More consumers than ever have turned to online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From home appliances and laptops to groceries, the products and merchandise that many shoppers would have gone to a store to buy are now in high demand on the web.
But this rapidly accelerating trend of online shopping also poses certain challenges. On the one hand, losing a face-to-face with a salesperson makes it much more difficult to bargain.
For budget-conscious shoppers who may be new to getting the best value online, don’t worry. We asked several smart shopping experts to share some of their top strategies for saving big when shopping online. Here are their tips and tricks to make sure your money is well spent.
When you shop online, the possibilities are endless compared to a traditional retailer. Virtual shopping can put a dent in your wallet faster than rushing from store to store.
That’s why it’s imperative that online shoppers plan ahead, says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot.com. Before you log in to make a purchase, write down a list of desired items, she advises. This way you know exactly what you are planning to buy and you are less likely to be distracted by a promotion.
Once you’ve determined how much you plan to spend, consider purchasing a gift card for that exact amount rather than just putting your purchase on a credit card, adds Skirboll. It eliminates the urge to overspend – you have a set amount to work with. You can purchase a specific gift card at the store or from a credit card provider such as Visa or American Express that can be used at multiple retailers.
A budget-friendly way to save your own money when shopping online is to purchase a discounted gift card and use it to make purchases, recommends Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com. As we mentioned earlier, using a gift card instead of a credit card helps keep your spending under control and stay on budget. Once you have spent all the funds on the card, you can no longer use it for other purchases.
So the discount: You can buy a gift card for less than its face value at a gift card marketplace like GiftCardGranny.com or Raise.com. A $ 100 DSW Gift Card sells for $ 96.50 on GiftGardGranny.com. That’s almost a 4% saving. On Raise.com, a $ 200 Macy’s e-gift card is available for $ 192.88, which is about 3.5% off compared to buying direct from the department store.
If you are looking to save big, do a quick google search before purchasing a desired item online, advises Bodge of TrueTrae.com. It could be the difference between paying full price at one of your favorite retailers and getting 20% off somewhere new to you.
This is especially the case for consumers who shop on Amazon by default (especially Prime members), Bodge says. Despite the convenience and fast shipping options it offers, the ecommerce giant doesn’t always offer the lowest prices. For example, we spotted the Cuisinart Power Advantage 5-Speed Hand Blender (in white) for $ 49.95 on Amazon. You’ll pay $ 10 less at Williams-Sonoma.com where the same hand mixer costs $ 39.95.
Many retailers use their social media channels as a marketing tool to promote new product launches and upcoming sales. If you don’t follow your favorites on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you could be missing out on huge savings, says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. This is where stores will frequently offer promo codes or early access on sales to their followers – discounts that aren’t widely advertised on their ecommerce sites or in print flyers.
The next time your credit card provider emails you a batch of shopping offers from merchants they’ve partnered with, don’t delete it, says Bodge of TrueTrae.com. You may be able to achieve additional savings on desired items when you use this credit card to purchase them.
For example, Bodge points out that when you sign up for a Spotify Premium account using your Chase Visa card, you get the first six months free and pay $ 9.99 per month after the promotional period ends. You will also be entitled to a 5% credit on your statement during this same period. When World Elite Mastercard cardholders use their cards to purchase $ 25 or more of food using the Postmates delivery service, they will get $ 5 off their purchase.
Maximize your spending when shopping online by using the store credit cards you have on reserve to make purchases. Depending on how much you spend, you may be eligible for rewards and other perks on your purchases, including cash back, store credits, and expedited shipping options.
At Macy’s, members of their Star Rewards Platinum card who spend at least $ 1,200 per year are eligible for free shipping with no minimum purchase, as well as personalized discount offers based on their purchase history. If you have Target’s red card, you’ll automatically get 5% off online purchases, free shipping, and an additional 30 days on top of the retailer’s standard 90-day return policy for returns or exchanges. products (i.e. 120 days in total for red card holders). At Costco, warehouse club members who have the retailer’s Citi Anywhere Visa card can earn 2% cash back on qualifying online purchases.
There is a risk here, of course. Late fees and interest charges will wipe out those savings in a jiffy, so be sure to spend responsibly if you decide to use a store credit card. If you can’t afford to pay off the balance in one billing cycle, consider reducing your shopping list. Overspending can also negatively impact your credit score.
It is far too easy to fill your virtual shopping cart much faster than in store. If when you checkout the order total is slightly more than what you intended to spend, there is a shopping hack that can help you lower the price (depending on the retailer.)
Complete the checkout process until you are prompted to enter your email address in the contact information section. Once you have entered it, leave your items in the basket, but close the browser in which you were viewing the site. This is known as “abandoning your cart,” explains James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com.
If one of the things that you lack in face-to-face shopping is haggling, well, it’s a potential substitute.