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Shopping online is an every day thing for many of us. The convenience of being able to buy something in just a few minutes from a mobile phone or computer is pretty important in our busy society. But shopping online also offers many ways to save money, in addition to the convenience.
My favorite ways to save money are the ones that require little-to-no extra time or effort. I don’t really want to spend an hour searching all over the internet to find a deal that saves me $5… but I’ll gladly take any savings I can get that won’t cost me any of my time. And fortunately, there are several of those mentioned in this article.
Just by altering your habits slightly, and by knowing about some specific websites and apps, you can easily save hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year. In this article we’ll look at 15 specific, actionable tips to help you save more when shopping online.
One of the easiest ways to save is to simply use a good cash back credit card for your purchases, both online and in stores. You’ll be able to earn cash back for purchases that you would be making anyway, and over time it really adds up (read my article 11 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards).
The typical rewards credit card will earn 1% cash back, but some cards beat that. Here are some of my favorites that I have in my own wallet:
With the Chase Freedom Unlimited card you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and there is no annual fee. Currently Chase is also offering a $150 sign up bonus. All you need to do to earn the bonus is charge at least $500 to the card with the first 90 days.
With the Chase Freedom card you’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases. But what makes this card special is that you’ll earn 5% cash back on purchases in a particular category, and that category rotates each quarter. In the past they’ve often offered 5% cash back in the 4th quarter for purchases at Walmart (including online purchases) and Amazon. You can rack up a lot of rewards quickly with the 5% bonus categories! This card also has no annual fee. Chase is offering the same $150 sign up bonus on this card (you must charge $500 to the card in the first 90 days to qualify).
The Discover It card works basically the same as the Chase Freedom card. It pays 1% cash back on all purchases, has no annual fee, and pays 5% cash back on purchases in categories that rotate each quarter.
Ebates is one of the best tools for any online shopper. All you need to do is sign up for a free Ebates account and you can start earning cash back from purchases at thousands of different websites and retailers. They have a convenient browser extension that you can install in whatever internet browser you use, and when you visit a site that is a part of the Ebates program a notification will pop up to tell you how much cash back you can earn. You’ll simply click on that notification and it will track any purchases that you make, and credit your account with the cash back.
There are so many websites and retailers in the Ebates program that you can earn cash back from most online purchases that you make. Even sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com participate with Ebates. With some sites the cash back that you’ll earn is a pretty small percentage, but with other shops it’s surprisingly significant. And Ebates also runs promos and deals where you can save extra money and earn more cash back. And since it’s so easy there is really no reason not to set up an Ebates account… especially since they give you $10 for signing up!
The Ebates browser extension also has a cool feature that will find and apply coupon codes for you. Just last week I was buying some vitamins and it applied a coupon code that saved me about $4 on a $40 purchase, plus I got cash back.
It’s also important to note that you earn real cash from Ebates, not credit that you’ll use to earn gift cards from other stores. Ebates actually sends you a check or pays you via PayPal.
One of my favorite ways to save money is by purchasing gift cards below their face value. Raise is a site that you’ll definitely want to bookmark. At Raise you can buy gift cards from almost any store you can think off, and get it at a discount.
The gift cards are sold by people who don’t want to use them, but Raise offers a 1-year guarantee on all purchases. So if you purchase a gift card and it doesn’t work for some reason, you can get your money back. I’ve purchased several gift cards recently, and I know I’ll be buying more in the future.
The key is to buy gift cards to stores or restaurants that you frequently shop at or eat at, and it’s an easy way to save money. I started by buying a few gift cards to restaurants that our family likes, and I saved about 10% on meals that we would be buying anyways. Most of the gift cards are digital and you can get them almost instantly after your purchase.
If you create a Raise account through this link you’ll get $5 off a purchase of $50 or more, which allows you to save even more money. Also, after you make your first purchase you’ll get on their email list and they send out some great deals. Just this week I got an email with an offer for $10 off any purchase of $100 or more. I know I’ll be buying some things at Lowes soon, so I bought a Lowes gift card for just over $100, got it at about a 5% discount, and then also saved the extra $10.
If you’re like most Americans, Amazon is probably the first place you go when you need to buy something online. With an Amazon Prime subscription you’ll get free 2-day shipping on your purchases, plus you’ll get all kinds of other benefits and perks.
They keep improving Prime, so there are more and more reasons to join. Some of my favorite things about my Prime membership include:
One of the most noticeable ways you’ll save money with Prime is that you’ll no longer find yourself buying things you really don’t need in order to hit the minimum for free shipping.
If you do a lot of your shopping on Amazon, you may want to consider signing up for their credit card. With an Amazon credit card you’ll earn 5% cash back from all purchases made on Amazon.com (you’ll need to be a Prime member to qualify for that 5% cash back). The card has no annual fee, and many times there will be a sign up bonus as well. Right now (June 2018) they are offering an Amazon.com gift card as a bonus.
Paribus is a really simple app that can save you money with virtually no effort on your part. All you need to do is sign up and link it to the email account that you use for making online purchases (like the email address on your Amazon account). Paribus will automatically scan the purchase receipt emails that you get, and it will look for lower prices. It watches for price drops at stores/websites that have price adjustment policies where you can get refunded for the difference. This includes Walmart, Target, Staples, Kohl’s, Wayfair, and many more. Paribus will also check to make sure that your Amazon orders are delivered on time. If they’re late, Paribus will work to get to a free gift card or free month of Prime.
So far, Paribus has found more than $20 million in potential savings for its users. It takes just a minute to set up, and then you can just sit back and Paribus will alert you when it finds potential savings.
Shoptagr is an app that will alert you when a certain product goes on sale or comes back in stock. You can monitor products at more than 1,000 different websites. You’ll get a notification if a product you’re watching goes on sale or comes back into stock.
Shop It To Me is another free app that helps you to find sales on items that you want to buy. You can get notifications, even based on a specific size or color. The site focuses on fashion, and particularly designer brands.
Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social can be great for finding big savings. When you use these sites you need to be careful that you’re not buying things just because it is a good deal. If you buy things you’ll actually use, you can save a good bit of money. To make it even better, with a free Ebates account you can earn extra cash back from your purchases at Groupon.
At Blinq.com you can buy high-quality returned items from major retailers and brands, and you can get them at deep discounts. Everything from clothes, to electronics, to baby items, to home and garden, there are plenty of great deals here. Many of the products are open box or like new. They cannot be sold in the retail stores, so you’ll be able to get a really great price.
Blinq offers free shipping on all orders (no minimums), and every purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You may or may not be aware of it, but there are some great options for buying second-hand items online, aside from Ebay. Swap.com is the largest online consignment and thrift store and you can buy clothes, toys, decor, movies, outdoor items, and more.
At thredUP you can buy like-new or very gently used clothes at great prices. You can save up to 90%, and since they only accept high-quality items, you can buy with confidence.
Poshmark is a social marketplace where you can buy used clothing and accessories from other users. There is a great deal of variety and some really low prices available.
If you shop at Amazon.com, and you probably do, there are some great sites dedicated to deals at Amazon. Sites like Snagshout and Vipon allow Amazon sellers to offer their products at deep discounts. Amazon sellers use these deal sites to get exposure and momentum for their products (and hopefully some positive product reviews), and they’re willing to offer deep discounts to make it happen.
You’ll need to create an account, and then you can request a coupon code to purchase the products that are being promoted. Products in all different categories are available, so there is a lot of variety. Typically these products are from small companies or private-label brands as opposed to major brands.
These sites are best if you have an Amazon Prime subscription so you can get free shipping.
When you’re checking out at most websites there will be an optional field for a coupon code or promo code. If you don’t already have a code, why not take a minute and do a Google search? Search for the name of the website plus “coupon code” and you may find a code that you can use to save money.
Your search may lead to sites like Retail Me Not, or you may find a blog post or social media post with a relevant coupon code. Of course, you won’t always find one. But sometimes you will, and it usually takes just a few minutes.
One of the biggest ways that e-commerce sites miss out on revenue is buyers who add an item to their cart and then leave the site without completing a purchase. As a result, a growing number of websites are setting up systems to try and recover some of these sales. One of the most popular approaches is to send an automated email with a coupon code to encourage the visitor to finish the purchase.
As a buyer, you can use this to your benefit. First, you’ll need to make sure that you are logged in to your account, or that you enter your email address before you leave the site. Without being signed in or entering your email address, the site will have no way to contact you. Then, close out your shopping cart or the entire browser. Check your email a little while later and see if you’ve received an email with a coupon.
Of course, only some websites do this, but the number is increasing. Sometimes you can easily score a 10-20% discount simply by using this approach.
Most e-commerce sites have an email list that you can join, and many of them frequently send out exclusive discounts and offers. I’m sure you already get a ton of emails everyday and you’re not eager to get more. You can sign up only for the sites/shops that you use the most often, or the ones that give the best rewards. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to know about sales and you’ll get access to discounts that others might not even know about.
Try out these different approaches and see if they can help you to save money when you’re shopping online. Remember, don’t use any these resources or tips to buy anything that you wouldn’t buy otherwise. But when you need to buy something, there is often a way to save a little on it. And feel free to leave your own tips and suggestions in the comments.
Disclosure: Information presented on Vital Dollar and through related email marketing is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as financial advice. Please see our Disclosure for further information.
I've been working in internet marketing full-time since 2008. I started VitalDollar.com to share from my experience and to help others who want to improve their own financial situation. You can read my full bio here.
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