I love shopping online. Mostly because I can stay at home in my pajamas, drink beer, and avoid people, but there are some other benefits too.
For example, I can research the best item for whatever job I need, at the best price. Rather than wading past 10,000 other useless pieces of crap I don’t need, I can go straight to the thing I want for the best price.
I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the best ways to shop online over the years. Just before I published this post, I even saved $30 off of one of Zach’s Christmas presents that normally costs $100!
Here are some of my favorite online shopping hacks to help you out during the holidays, and throughout the year.
Research price history
One of my most-hated sales tactics is raising the price right before putting it on sale. That way, when merchants advertise it at X% off, they’re actually still charging you the normal price.
How do you thwart this tomfoolery? Simple. Research the price history of the thing you want to buy.
My favorite tool for this online savings hack is Camelcamelcamel.com. It’s a weird name. It makes me wonder what the website of that weird fish in Hawaii would be if it were repeated three times. (Hint: it’s humuhumunukunukuāpuaahumuhumunukunukuāpuaahumuhumunukunukuāpuaa.com)
This site is especially easy to use if you shop on Amazon a lot. All you have to do is copy and paste the URL of the product into the search box.
We used the site just recently when we purchased a new electric toothbrush on Amazon. You can see from the price history that now’s a good time to buy. If we pulled the plug and bought it just two months ago, we’d have paid $30 more for it.
Ebates is a cool program that offers you cash back for certain purchases. All you have to do is create an account and download their free browser button. Then, if you visit a site offering cash back, a little Ebates window will open up at the top asking you if you want to activate cash back for this shopping trip.
It looks like this:
I don’t always end up buying something (especially if I’m just browsing), but I have gotten many purchases for cheaper through Ebates.
Swagbucks works just like Ebates. If you create an account and download their browser button, sometimes it’ll pop up when you’re shopping at certain websites. Like so:
I use both Ebates and Swagbucks. Sometimes only one or the other pops up, and sometimes both. Each one might offer different discounts, so it helps to play them against each other! Swagbucks also will sometimes pop up with an offer to enter a code for a few extra points (each point is worth one penny—but it adds up over time!).
Buy gift cards
I don’t mean buy gift cards to give away…I mean to buy gift cards at a discount so you can use them!
My favorite website for this is Gift Card Granny. It aggregates discount gift cards from numerous sites so you can find the best one for you. Make sure to set the filter to e-gift cards so that you can use the card to shop online immediately rather than wait for a physical gift card in the mail.
Here’s an example. I love Omaha Steaks, but holy crap are they overpriced.
So, I’ll look for certain online deals and coupons, and then I’ll buy a discount gift card like the one below to pay for it with. If I bought one of the gift cards below, I’d get an extra 9% off. When you click through to buy the gift card, sometimes even Swagbucks or Ebates will pop up offering cash back on the gift card purchase! And then, when you go to use the gift card, sometimes you get to use Swagbucks or Ebates again!
When you shop this way and apply all these layers of savings, the Omaha Steaks food actually comes out to a normal grocery-store price!
One thing to watch out for with gift cards is that you don’t buy a large enough one that you won’t use it all. For example, if I need to buy a $45 bag of dog food and get a $50 gift card to pay for it, that extra $5 I didn’t use will probably negate any savings unless I can find a way to use that too. Instead, I try to shoot for an amount just under what I’ll need to make a purchase.
No, not actual honey…although wouldn’t that be awesome? (maybe not….).
Honey is another handy browser app, but it works a bit differently from Ebates and Swagbucks. Rather than popping up with an offer of cash back before you start your trip, Honey will do its magic when you’re done.
You know how there’s always an area to enter a coupon code during checkout? When Honey detects this, it’ll automatically pop up with a box asking you if you want it to search for coupon codes.
If you select “yes,” Honey will automatically search through the vast reaches of the Interwebz for any and all potential coupons, apply them for you, and keep the one that offers you the best discount.
It’s actually pretty fun to watch it go through everything so quickly. It reminds me of when you win at the old-school Windows Solitaire or Minesweeper games and everything shuffles and drops confetti like a surprise birthday party.
Ah, Groupon. I’ve gotten some great deals off of Groupon that let me try new places for cheaper. I really need to get better about scoping out Groupon before me and Zach go on a date night.
I’ve even given Groupons to people as gifts before. Who cares if it’s from a discount website? The products and services for sale still charge everyone else full price. It’s just now I have more money to save and pay off debt. Anyone who begrudges me of that is not worthy of my Groupon love!
See if your credit card offers price matching
Did you know that some credit cards will offer retroactive price matching if you use your credit card to pay for an item? Look up your credit card’s term of service online (or dig them out of your filing cabinet if that’s how you roll). Check for language like Price Rewind, Price Matching, etc…
Each program is different. Some cards will track it automatically for you, others leave it up to you to notify them if you find a better price.
Here’s a great article about how credit card price matching works.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone went through your past purchases for you and negotiated for money back if a retailer lowered the price after you bought it?
That’s exactly what Paribus does. If you link your email and Amazon accounts, they’ll automatically send out a letter asking for a refund for the difference if a retailer lowers the price on you. In return, you pay Paribus 25% of the refund amount (but, you still come out ahead by 75%—which is far higher than 0%!).
Let purchases sit in your online card for a day
How often do you add something to your cart but not check out right away? I do that all the time. Sometimes, I’ve noticed that the website will send me a follow-up email offering a discount on the things I’ve got in my cart. Sometimes merchants be desperate, yo.
If you aren’t making a time-sensitive purchase, this can be well worth your time to try. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck using this trick on Amazon (oh well).
Shop at discount websites
The world is full of discount websites like Overstock.com.
Since I’m more of an outdoorsy-active person (or at least I used to be before I became a freelance writer…), I really like the discount website The Clymb. You have to register to shop on their website, but it’s easy and free to do. They have smokin’ hot discounts on all kinds of active outdoorsy stuff. I bought a hammock for Zach’s birthday a few years ago on sale for $25, when it was normally $100.
Related Post: 25+ Frugal Christmas Gift Ideas
Do you have any good online shopping hacks? Leave a comment below!