Online shopping can sometimes be a science when it comes to saving money. With all the coupon codes, social media campaigns, free shipping hacks, and surprise sales, a person needs to be savvy in order to tap into all of the available resources. In order to help you get the cheapest possible price the next time you go shopping, here are online shopping tips from real thrifty and money-minded people. Buy more for less from now on!
How to Find Coupons
Download Store-Specific Apps
Brooke Ulrich from All Things Thrifty recommends downloading store apps, like Target's Cartwheel, for the best coupon access. "I think companies are putting a lot of money into developing user-friendly apps right now, so they are putting their best coupons on them to try and stimulate users," she shares.
She also recommends downloading the Honey app and adding it as a browser extension. "The description says that when you are checking out, you click on the Honey button and it will automatically apply available coupon codes to your purchase." She hasn't tried it yet but I have, and I have to say it's magical! One time I saved $20 on a bathing suit, and all it took me was one click.
Know Google is your Friend
Fashion blogger Tiffany Battle of The Werk! Place always double-checks Google before checking out just in case there are any coupon codes floating around in the ether. "I will always do a sweep of the Internet for coupon codes from sites like Retail Me Not or Coupon.com. Or I will literally just search for 'coupon code for (fill in the blank retailer)' and may the best SEO win!"
Have a Dedicated Shopping Inbox
Fashion blogger Patrice Williams of Looking Fly on a Dime — and author of Looking Fly on a Dime: How to Find Fabulous Fashion at Any Thrift Shop & Make the Cheap Look Chic" — recommends signing up for newsletters to receive coupon codes, but she has an awesome hack so as not to feel cluttered with an avalanche of promos every day: Dedicate an email address just for shopping! "Anytime I'm shopping a site or brand for the first time they typically offer a sale to first time customers if you sign up for their newsletter. I feel any discount over 15 percent is worth signing up for a newsletter. I even have an email that's strictly for newsletter sign ups," she explains. "Anytime I want to shop with a brand or company, I just search my inbox to find their latest email and what deals they're currently offering."
Check Instagram for Last-Minute Deals
Another ingenious move Patrice uses is to check Instagram. "Instagram, particularly IG stories, is another place I go to find discounts. Many brands use Instagram for those last minute sales, especially around the holidays."
How to Avoid Shipping Fees
Use Local Stores for Price-Matching and Returns
Brooke likes to go into stores locally to avoid having to pay for shipping, and instead shows them the online deals she found to end up with the same savings. The cashiers have almost always honored those prices. The same goes for returns. "If you buy something online and you end up wanting to return it, take it back to the store locally. That will save you the shipping costs of the return," she suggests.
Leave Your Cart Full for a While
Often retailers offer free shipping if you reach a minimum price, but if you can't hit that amount, Patrice suggests leaving the items in your cart for a day or two. "Some shops will email you asking if you want to complete your order and may even throw in a discount code or free shipping. But this only happens if you're logging in to your account with the company."
Bundle Your Buying to Meet Minimums
Rachel Richardson of Lovely in LA says to plan your online shopping so you can hit that minimum price for free shipping. Instead of buying pants one day and then a blazer next week, make a list throughout the month and hit your shopping all at once if you can.
Another great tip Rachel shared was to reach out to customer service directly (a lot of stores have those chat boxes) and ask if there are any free shipping codes. You might be pleasantly surprised and get one.
How You Know Something is as Cheap as It's Going to Get
Do a Double-Check
Brooke believes everyone's idea of a "good deal" is different. Her best advice is to do a quick Google search before you check out, in order to double check and confirm that you can't buy the item elsewhere for a cheaper price.
Get in Tune With Stores' Sale Habits
For Tiffany, she recommends becoming familiar with a store's sale trends. This one takes more time, but if you know a certain brand stops at 30% off sales or goes all-in on 80% clearance items, you'll know if you should wait it out or snap up the item. "For instance, with ASOS (one of my faves), if I see it and I like it, I buy it! Their pieces tend to sell out fast," she explains.
Keep an Eye on Quantity
For in-person shopping, Patrice points out that it all depends on how many items are left on sale—advice that can be easily applied to online stores that make their stock numbers visible on the web. "If an item is in limited quantities (you just see one or two on the rack), then there's a chance it won't be marked down again and you want to buy it while you can. However, if a line has a ton of items on the rack, then I'll tend to wait a little longer because the store's more inclined to mark it down again and move the merch."
It Pays to Wait for a Holiday
For blogger Candice Nikeia, she likes to wait for the holidays on big purchases. "If I am purchasing a big item like a sofa or desk or any item that I can wait to buy, I usually wait until a holiday to grab a good deal. Memorial Day is good for beginning of summer sales and Labor Day is great for end of summer sales. The beginning of January also always has great deals for many companies!" And don't forget Black Friday, which is right around the corner.
Learn Some Favorite Online Shopping Hacks
Make a Peep on Twitter
Brooke loves tweeting companies to see if they can offer her any additional discount codes to add to her checkout. "A lot of times a brand will have special social media discounts. Plus, they may know of a discount that exists out there that you haven't heard about."
Watch Prices, Even After You Buy
For Tiffany, if she sees that prices were slashed on an item she purchased just a few days ago, she tries to see if she could be refunded the difference. "I've had times when I've purchased an item and the price was dropped within the next two or three days. I'll call customer service to see if I can get a price adjustment. If not, I'll buy the discounted item in my size and return the other item," she shares.
Shop Many Stores at Once
When Patrice is looking for a specific item, like a trench coat or ballet flats, she recommends using sites like Shopstyle because they make it super easy to compare prices. "I can enter my specifics (style, max price, etc.) and see a range of products from different retailers. This has saved me a ton when I've been looking for something specific and want to easily compare prices."
Buy Gift Cards at a Discount
Another great tip Patrice has is to buy discount gift cards online. "I know the stores I shop a lot, so I'll buy a $20 gift card for $15. I planned to spend money at the store anyway, so now I'm just saving a few extra bucks with the gift card plus whatever discount the store is offering."
There are a ton of clever ways to cut corners while shopping — and these discount tricks can end up saving you a lot of money by the end of the year. You might as well try them!