Once you have a budget established, start taking small (and large!) steps to cut down unnecessary expenses. Today’s money saving edition: Online Shopping.
If you already do a lot of shopping online, it’s time to re-evaluate and see how many of those items are needs versus wants. The easiest way to save money is to simply not spend it on unnecessary items, however, online shopping is a staple in most households nowadays. If you’re going to shop online, be sure to do it wisely. I’m a huge fan of the convenience online shopping offers, paired with the ability to “find deals” from the comfort of my couch. Over the years, I’ve developed a few habits to ensure I’m getting the best deal possible and to also temper impulse purchases.
1) Add items to your online shopping cart… and wait
Impulse purchases are budget killers. Chances are, that item in your shopping cart is not a time-critical purchase. So do some browsing, add some products to your cart and then come back in a day or two to see if you really want them.
Some websites will actually email you coupon codes or offer a discount if you leave unpurchased items in your cart. They want to lure you back and make the purchase even more enticing. If you do decide to move ahead with your purchase, that’s a win/win.
2) Use Cash Back and Coupon Websites
I love love love Ebates. It’s free to join and typically offers a $10 sign-up bonus. They offer cash back at hundreds of online retailers. I joined back in 2014, and to date, I’ve received $395.95 in cash back – sent directly to my PayPal account. Cash back percentages vary by store and will occasionally feature higher cash back percentages. Plus, they list coupons for each retailer on their roster.
I’ll typically do my online browsing, add items to my cart (sit on them for a day or two!) and then once I’m ready to move ahead, hop over to Ebates. I check for coupons and go through the Ebates referral link for cash back on my purchase. The cash back percentages fluctuate, so keep that in mind.
3) Search Competitor’s Price Listings
If you are about to purchase a name-brand, widely-distributed product, always run a quick google search to see which store offers the best price. Remember to take the cost of shipping into account. Paired with cash back from Ebates and other coupon codes, you may be able to knock a few dollars off.
4) Set Up Price Alerts
If you frequently shop at Amazon.com, www.camelcamelcamel.com is a must have. You simply enter in the URL of an Amazon product or search by keyword and this site will display a price history graph, plus list current price, highest price, lowest price, average price and recent price changes. But the best feature – you can set up price alerts for specific products.
Back in 2016, I had been lusting over an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for several months, but couldn’t bring myself to pull the $100 price trigger. I set up a price alert via camelcamelcamel and was alerted on Black Friday that the price dropped over $30. Fantastic deal, time to purchase! And yes, months later, I still love my fancy-pants kitchen appliance 🙂
www.slickdeals.net is another personal favorite for price alerts and general ‘deal browsing’. It is primarily a user-driven forum that lists real-time deals on products both online and in-store. Their deal alert offers significant flexibility with regards to keywords, notification upon a certain popularity level and notification method.
5) Optimize Amazon Subscribe and Save
Amazon offers competitive prices on a lot of items, including several household staples that I routinely purchase (earl grey tea, cat food, soap, etc). If an item is offered via Amazon Subscribe and Save, it ships for free on a set date once a month and you automatically receive a 5% discount. Purchase 5 or more S&S items in the same month and you receive a 15% discount. Plan ahead and take advantage of this! I don’t make many purchases each month, so I group all of my S&S items together into the same month a few times a year to take advantage of the 15% off.
6) Be on the Lookout for Free Shipping
Some retailers offer free shipping when your purchase hits a certain threshold or have a coupon code for free shipping. Other retailers, like L.L. Bean, offer free shipping on all of their items, regardless of the purchase price. Always take the cost of shipping into account when price comparing across online retailers and try to avoid shipping fees if you can.
7) Understand Return Policies
Occasionally, retailers will offer free return shipping, but more likely than not, you will be charged if you return an item. Make sure you understand the retailer’s return policy in terms of cost and how quickly an item needs to be returned for a full refund. If a store has a brick-and-mortar presence, you may be able to return items in-store and avoid return shipping fees.
8) Watch for Price Drops After You Purchase
If the price on an item drops within a week or two of purchase, check with the retailer to see if they offer a price adjustment. It never hurts to ask! Kohl’s has always been one of the easiest stores to work with – if it’s within 14 days, just send their customer service folks an email and they credit you the price difference value within a few days.