I don't know about you, but the second I saw Christmas decorations in the latest sale flyers, I started to hyperventilate. I mean, Halloween just happened! That being said, the lead time is helpful: It reminds us of how important it is to plan ahead and save money - especially in the world of online shopping.
I live in a small town where the closest shopping mall is 30 minutes away - and even at that, it leaves a lot to be desired. I now focus about 90 percent of my shopping efforts online, and find it not only saves me time, but quite a bit of coin too.
Here are 9 ways to save money while surfing your way to the best holiday finds:
1. Fill your shopping cart... then leave
Not all, but many websites have a "cart abandonment" feature where they email you when you don't finish your transaction - and send you a promotional offer (such as a discount off your purchase) to clinch the sale. If the products you're ordering aren't urgent, leave your shopping cart for a day or two and see what happens, taking note of the sites you can save money on with this feature.
2. Plan ahead for free shipping
Most websites offer you free shipping if you spend X number of dollars (I believe Amazon's threshold is $35). Plan larger purchases so you always meet the cut-off. If you're still under the mark and there aren't any household items you need to replenish, use CheapFiller.com to help you find - you guessed it! - cheap filler items to score free shipping. Bonus: You can use these items as stocking stuffers or gift add-ons. Not shopping at Amazon? Bookmark FreeShipping.org, which keeps track of free shipping offers for more than 2,400 stores.
3. Search pricing websites
Just because a website says something's a great deal doesn't mean you should believe them - and searching sites like Polyvore, ShopStyle and Google Shopping to potentially save money are always worth the effort. Just type in the product you want, sort by price, and they'll find what you're looking for at lightning speed.
4. Use the right credit card
Most credit cards now offer rewards for using them - usually in the form of points or cash back. Designate the credit card that gives you the most cash back to your online purchases (just, you know, make sure to pay the bill every month). Also, check to see if any of your cards have an online merchant mall, such as Discover's ShopDiscover program: Shopping through your card's retail partners is another great way to save money.
5. Create price alerts
Online shopping sites like Amazon often change their prices multiple times per day, and more and more retailers are following suit. Some products can go up and down in price by a span of 15 percent! Use camelcamelcamel, an online price tracker that monitors the price change history of your fave products and predicts the best time to buy. Once your product hits its lowest price, pounce.
6. Subscribe to certain products
There are certain products - coffee, tea, razors - that a girl just can't live without. Gauge how often you need refills and subscribe to these products via your favorite online retailer, who will automatically send them to you on a cyclical basis. This will not only save you time, shorten your shopping list, and give you peace of mind, it can also save you some serious coin in the long run. For example, Amazon and Target both offer between 5 and 15 percent off a purchase if you subscribe to ordering it regularly.
7. Find (and combine) coupons
Subscribing to retailer mailing lists does nothing but clog your inbox (not to mention peer pressure you into shopping when you really don't need to). Instead, use websites like RetailMeNot, CouponCabin and BradsDeals to collect coupon codes from your favorite online retailers. Also, look into whether or not they'll allow you to add more than one coupon to your purchase (for example, Kohl's lets you use both a discount and free shipping code, and Victoria's Secret lets you load up to three coupons per order).
8. Shop through a rebate website
Shopping through a site like Ebates allows you to earn money while you shop. Sign up for a free account by submitting your email address, then shop through Ebates-supported stores, where you'll earn a cash back percentage for every transaction (these percentages vary per store). The site and supporting app also offer exclusive deals, sales and coupons, and will periodicially send you a rebate check.
9. Use a package forwarding service
This final online shopping tip is for those of you who live outside the U.S. and are sometimes unable to participate in free shipping offers - or shipping at all. Either the retailer doesn't ship to your location, or the shipping prices cost as much as your car (kidding, sort of). Luckily, there are now parcel forwarding services like Shipito that'll provide you with an address to use to avoid international shipping charges. Cha. Ching. Of course, these services cost money, but only a fraction of what the shipping charges would be. And if you plan ahead, they provide the option of consolidating multiple packages into one shipment to save money too.
What are your go-to tricks to save money online?
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