Even before we were stationed overseas, I was more of an online shopper than a bricks and mortar type of gal. The Black Friday rush and the big box store Sunday crush are just not my scene. Now that we live in Germany, I have come to rely almost exclusively on the Internet for items that I cannot buy locally.
Here are some tips and tricks for saving money (and even making some!) when you shop online.
1. Let’s make a deal. Find the deals with bargain-tracking websites that do the work for you. One of the biggest and best discount-gathering sites is Brad’s Deals, where “real life human(s)” cull deals from 4,000 different retailers for their 12 million email subscribers. They even have a military discount section.
Deal News is very similar, scouring 2,000 retailers to deliver more than 200 deals each day. Groupon and Living Social have one or more daily deals that are delivered right to your inbox. Groupon does have a presence in some foreign countries (Groupon.de and Groupon.co.uk).
Signing up for your favorite sites’ newsletters and emails is another way to score great deals and special promotions. I typically use a special “junk” email address that I have set up exactly for these types of situations, because once you have signed up with one company, it’s not that unusual for them to sell or give your email address to another vendor.
2. Sometimes comparisons are nice. Always check prices with sites like Pricegrabber, Google Shopping or even Amazon to make sure that bargain is truly a deal. ShopSavvy is an app that keeps an eye on items you are looking for and lets you know when they are being discounted.
3. Get snippy. Even when you shop online, you can clip coupons. I never hit the “order” button without first checking to see whether there is a promo code for an additional percentage off. RetailMeNot is the king of such coupon sites, but it’s also worth checking Coupon Cabin and PromotionalCodes. Amazon has its own coupon section that you can often use in conjunction with sales.
And while you can’t use the popular Target coupon app Cartwheel on their website, Target sometimes has coupon codes that can be used in their online store as well as a list of their current promotions.
4. Give a ship. Check to see which retailers are offering free shipping on FreeShipping.org. For those of us living overseas, it is important to figure out which retailers will not only ship free but will also ship via USPS priority mail to FPOs.
If you purchase from a store that uses Fedex or UPS ground shipping, your Christmas present may become a Valentine’s present as your package literally takes the slow boat. (This may or may not have happened to me).
Amazon Prime members and Target credit card holders can get free shipping, and many other sites such as Old Navy, Lands’ End and The Children’s Place offer free shipping when you order a certain amount of merchandise. Make sure you are aware of the return policy, though, because a deal isn’t such a great deal if it doesn’t fit and you pay $10 to ship it back. Zappos, certain Amazon items, Target and Old Navy are among the retailers who offer free return shipping.
5. Get paid to shop. Once you’ve located a deal, a coupon for it and free shipping, don’t just stop there. There are several what I like to call “portal” sites that will pay you for using them to do your shopping. Ebates is one of my favorites; if I know that I want to purchase something from a particular retailer, I will first go to Ebates and then search for, say, Target. Right now Target is offering 2.0% cash back on all purchases made through Ebates. Ebates tracks your purchases and every three months sends you a Big Fat Check. I got $12 just from purchases right before Christmas.
MyPoints is similar, but the site rewards you in gift cards. I have earned more than $200 in gift cards to Amazon, Walmart and Target on the site, and you can also get points by printing out their grocery coupons or by clicking on websites.
With all this e-commerce, don’t forget to play it safe.
While it’s fun to find bargains, the online world can be a scary place. Make sure you guard yourself against fraud and identity theft. Don’t shop when you are on public WiFi. And it’s best to type the store’s URL in yourself rather than follow a link you might find online. You may also want to consider using a credit card rather than a debit card to make purchases, since the federal government limits the possible loss due to fraudulent use of a credit card to $50.
How do you save money when buying your favorite items online?