Online retailers seem to be becoming more and more creative these days to score big with shoppers. However, if you are a smart deal hunter or would just love to get major discounts without a lot of efforts, try using these ten clever online shopping tips.
Make sure you always get the best deal when you shop online. There are tips for comparing prices, finding coupon codes, saving on shipping, and encouraging retailers to offer you discounts.
1. Outwit the dynamic pricing trap
Dynamic pricing is a sneaky strategy online merchants offer use to show different prices to different customers according to your location, your browsing and spending patterns and current demand of the product. Have you ever found dirty cheap airfare that went 30% higher when you checked on the next day? That’s dynamic pricing in action. As this technique gotten incredibly sophisticated, most retailers are perfectly aware of your price point and may show you a higher price compared to someone else who pays less in online purchases.
To get a less biased price you should:
- clear your browsing history and cookies in particular
- log out of your accounts (email, G+, Facebook etc)
- switch to incognito mode or better take advantage of online anonymous browsing with Tor browser
- choose localized website versions instead of being redirected to US
- choose less developed countries as home to get better prices when searching for airfare
2. Shop at the right day
Even if it seems tempting to spend your lazy Sunday afternoon browsing around various retailers, don’t cash out too fast. Most stores roll out discounts and special deals on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. However, Sunday is the best day to score cheap airline tickets with Monday being the most expensive, according to Airlines Reporting Corporation who analyzed over 130 million domestic and international over the period of 19 months. Numbers speak for themselves: $432 is the lowest average price for a round-trip ticket on Sunday; $439 is Saturday’s average, while Tuesday – the former “cheapest day to buy airfare” turned out to average $497.
3. Use multiple coupon codes strategically
If the website allows you to combine different coupons and promo codes at the checkout, use them in the right order. Say you have a promo code for a 20% discount and a coupon for 10$, apply 20% promo code first. That will subtract 20% from the full price, afterwards you can dig more savings with your $10 discount coupon.
4. Ask for price-drop refunds
Say you’ve purchased an item yesterday, but when you checked the next day, it was now on sale. Pretty frustrating, right? However, some companies will refund you the price difference if you contact them directly within a certain amount of days. For instance, Amazon will issue you a refund if you notify them within seven calendar days from the delivery date. Use Camelcamelcamel.com to monitor price changes at Amazon.
Some credit cards also go with price protection. That is, no matter where you shopped – you will refund the difference if the price dips within a certain amount of days. These include Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®, Citi® Double Cash Card and more.
5. Take advantage of smart reward programs
Some apps offer you to redeem special bonuses for doing certain actions. You can earn kicks by doing paid online surveys or merely browsing around product catalogs with ShopKick that can be exchanged to gift cards or special discounts. Swagbucks TV allows you to earn swagbucks for simply watching videos and redeem them as discounts from different online merchants.
Case Happy offers 1 point (equals to 0.05£) for each pound you spend on their goodies – lovely Ipad, Kindle and tablet covers. Points can be redeemed as coupons with your next order with no limits on spending. Basically, you can get the 2nd product for free. If you are into designers clothing, check out Guilt Insider loyalty program. You get early access to sales and a bunch of special discounts, plus you earn 5 points for each dollar spent, 35 points for liking them on Facebook and so on. Points can be exchanged for free shipping, exclusive access to flash-sales and a number of other perks. Amazon nails it with Amazon Rewards Visa card with $50 sign up bonus and 3 points added for each dollar spent.
6. Bargain with the customer service
Just discovered a juicy coupon at your email to realize it has expired two days ago? Fret not! Ring up the hotline and ask if your coupon can be extended as you are about to make your order. Typically, sales reps are interested in closing the deal and will either give you a new promo code or extend the existing one. It may not work each time, especially with low-priced items, yet it is always worth trying.
Alternatively, you can use live time chats now available at most websites. Be polite and ask a few questions about the product you’d like to buy and then inquire if there’s any sort of discounts they possibly may have. It’s not a well-known fact, but chat support can issue special promo codes that are not widely available.
7. Organize your emails
Signing up to newsletters, coupon sites and promotion lists can save you a huge bucks, but you are too reluctant about getting your email spammed? Try Unroll.me – a handy email add-on that lets you instantly unsubscribe from junk emails and de-clutters your inbox by sending one digest email a day summarizing your preferred subscriptions. Just choose the time of the day when you’d like to receive it.
8. Run smart comparison checks
To avoid overpaying and scoring absolutely best deals online, install PriceBlink browser add-on (available for Chrome, Mozilla, Safari). It will save you tons of time by automatically pulling the prices for the same product from numerous merchants, organizing them in a smart chart and even notifying you if there are any coupons
9. Leave items in your cart
Leave the products in your cart and step away for a day or two. Firstly, you’ve just avoided making an impulse purchase. Secondly, most retailers hate unclosed deals and will try to retain you. Stores that send coupons or offer a better price on the next day include Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, JC Penney, Office Max and much more.
Remember the trick works only when you have an account on the merchant’s website and you are logged in when you leave your cart.
10. Accumulate more coupons with multiple email addresses
Some stores love sending huge single use coupons to a selected group of their customers. Increase your chances of saving the big bucks by signing up to their newsletter with multiple email accounts. Now imagine how much money you will receive with three 50% discount codes for one full-priced item purchase, instead of one.
Searching for the best price online can seem like a chore. It’s easy to spend hours trawling the web only to come up empty-handed, or worse, with a bunch of overpriced impulse purchases.
Websites compete for our attention with discounts, deals, limited offers, seasonal sales, coupons, cash back programs and loyalty schemes. So how do you make sure you’re actually getting the best deal?
We’ll show you some time-saving shortcuts for comparing prices, finding deals, cashing in on coupons and more.
11. Make an online shopping list
Have a clear idea of what you want to buy before you head online. This will help you stay focused, so you don’t become distracted by unrelated items or spend hours leaping from store to store. By listing your potential purchases, you can clarify what you actually need—and what is simply “nice to have.” When you cut out unnecessary items, you’re already saving money.
While your main goal is to get more bang for your buck, it’s still worth noting that the cheapest option is not always the best. We recommend keeping in mind factors like sustainability and quality when making your list. If you’re shopping for a laptop and you pay peanuts, you’ll get a monkey computer (so to speak). That said, once you’ve selected a high-quality product with good green credentials, there’s no harm in shopping around for the best price.
12. Compare prices and visit deals websites
Gone are the days when we had to manually check different websites to compare prices. Today, there are lots of price comparison websites with search functions that make it easy to find the lowest price.
These websites and browser plugins will help you price compare while shopping online and find deals on your desired products:
- PriceBlink is a free browser extension that automatically finds lower prices while you shop
- Honey is a free extension that compares every seller on Amazon and shows you the best price (but that’s not all—more on Honey later)
- The Camelcamelcamel website also tracks and compares Amazon prices, while Pricepirates compares Amazon and eBay
- The “Shopping” tab in Google Search lets you browse suggested products from countless retailers (prices are clearly marked) or set a price filter
- RetailMeNot offers a browser extension called Deal Finder that automatically finds offers (including cash back) on the product you’re looking at in any online store; if you’re in the UK, visit VoucherCodes
- The biggest comparison and deals websites in Europe include PriceRunner, ShopAlike, Kelkoo and Twenga
- Worldwide, check out ShopMania (21 European countries plus the USA, Brazil, India and Russia) or Shopping.com
Whichever website or plugin you use, be aware that the prices shown may not include shipping, warranties and other services, so the final price might be slightly higher.
13. Get coupons online
Coupon codes are another great way to shop and save online. There are several ways to get coupons:
- Sign up to newsletters: Retailers will often reward you for subscribing with a coupon. Plus once you’re on their mailing list, you’ll receive codes for other sales and seasonal discounts. Tip: consider setting up a separate email for your online shopping accounts and newsletter subscriptions so your main inbox doesn’t get flooded.
- Search for coupons on trusted websites: Head to sites like CouponFollow (USA, UK), The Krazy Coupon Lady (USA), CouponCabin (USA), RetailMeNot (international), HotUKDeals (UK), DealsLab (France), MyDealz (Germany), Meliuz and Cuponomia (Brazil). If you can’t find a code for your desired product, sign up to receive notifications when discounts become available.
- Use coupon browser extensions: When you add items to a shopping cart, these plugins automatically search for and apply any relevant coupon codes. They’ll also notify you if they find better offers on other online shops. Honey even lets you add items to a Droplist and pings you when they become discounted. Well-known extensions include Honey (USA, Canada, Australia, UK, European Union), Capital One Shopping (USA) and Cently (USA and others). According to CouponFollow, the makers of Cently, around 40% of all purchases made using their plugin were matched with a valid coupon code, resulting in an average saving of 17%.
- Be strategic with your timing: More coupons are available during sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday—these are also great opportunities to save money on your online Christmas shopping.
- Watch out for fake coupons that may contain malware: Warning signs include coupons without expiry dates and coupons for free items. If you’re unsure, check the blacklist at the Coupon Information Center.
14. Sign up for online reward programs
Loyalty pays off. Some websites offer reward programs that let you earn points on your purchases to gain discounts later on. If there are particular products you tend to buy again and again from the same sites (e.g. a particular shampoo or tea), it’s worth checking if they have a reward program you can join. Tip: here too, it’s a good idea to use a different email address so you can keep marketing emails separate from your other mail.
You’re probably familiar with the reward programs offered by airlines and credit cards, but you might be surprised to learn how many retailers are now getting in on the act. Check the app stores to see if your favorite stores and brands have apps that let you collect points on your purchases.
15. Leave items in your shopping cart
This classic trick works well for items you don’t need urgently. Go through your shopping list and select the “nice to haves” and other things that can wait. Once you’ve found an item online, open an account on the merchant’s website and add the product to your shopping cart.
Now it’s time to play the waiting game. Online stores usually have systems for encouraging you to finish your purchase. You might be sent email reminders, and ads for the product will probably start appearing on other websites you visit (this is called retargeting). Hang in there and don’t be fooled by attempts to create a sense of urgency, like “last chance!” or “only 1 item left in stock.”
Many retailers will eventually offer you a discount code for the item in your cart so they can close the sale. Bingo!
16. Try curbside shopping and save on shipping
Curbside shopping has taken off since the start of the coronavirus crisis. It’s a mix of online and offline shopping: you make your purchase on a store’s website, then pick up the items yourself. It’s fairly common in the USA and is catching on elsewhere around the world.
Benefits of curbside pick-up:
- Help to keep yourself and others safe during the pandemic
- Avoid shipping fees and reduce the overall cost of your purchase
- Pick up your items when it suits you; you won’t need to worry about being home when the delivery person comes knocking
- Support local businesses while still enjoying the convenience of online shopping (more tips for shopping local online)
17. Create a budget for your online shopping
If money is tight at the moment or you’re trying to build up your savings, it’s worth setting a budget. Having a plan in place will help you avoid temptations like “free shipping on orders over X amount,” “buy one get one free” or discounted “related products” you don’t really need.
Your budget is closely tied to your shopping list. The essential, non-negotiable items you need to buy online each month represent your fixed costs. Roughly calculate the total amount. Then do the same for the “nice to haves”: your variable costs. Now you’ll need to see how these things fit into your overall budget.
Don’t have an overall budget for all your monthly costs? Our smart budgeting tips will help you.
Take control of your shopping list with N26
N26 makes it easier to manage your online shopping list, save money and stick to your budget.
Spaces sub-accounts let you put money aside for your online shopping, so you don’t accidentally run out of funds and can easily check what’s left in your budget. Each time you buy something online, simply move the required amount into your main account with just a few taps.
You can also add a personalized tag to your purchases (e.g. #clothing, #electronics, #books) and view statistics about your tag categories to gain an overview of your spending.