As much as I get a thrill out of couponing at Target and CVS, shopping in brick-and-mortar stores can be a real drag sometimes. Especially when I’m schlepping the kids, as I most often am.
Which is why I have increasingly turned to online shopping for a number of our recent purchases, including everything from my husband’s birthday present (a long wanted GPS system) to my new summer sandals. Here’s how I make sure I’m paying the best price possible:
1) Compare prices with an online tool like Price Grabber
There are many different tools out there to help you comparison shop, but I like Price Grabber for it’s user-friendly interface. When we were shopping for a TV, I found it especially useful because there are so many online sites that sell electronics and I didn’t know where to begin. For non-electronic items, I am a little more Amazon-reliant. Before I press purchase anywhere else, I’ll just quickly check Amazon to see if they have a cheaper option.
2) Shop through a cash-back site
Did you know that there are websites that will pay you 1% – 10+% cash-back on almost all of your online shopping? Just for clicking through their website? I only learned about this last year, and it took me a while to get on the bandwagon because I was a afraid it was a scam. After reliably receiving my cash-back checks — no strings attached — for over a year now, I definitely feel comfortable recommending this method of online shopping.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say, for example, that you are about to order some clothes from Old Navy. Rather than just punching up the Old Navy website, you instead search for them on a cash-back site like ebates (which is my personal favorite cash-back site). If you did that today, you’d get back 2%, but I’ve gotten back as much as 10% during promotions in the past.
Ebates sends out its rebate checks once a quarter and in order to get yours, you have to have at least $5.01 in your account. If you have less, the money will just roll over and keep accumulating until the next quarter. I just got a check in the mail the other day for $8. Obviously I’m not going to get rich with an $8 check, but hey, it’s FREE MONEY. And since I was going to make the online purchase anyway, why not get some free money for it?!
Disclaimer: I truly love ebates and it’s the only cash-back site I use, but you should know that if you click on any of the little ebates linkies… and you end up signing up… and you end up making a qualifying purchase of $20 by October 10, 2010… you and I will both get a $5 bonus! And by the way, if you’re as happy with ebates as I am, you can tell all your friends and family about it and get the same deal for yourself!
3) Use a coupon code
Let’s say you have comparison shopped, found the best deal, and clicked through ebates. You’re all ready to push “complete my order”. But wait, there are still two more things you can do to save money. The first thing is to look for a coupon code.
I usually try Googling “coupon code + thenameofthestore” but honestly, the fastest way to find a code is on RetailMeNot. Just type in the name of the store and if there’s a code, it’ll pop up. The codes are rated for success by actual users, but I have yet to enter a code that doesn’t work (as long as it’s not expired). For less than 30 seconds of effort, I can usually save at least 10% (and often more) on my purchases.
4) Get free shipping
The other thing you must do before completing your online order is to check for free shipping. It’s very rare that I pay for shipping on anything these days. It used to be that free shipping was just a gimmick, and that stores covered their costs by charging more for the item.
Today, however, there is so much competition for online shoppers that I think free shipping is really that: Free. If the store doesn’t offer you free shipping automatically, you can check for a free shipping code at freeshipping.org. If all else fails, a number of stores offer free shipping to your nearest brick-and-mortar store.
5) Use Swagbucks to Shop through Amazon
Tips #1 – #4 work for me when I am not ordering from Amazon. Often times, however, I find that the best price is available only at Amazon, which as far as I know doesn’t offer cash-back through any sites. Nor does it have coupon codes. It does, however, have free super saver shipping. And, it lets you pay for your purchases by using Swagbucks.
Remember when I told you about Swagbucks? Real quick: It’s a search engine like Google, but when you use Swagbucks, you can randomly win points for your searches. Then you can cash those points in for prizes, such as my favorite — a $5 gift card at Amazon.com. Amazon let’s you save up your gift cards in your account, so you can apply multiple $5 cards to one single purchase.
When I bought my husband’s GPS back in June, I did some comparison shopping and found the best price for the system I wanted at Amazon. Score. Then I got a $35 “discount” by using my Swagbucks gift cards. Double score!
From GPS systems to Seventh Generation diapers to organic maple syrup, I’ve gotten some super deals at Amazon thanks to Swagbucks. Which again, I earned for doing nothing more than searching for stuff on the Internet that I’d anyway be searching for! If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks yet, you can do so here. (Or click any of the linkies above.)
Disclaimer #2: If you do sign up for Swagbucks using the links above, I will earn one swagbuck for every swagbuck you win, up to, I think, your first 1,000.
Do you prefer online shopping to shopping at brick-and-mortar stores? What are your best tips for saving money while shopping online?
P.S. I’m linking this post up to Life as Mom’s Frugal Friday blog carnival. Please go check it out for countless other ways to cut your expenses and live a richer life!