It would be a bit of an understatement to say that the internet has revolutionized shopping. You can now, from your couch, buy pretty much anything you can imagine, and have it delivered to your home in a matter of days. But the internet hasn't just made shopping faster or more convenient — it's also made it smarter. Here are six time and money-saving strategies that all savvy online shoppers know.
1. Always comparison shop.
If, like me, you have a particularly thrifty mother, you may have memories of her combing through circulars from different grocery stores, trying to find the best price on milk or eggs or what have you. With the internet, you can do that with pretty much anything. Before you buy, do a quick Google search on the name of the product to see if another store is offering it for less or use Google's official shopping tool, Google Shopping or another comparison website like Price Grabber.
2. Be smart about shipping.
The purchase price of an item isn't everything — there's also shipping and taxes (which, in the States, apply if the retailer in question has a physical location in your state). Do the math and factor it in before you buy! And if the site where you're shopping offers free shipping over a certain purchase amount, check to see if you're close: If shipping is $10 but you're $3 away from the free shipping threshold, add a small sale item to your cart instead.
3. Know your return policies.
Sites like Gilt may seem like a good deal, but they often have incredibly inflexible return policies (such as exchanges or store credit only) or charge restocking fees. That great deal may not be such a great deal after all if you wind up stuck with something you don't really like — so read the return policy carefully before you buy.
4. Always look for coupons.
Couponing in the virtual world is a lot simpler than the paper version. Finding discounts is as easy as typing "J Crew coupon" into Google right before you check out, and if even that's too much, there are plenty of browser extensions out there, like Honey and Coupons at Checkout, that will automatically search for and apply deals as you shop. Few things are more satisfying than saving twenty dollars in thirty seconds.
5. Try eBay!
This is a smart shopping tip I've been using for years: If there's a brand you particularly love, or even a single pricey item you covet, try searching for it on eBay. You can often find deep discounts on gently used items, or styles from last season, or even brand-new merchandise. (Be sure to check the seller's feedback to make sure you're getting the real deal.)
6. Get an app to tell you when things go on sale.
Shoptagr is a Chrome extension that will let you know when your favorite items go on sale. It will also tell you when things are low in stock, so you don't have to worry about your favorite things selling out while you wait for a sale.
What are your favorite online shopping strategies?