17 Easy Ways to Save Money Online
Anyone who's serious about spending less online knows some basic hacks, like Googling promo codes or using cash-rebate apps. But there are so many more ways to save.
The basics: Promo codes
One of the classic ways to save money online is simply to search for a coupon or promo code at a coupon-aggregator site like RetailMeNot, CouponCabin, or PromoCodeWatch. Sometimes you get lucky and find a 20 percent off code that works like a charm. Other times you get frustrated because every code you try either doesn’t apply to what’s in your cart or has expired. These sites are always worth a quick look if you have a couple of minutes to spare, says Evan Sutherland, co-founder with his wife, Nikayla, of the frugal-living advice site Budgeting Couple.
A quicker way to promo code
A few clever companies have found a way get around the frustrating “expired promo code” problem: Free web-browser plugins (also called extensions) that automatically try dozens of codes for you before you check out and will help you save money online. The biggest name in this business is Honey, which works with 30,000 different retailers, according to Mental Floss. Honey also gives cash-back rebates if there are no working promo codes. For other plugin options, try Ebates’ “button,” the CouponCabin Sidekick, or Cently.
More basics: Cash rebate websites
Another well-known way to save money is to hit up a cash-back website like Ebates, ShopAtHome, and BeFrugal every time you shop online. Each site works a little differently and has agreements with different online retailers, but here’s the general idea: You go to the site and look for a store you want to shop such as Target, Sephora, or Macy’s. Click through and shop as you normally would. After check-out, the cash-back site will add a small rebate to your account “wallet”—typically between 1 and 8 percent. Some cash-back sites give you your cash back in gift cards, others through PayPal transfers. Find out 13 savvy shopping tricks you’ll wish you knew all along.
Supercharged cash rebates
If you’re willing to spend some extra time jumping through hoops, you might like Lemoney. The site’s “Turbo Cashback” program lets you rack up extra savings by making specific purchases or doing things like following Lemoney’s social channels and tagging friends. “It might catch on with ‘extreme couponers,’ but I just can’t see the average consumer who shops online every other week get too involved with this platform,” says Matthew Ross, COO of the consumer-deals site RIZKNOWS. It’s true: Lemoney is a bit like a complicated game, but if you like that kind of thing, you might save a few extra bucks.
“Abandon” your cart
Put something in your online shopping cart…and then close your browser window and walk away for a few days, advises Tony Drake, a certified financial planner and CEO/founder of Drake & Associates in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “If you abandon your cart, several online retailers will send you a coupon to try to lure you back and get you to finish your transaction. It could take a couple of days or maybe just a couple hours, but check your inbox because you may get some savings.”
Some online retailers’ software algorithms use your location (provided by your computer’s IP address), and your shopping and browsing history to “decide” how much to charge you for certain items. It’s called “dynamic pricing,” and it’s part of the reason that the same five-pack of dish soap can cost $19.99 on Amazon one day and $17.99 the next. “We recommend using private browsing when shopping,” says Sutherland. “Online retailers can’t see your IP address which means they can’t change the price based on your prior actions.” Some other experts suggest going a bit further and signing out of all social media accounts and clearing your browser history, cache, and cookies, too. Make sure you avoid these retail scams that trick you into spending more, too.
Automatic price-drop protection
Lots of retailers promise they’ll refund the difference if something you buy goes on sale—but have you ever really taken advantage of it? That’s why Sutherland recommends Paribus. “If the price of an item you bought online gets reduced, Paribus automatically contacts the retailer, collects a refund for the difference, and adds it to your Paribus account,” he explains. The hitch: Paribus needs access to your email account—it works by scanning for order confirmation emails. But Sutherland doesn’t mind: “The fact that Paribus is run by Capital One—and not by some new start-up—elicits my trust.”
Download mobile savings apps
If you do a lot of your shopping from your phone or tablet, consider downloading a savings app like Ibotta or ShopKick that offer rebates for shopping at your favorite retailers through their phone and tablet apps. Ibotta is the newer kid on the block and pays you cash rebates via PayPal. ShopKick lets you earn rewards (“kicks”), then redeem them for gift cards. The cash-back site Ebates, and the coupon-code site RetailMeNot also have popular mobile apps. Get more money-saving advice from smart savers.
Check pricing trends
“Brands and retailers like to play games with markdowns,” says Ross. “Basically, they temporarily jack up the MSRP of their products around major holidays and then slash them back down to their original prices or slightly below to make it seem like you’re getting a killer deal.” Ross recommends searching for big-ticket items in Google’s shopping tab where you can compare prices from dozens of retailers at the same time. He also likes camelcamelcamel, which tracks prices history for products on Amazon. “These will give you a better sense of the true market price,” says Ross.
Shop on hump day
The most popular days for brands to roll out sales and special deals? Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, personal finance expert Natasha Rachel Smith told INSIDER. So be sure to save your big online shopping jags for later in the week so you don’t miss out on a sale.
Double dip if you can
Found a Groupon discount for dinner at a restaurant you’ve been jonesing to try? First, click on your favorite cash-back site and then click through to Groupon—you’ll get the original Groupon discount, plus a rebate from your cash-back app. Try these other ways to save money you probably haven’t thought of yet.
Take surveys for shopping rewards
Like Ebates and Honey, MyPoints and Swagbucks also offer cash-back rewards for online shopping. The difference is that they also offer other ways to earn “points” other than shopping, such as taking surveys, watching videos, and visiting partner websites. Not a bad way to pass the time at the DMV or while waiting for the bus.
Choose in-store pick-up
When you shop big-box stores and mall retailers like Claire’s, Torrid, and Gap, you can eliminate shipping costs (without meeting some minimum purchase) by opting to pick up your order in the store. Bonus: You can make a quick return on the spot if your purchase isn’t to your liking.
Follow favorite brands on social media
Increasingly, brands announce special deals and sales on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms. You probably won’t want to clutter your feeds with too many, but follow just a handful of retailers that you shop regularly so you can jump on flash sales. Here are more insider secrets to save at all your favorite stores.
Take advantage of online chat
Sometimes a customer service rep can offer you special discounts or freebies. If you’re considering a big-ticket item—say, a Dyson vacuum or Nikon camera—hit up their live chat representatives and ask if the price you see on the item you want is the best they can offer. Check out these other secret store policies that will save you money.
Sign up for brand emails
None of us needs more spam in our inboxes, but if you can’t find any other coupons, saving ten, 15, or 20 percent simply for signing up for a brand’s newsletter is worth it. You can unsubscribe later. Or, if your inbox is very overstuffed with newsletters, try Unroll.me, a free online app that’ll search your inbox for all your newsletters, and let you unsubscribe from the ones you no longer want, all at once.
Save on groceries
The Flipp mobile app lets you make a grocery list with all of your usual items—and then the app finds which stores have sales and deals on exactly what you want to buy. Then you can order your stuff online for delivery or pick-up, or head into the store. The lifestyle experts at Working Mother magazine also recommend the Checkout 51 app. Like Flipp, it helps you find deals and also offers cash-back like a rebate app. (You just send in a photo of your grocery receipt!)