc.), so the odds are extremely high that you’re already buying things that you could be receiving cashback rewards for. It’s also worth noting that earning cashback rewards doesn’t exclude you from saving in other ways (e.g. coupons, loyalty programs, credit cards rewards, etc.). The savviest shoppers find ways to “stack” cashback rewards with other deals, something I’ll touch on a bit more in “tip #7.”
When it comes to cashback sites, you’ve got several options to choose from and the actual cashback rates will vary across different stores and product categories. A great way to see who offers the best cashback deals at your favorite stores is to check cashback comparison sites like Cashback Monitor or Cashback Holic. These sites show you who (currently) has the best cashback rate, and they also will show you other rewards programs (e.g. airline miles or points) and how those stack up against cashback rates at the stores you’re going to shop at.
Before you blindly use cashback comparison sites to simply pick the site with the highest rate, there are a few things to keep in mind such as:
- Promotions: some cashback rates only last for a limited time. So, tomorrow (or next week) you may see a different cashback rate at the same retailer.
- Payment time: some cashback sites will actually pay out your cashback rewards faster than others. Splender (for example) pays monthly, but other sites may make you wait up to 3 months to receive your rewards.
- Exclusions: certain purchases (like gift cards) are often prohibited from earning cashback rewards. So, be sure to read the fine print at the cashback site you’re using.
Leverage online coupons
Whenever you shop online, it’s always worth a quick look to see if any valid coupons exist for your retailer of choice. Whether it’s free shipping, or a juicy percent-off discount, the right coupon can cut your purchase price significantly. Coupons can be found in a variety of places including:
- Cashback sites*
- Retailer sites & emails
- Coupon sites (e.g. RetailMeNot, Coupons.com, etc.)
- Social sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
- Forums & blogs
*Keep in mind that if you’re looking to combine (i.e. “stack”) a coupon with the rewards you earn from a cashback site, you should only use coupon codes listed on your cashback site of choice. Why? Well, cashback sites track your purchases via cookies and often these cookies can be overwritten (negating your cashback rewards) when you visit various coupon sites, blogs, or forums before making your final purchase. Also, some retailers distribute specific coupon codes (in emails or on their own sites for example) which can’t be combined with any cashback rewards, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.
Pay with a credit card that offers rewards
These days there are literally hundreds of different credit cards to choose from. Finding the card(s) that’s right for you really depends on variety of things including your spending habits, credit history, favorite places to shop, preference for cashback vs. miles, etc. One thing’s for sure, though, if you’re not shopping online with some type of rewards credit card you’re likely missing out on substantial savings.*
Some credit cards offer up to an additional 6% cashback on purchases and others come with equally high points or airline mile rewards. So, you’ll need to do your research and figure which cards are the best fit for you. Need some help deciding? Check out these resources from CreditCards.com, The Simple Dollar, and NerdWallet.
*Reminder: if you’re going to leverage rewards credit cards (and reap the benefits) you HAVE to pay your balance in full every month. Many rewards credit cards come with great perks, but the downside is they also typically have very high interest rates. So, always make sure you’re only spending within your means, otherwise finance charges are going to eat up all your rewards (and then some).
Pro tip: lots of cards offer big bonuses when you sign-up. If you’re selective, and time it right, you can collect some nice rewards during sign-up and within the first couple months of using your new card. NerdWallet recently did a study on the best time to apply for travel rewards credit cards (based on when you plan to travel and then the sign-up bonuses are typically highest).
Participate in store loyalty programs
Loyalty programs aren’t just for grocery and drugstores anymore. Lots of retailers, selling everything from apparel to electronics now have loyalty programs including: eBay, Sephora, Best Buy, and Bloomingdale’s (to name a few). Joining these programs, at the retailers you shop most frequently, is a great way to find deals and save extra money (usually on future purchases). Typically, your purchases accrue points which you can exchange in the future for discounts, free shipping, or other perks. Check retailer websites to join or get additional info on benefits.
Pro tip: keep an eye on your loyalty program emails and watch for promotions where you can earn additional points. If you time your purchases and buy when reward totals are doubled or tripled (for example) you can quickly accelerate your savings opportunities. Just make sure you’ve got a strategy for redeeming your points & coupons in the future. Beware of falling into the trap where your points compel you to buy items you don’t need (just so you can use the points before they expire).
Sign-up for store credit cards
I already touched on rewards credit cards in tip #4, but many people forget about retailer-specific credit cards (which can often save you significantly more than your “standard” credit card). To put things in perspective, my wife and I have a Capital One card that we use a lot (and get 1.5% cashback). However, whenever we shop at Target (online or in-store) our Target REDcard credit card earns us 5% cashback. That extra 3.5% really adds up when you’ve got 3 kids and hit Target pretty hard on a regular basis.
So, depending upon your credit situation, it can really pay off to have a few extra cards in your rotation for specific retailers or categories of purchases. Here’s a decent list of store credit cards where you can compare benefits.
*I mentioned this previously, but I think it’s worth repeating: if you’re going to leverage rewards credit cards (and reap the benefits) you HAVE to pay your balance in full every month. Many rewards credit cards come with great perks, but the downside is they also typically have very high interest rates. So, always make sure you’re only spending within your means, otherwise finance charges are going to eat up all your rewards (and then some). Got it? Good. Now, on to more saving tips.
Stack cashback, coupons, discounts, & rewards to increase your savings
Ok, so you’ve started using a cashback site, you’ve found a couple coupons here & there, and maybe you even joined a loyalty program (or two). But, how do the savviest shoppers squeeze the most value from all the tips I’ve given so far? The answer is “stacking.”
Stacking refers to combining multiple savings opportunities together. At a minimum, you should always be able to stack a cashback site and a rewards credit card together (so, make sure you do this EVERY time you shop online). To really compound your savings, look for opportunities to stack cashback, coupons, sale prices, store loyalty points, & credit card rewards all together on one purchase.
“Buy a discounted gift card from sites like Raise.com, and then use the gift card on a sale item with a promo code to save BIG,” says Collin Morgan of Hip2Save.com.
When attempting to pull off the ultimate stack, always be sure to read any applicable terms & conditions. Shawn Coomer, of Miles to Memories, warns that “stacking can be effective, but it is important to look for which stores negate portal cashback when using coupon codes. Also, some stores don’t award portal cashback when using gift cards. Reading the fine print on all offers is essential to getting the final stacked price that you expect.”
This may all sound daunting, but it just requires a little research, some discipline, and (often) good timing. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t pull off the perfect stack consistently. The stars won’t align every time. However, DO beat yourself up if you’re not combining cashback with a rewards credit card (nearly) EVERY time because you’re just leaving easy money on the table.
Sign-up for email newsletters from your favorite retailers/sites
Getting on the email lists of your favorite retailers/sites is a great way to learn about deals, coupons, loyalty program bonuses, and other money-saving opportunities.
“By signing up for FREE store rewards programs (Gymboree, Columbia, Nike, etc.), you’ll receive exclusive offers, often free shipping and other fantastic perks! In addition, follow your favorite companies on Facebook for exclusive deals,” said Morgan.
Keep in mind that the more emails you subscribe to, the more overwhelming your inbox is going to get. One way to streamline this process is to setup email filters which direct promotional newsletters into designated folders/labels. This keeps your inbox clean(er) and allows you to scan the promotions at your leisure. Over time, unsubscribe from the retailers you don’t shop any more (or dump them if their communications regularly deliver little/no value).
Use price comparison sites to confirm you’re getting a good deal
“When you shop online don’t take the first price you see. Take some time and research other sites,” says Tracie Fobes, owner at Penny Pinchin’ Mom.
Just because Amazon has the item you’re looking for doesn’t mean that you can’t find it (significantly) cheaper elsewhere. Many purchases at Amazon (specifically) aren’t eligible for rewards from cashback sites. So, if you’re a loyal Amazon user, you may need to make some decisions between Prime Shipping or a lower (net) price elsewhere.
A quick price comparison search can often save you a lot of money (esp. on higher ticket items). There are lots of price comparison sites that can help make this process easier (once you know exactly what you want to buy). Sites like Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Bizrate (to name a few) track prices on millions of products across thousands of sites.
Reminder: when you’re price shopping, keep in mind what impact your rewards (e.g. cashback, loyalty points/credits, etc.) will have on your final price. Some cashback sites (like Splender) will do this math for you when you search for products in their site search box. It’s worth noting that sometimes it makes sense to pay a higher upfront price for an item because your net price (after cashback & other rewards arrive) will ultimately be lower.
Use price tracking services to get alerted when prices drop
If you can be flexible on when you actually need an item, price tracking services can provide significant savings (especially on bulk buys). What’s a price tracking service? Essentially, it’s a website (or app) where you find the product you’re looking for, select that you’d like to track it, and then get notified (typically via email) when the price drops. Some price trackers cater to Amazon exclusively, others track products on several hundred retailer sites, and some focus on very specific categories such as airfare. Here are a couple that I’ve tried:
- Camel Camel Camel: allows you to track any product on Amazon and get notified when the price drops. Also, you can see historical price trends for many items so you can get a feel for if you’re buying an item at its peak (or should potentially wait for prices to fall back down). Amazon does A LOT of price changes (sometimes multiple times a day on specific items) so price tracking can be extremely helpful here.
- Yapta: allows you to track flights and get notified when prices drop. Like Amazon, the airline industry does a lot of price changes. So, if you find an attractive fare, jump on it fast (b/c it may be gone in a few hours).
For me, price tracking services have been most useful for saving on consumable items that I purchase regularly such as: vitamins, protein powder, contact lens cleaner, etc. Normally, I’ll only buy a few of each item, but if the price drops near historic lows I’ll stock up (and ultimately save more over time). A word of caution though, if you’re going to stock up on consumables just be aware of their expiration dates. You don’t want to buy 3 years’ worth of contact lens cleaner only to find out that it has a 12-month expiration. Of course I’ve never done that (cough cough), ever.
Price tracking can also be quite useful if you’ve got your eye on a bigger ticket purchase (e.g. shoes, camera, computer, etc.) but aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger yet. Set an alert and get notified when the item hits your ideal price. However, just because the price drops into your ideal range doesn’t mean you can forget about all of the other savings tips we’ve covered. Even after the price drops, make sure you shop through a cashback site, do a quick coupon search, look for potential loyalty reward opps, etc. ALWAYS be looking for opportunities to get your stack on!
Wait for sale periods or buy off-season
Yeah, I know it’s really hard to wait for the right time to buy something, especially with the on-demand economy surging. However, if you strategically plan the timing of your purchases (particularly the big ticket items) you can really score some great deals. Some of this is common sense (i.e. buy items during the off-season when demand is low & markdowns are bigger), but doing a little research (and watching the market) can pay off handsomely as well.
Big sales are still a heavily-used tactic for many retailers to boost their numbers. As a result, lots of stores have settled into a predictable promotional cadence. Here are just a few examples:
- Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: big sale each year (typically at the end of June) where they discount lots of new and existing items.
- Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale: sales event that takes place twice a year (typically in January and June).
- Amazon Prime Day: started in 2015, but apparently it’s going to be an ongoing event. Prime Day appears to be targeted for July each year, and many retailers are jumping onboard with their own sales to compete with Amazon.
- L. Bean Annual Paddle Sports Sale: typically takes place in early June. Great discounts available on kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, etc.
- Gap (any day): Gap is one of many retailers that has become extremely reliant on sales to turn their inventory with each changing season. Very rarely can you justify paying full price for something here. If an item you want isn’t on sale, just wait a day or two. J
The key here is getting to know your favorite retailers. Make mental (or physical) notes of when they typically have big sales or take their deepest markdowns. If you can stifle your urge for instant gratification (and strategically plan your purchases) your bank account will thank you.
Buy discounted gift cards
Gift cards aren’t just for gifts anymore, they can also be a great savings tool. How? Well, you first have to find gift cards that are selling at a discounted face value. For example, you buy a $100 Kohl’s gift card for $90. Then, when you shop at Kohl’s (and use your gift card to pay) you’re going to save a minimum of 10% (and even more since you’re now and expert stacker, right?).
Where do you find discounted gift cards online? There are several sites that sell discounted gift cards including: eBay, Raise, and Cardpool. Supply, demand, and prices really fluctuate at these sites so you have to be on your toes and jump on a good deal when you see it (especially if it’s for a retailer you shop regularly). Also, you should be aware that on some of these sites you may be buying gift cards from individuals that are reselling them, so there is some potential risk involved (seek out sellers with good reviews). FWIW, I’ve had good luck on eBay with a big seller called SVM.
As I’ve said throughout this post, you should always be looking for an opportunity to stack, and gift cards are no exception. With gift cards, the stack can be a little trickier because some cashback sites don’t give credit on any gift card purchases (ex. buying a gift card a gap.com). Also, some stores won’t grant cashback rewards when a gift card is your method of payment. So, with gift cards a typical stack might look like this:
- Visit eBay (via a cashback site).
- Purchase discounted gift card. Stack = cashback + discounted gift card savings + credit card rewards (used to pay for gift card) + eBay Bucks loyalty program (if you’re a member).
- Shop (at retailer where gift card is from). If possible, combine coupons, sales prices, & cashback (if eligible).
- Pay with gift card.
Pro tip: really savvy shoppers might even take this a step (or two) further. For example, if you know there is a good discounted gift card at eBay, you might be able to find a discounted eBay gift card FIRST (then use that discounted eBay card to pay for your next discounted gift card). If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around that one, check out this post on the art of gift card churning. Once you think you’re ready to earn your black belt in churning & stacking, check out these money-saving ninja tricks. Update: eBay has now changed their terms & conditions and closed this loophole. So, you can no longer buy gift cards on eBay while using an eBay gift card as your payment method. Many retailers (including eBay & Target) have been changing their gift card policies over the past year to reduce/eliminate “churning,” so always read terms & conditions closely before making a big investment on gift cards.
Pro tip 2: leverage the above strategies to save on “offline” purchases too. For example, I buy discounted gas cards and Whole Foods gift cards (two places that very rarely have big sales). Think about all the places you shop over and over (online or offline) and investigate how much you can potentially save with discounted gift cards.
Pro tip 3: purchase gift cards at grocery stores and stack other rewards with this purchase. Many groceries stores offer gas rewards and other rewards programs. And, you guessed it, grocery stores also sell gift cards for various stores (e.g. Best Buy, Home Depot, Bass Pro, Kohl’s, etc.). So, when you purchase gift cards you can earn fuel rewards + rewards from the credit card you use to pay. Note: lots of grocery rewards programs exclude gift card purchases from earning rewards every day, but they often run select promotions where gift cards are eligible for points. So, keep your eye out for these promos and be ready to jump on them when they pop up.
Keep a list of all items you’re in the market for
Lists are not only a great way to stay organized while shopping, but also can help you save money.
“Keep a list of all the items that you’re in the market for (and their standard prices), that way when you do see a sale you can quickly cross reference that list and see if any of those items are on sale and if at a big enough discount, purchase them,” says Will Charles, founder of DoctorOfCredit.com.
“I find that this helps me not purchase items I don’t need simply because they are a great deal and also gives me a reference point on how much the item typically costs when it’s not on sale,” says Charles.
Saving money takes a lot of discipline, and lists are a great way to keep you on track. I regularly use lots of lists to prioritize my day as well as my shopping.
Pro tip: ditch the Post-it notes and use an app to simplify your list creation and management. I highly recommend Evernote since you can sync lists across multiple devices (and users). And, the free version of Evernote has more than enough functionality for most users.
Don’t pay for shipping
These days free shipping is more the norm than a special promotion. A 2014 study from Comscore showed that 58% of all online transactions in the U.S. had free shipping (and that number still appears to be rising). Here are a few tips to help ensure that shipping costs don’t wipe out your savings:
- Look for free shipping coupons before you purchase
- Watch your favorite retailers for free shipping sales, especially around holidays like: Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas, etc.
- Have your item shipped to a store instead of your home. Many retailers (e.g. Walmart, Home Depot, Staples, etc.) offer free ship-to-store.
- Spend enough to qualify for free shipping. Either wait until you’ve got enough items to buy or double up on consumables that you’ll need to purchase again soon anyway.
- Alternatively, you can order some extra items (that you don’t plan on keeping) and then just return them to a physical store location. This assumes that the store has a favorable “buy online return in-store” policy and that you won’t need to waste lots of time and gas to make a trip just for returns.
- Send a message to a company via social media or ping one of their live chat reps. Sometimes you can get a free shipping code just for asking (nicely).
Check deal sites to find sales & clearance items
If you’re in the market for a specific item, browsing deal sites before you make a purchase can be a great way to save. Several sites (e.g. DealNews, TechBargains, and SlickDeals) aggregate great deals on products across a wide range of categories. Most of these sites allow you to setup “alerts” to get notified when new deals are published in certain categories (like Travel, Apple-branded products, appliances, etc.) which can save you a lot time (and money).
Pro Tip #1: beware, spending too much time on deal sites (when you don’t have a specific product in mind) can lead to spending more money by buying stuff you don’t actually need (big markdowns can be hard to resist). So, if you’re an impulsive shopper you’ll want to proceed with caution here. A good strategy to avoid temptation is to write down your shopping goals (i.e. find a tablet under $200) and stick to your plan. Get in, get out, save!
Pro Tip #2: don’t forget about stacking (i.e. layering on coupon & cash back savings). Yes, I’m going to keep harping on this one. Stacking cashback on top of a deal you found on a deal site can get a bit tricky.
Deal sites often get their own referral fees for sending you to another site to make a purchase (and this can override your cashback savings if you’re not careful). If you want to collect cashback rewards, you need to ensure that you click through from a cashback site before finalizing your purchase.
Here’s an example of how the process might look:
- Find great deal on a deal site
- Clicking on the deal takes you to BestBuy.com (deal site referral is set…which means no cashback for you…YET).
- Visit Splender.com (or your preferred cashback site). Click Splender’s “shop now” link for BestBuy.com
- Land on BestBuy.com (cashback tracking is now set), find your product again, checkout, smile (b/c you’re a deal ninja now).
Follow “professional” deal seekers in social media
There are lots of people out there in the social space that constantly scan deal sites & feeds and do a lot of the dirty work for you. Following these deal seekers can save you the time of digging through deal sites on your own and can also teach you a few strategies for ferreting out bargains.
There are lots of deal seekers out there (in a variety of categories) so you need to do some exploring and following/unfollowing to find the ones you like. Here are a few to get you started:
- @MattGranite: mostly share tech deals and also some household items
- @KinjaDeals: focuses on tech, apparel, & household deals
- @travelzoo: these guys are all about travel deals
- @videogamedeals: as the name would imply, you can find video game deals here
- @southernsavers: primarily shares deals related to grocery and household items.
Also, keep an eye out for private Facebook groups from your favorite bloggers. For example, Melissa Garcia (ConsumerQueen.com) runs a private Black Friday deals group. “Many people are now buying all their Black Friday needs online instead of fighting the stores because stores are starting run weekly hot deals online,” said Garcia.
Note: when following deal seekers, the same tips/warnings apply that I mentioned for deal sites above. If you’re not disciplined you could end up spending (vs. saving) a lot more money on items you don’t really need.
For bigger purchases, check prices at different times of day (or different days of the week) and on different computers.
Why should you bother doing this? Because many retailers are now employing dynamic pricing where the price of an item can change based on supply, demand, time of day, your location, your device type, or other factors.
Ever paid more for an Uber ride at 6pm vs. 10am?…that’s dynamic pricing at work. It’s been stated that some large retailers like Walmart and Amazon change prices thousands of times per month in order to maximize profits.
There’s a bit of an ethical debate about whether dynamic pricing is fair or not. Contrary to popular belief, charging different people different prices for the same item is legal (as long as it’s not done on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or gender, or is in violation of antitrust or price-fixing laws).
So, how do you make sure you’re getting a good deal in a world of fluctuating prices? You need to do your research and understand the “going rate” for your item.
Typically, I don’t check prices multiple times a day for lower ticket items and everyday purchases (that would drive me crazy). But, if you’re going to book an expensive flight, reserve a week at a pricey hotel, or buy a new camera (for example), it can often be well worth it to vary your pricing research to ensure you’re not purchasing at a peak price.
Purchase via your mobile phone.
It’s no secret that mobile ecommerce is growing pretty rapidly, and many retailers are offering incentives for users to install apps, bring friends, and shop with their mobile device for the first time. So, be sure to check your favorite retailer’s site to see if you can get any extra perks for trying apps, inviting friends, and shopping with your phone.
Recently, I made my first mobile purchase on Amazon and was surprised to get a $25 credit to the Amazon app store a few days later (enticing me to engage even more with my mobile device).
Trying out a mobile payment service for the first time can also help you save some cash. Samsung Pay (for example) often runs incentives for first-time users including this spring when they offered $30 gift cards to eBay, Best Buy, and GameStop for trialing the service.
Opt-in to receive promotions (via text message) from your favorite retailers.
Continuing with our mobile theme, you can often get exclusive deals and early sale notifications if you sign up to receive text messages from your favorite stores. Lots of stores have added text-specific promos including: Bloomingdales, Saks, Home Depot, and American Eagle (to name a few).
Check out this post for additional stores & tips on retail text alerts.
Start your shopping in incognito mode
“A lot of stores offer a coupon for signing up for email notifications and going into hidden (i.e. incognito) mode often triggers it,” says Jim Wang, founder of Wallet Hacks.
Pro tip: incognito mode starts you out with a “clean” browser. So, if you’ve already clicked through a cashback portal prior to entering incognito mode, you’ll need to go back through the portal (before finalizing your purchase) to reset tracking and receive cashback rewards.
Ask for a discount.
When all else fails, ask for a discount. Yeah, I know it’s a foreign concept (esp. in our internet, app-driven world) to actually interact with a human when buying something, but it actually works. Who knew?
Shopping experts like Kyle James recommend a few tips such as:
- Start a live chat session w/ the site’s customer service team before completing your online purchase.
- You’ll likely have better success negotiating on items that are relatively expensive (e.g. computers, appliances, TVs, etc.)
- Get your discount first, and then try to “stack” coupons on top of that. If you input a coupon before starting your live chat, you’re less likely to get a discount since the rep will see you’re already getting a price break.
For more tips, check out this post on how to negotiate a lower price via chat.
Get price adjustments after you buy.
Lots of retailers (e.g. Macy’s, Best Buy, Sears, Kohl’s, etc.) have price adjustment policies which allow you to get a refund if an item goes on sale after you buy it, or if you find it cheaper somewhere else. Typically, you need to find the lower price within 14 days, but all the policies vary a bit (so be sure to read up on your favorite stores).
Here are a few tips to make monitoring price adjustments a bit easier:
- Leverage price tracking software (as mentioned in Tip #10 above) to get notified when prices drop.
- Use a service like Citi Price Rewind that automatically scans hundreds of online merchants to check for lower prices on your purchases.
- Get price change alerts and automated adjustments from apps like Slice and Paribus. Note: Paribus takes a 25% cut of your price adjustment refund….so, you’re essentially paying for their automated tracking/processing in that case.
Use IFTTT to build “recipes” for your own custom deal alerts.
IFTTT (“If This, Then That”) is a free web-based service that lets you interact with other web services (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, reddit, eBay, Gmail, etc.) to extract information and automate tasks. I know, it sounds really geeky (and it is), but it can help you save time & money. So, let’s dive in.
Without getting too in-depth, IFTTT lets you write conditional statements (i.e. “recipes”) which you can leverage to help you find deals (along with lots of other cool tasks….but, we’re just interested in the deals for now). For example:
- IF the price drops on my item (at specified stores), THEN email me.
- IF a tablet deal is found on reddit, THEN get a mobile notification.
- IF a new item I’m seeking is posted to Craigslist, THEN save it to my Google Doc
IFTTT can be a little confusing to grasp at first, but it’s a very powerful tool. And, there are already lots of great “recipes” already written, so don’t get scared that you need coding skills. Here are a few premade IF/THEN recipes to get you started on your deal-seeking ninja quest:
- Get a daily email digest with eBay listings that match your search
- Get an email when a new Craigslist post matches your search
- Various deals-related recipes
When buying flights, try to be as flexible as possible.
There are tons of tips for finding the cheapest flight, but I’ve found you can consistently save the most money by being flexible. Shifting times a few hours, or flying a day earlier/later can literally save you hundreds. So, if you’ve got some wiggle room in your plans, make sure you check various arrival/departure days and times.
If you’re planning a vacation and have flexibility, check flights & hotels BEFORE you lock down the exact dates with family & friends. It’s much harder to save if you lock in the date first, and then try to shift departure days/times later (esp. if you’ve got a larger group). Sometimes you’ll find that it’s actually cheaper to stay on vacation longer (bonus!) because airfares change so much on different days.
Here are a few sites/apps which can help you find cheap flights:
Put items in your shopping cart, then abandon it
This one takes a lot of will power since you need to get all the way to point of purchasing, but then walk away without completing your transaction. Sometimes waiting a few extra days can get you a nice discount after the retailer sees that you were ready to buy, but didn’t.
Not every retailer offers abandoned cart promotions, but some that have been known to do it in the past include stores such as: Toys R Us, Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Kate Spade, & others. See more retailers here.
Note: make sure you’re registered (and logged in) with the site you’re shopping at before you try this tip. If the retailer doesn’t have your email address (and know who you are) then you won’t receive the offer. Also, if you clear your cookies after abandoning your cart you likely won’t get any discounts as well (again, the retailer needs to track you & your items).
Sign up for an Amazon Prime Store Card & get 5% back on every Amazon purchase.
Many people aren’t aware that Amazon offers a credit “card” that gives you 5% back in rewards. I use the term “card” loosely because you don’t actually get a plastic, traditional credit card that you can use anywhere. It’s more like a piece of cardboard with your account number on it.
The Amazon Prime Store Card can only be used to purchase items at Amazon.com (not at other retailers), but the rewards will likely blow away any other card you’ve got in your wallet. So, if you’re only earning 1% on your Amazon.com purchases with another credit card, stop that nonsense….stop it now. You’re likely leaving at least 3% on the table.
As with any credit card, don’t sign up for this one unless you can pay your balance (in-full) EVERY month. The APRs are north of 26% (at the time this post was written), so if you carry a balance it essentially defeats the purpose of this tip.
For the disciplined, heavy Amazon shopper (and Prime member), you can save a bundle with this one. I’ve already paid for my annual Prime membership (a couple times over) with the cashback rewards from this card.
Pro tip: Amazon also sells gift cards for other retailers (and you earn 5% rewards on these gift card purchases). I’m not going to name names here, but Amazon offers gift cards from some retailers that rarely have sales (and don’t offer cashback). So, if you purchase gift cards via Amazon for one of these retailers you’ve essentially got an instant 5% discount. Shhhh.
Online shopping is not only convenient, but also a great way to save money on a wide variety of purchases. Whether you leverage cashback sites, online coupons, loyalty programs, discounted gift cards, or (hopefully) all the above, you can almost always save a few extra bucks each time you checkout.
The next time you’re about to put something in your cart, don’t forget these tips. If you challenge yourself to stack different tactics together, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the savings will add up.
So, how do you find the best online shopping deals? If we’ve missed a great tip, please let us know in the comments below.