Like all avid shoppers, you’re probably always on the lookout for the best deals around.
If you’re wondering how to save money shopping online, this article will provide 10 useful tips and tricks to get the most out of your money. Some of them you might already know, but at least a few will surely be new to you. And unlike most similar articles online, every single tip you’ll find here is backed by extensive research, scientific data, and consumer surveys.
Read on to learn how to maximize your budget and change your online shopping habits.
How to Save Money with Online Shopping
1. Plan Your Purchases
We’re all guilty of occasional impulse buying. In fact, spending on a whim has increased by 18% since the global pandemic started — and 72% of US shoppers say that buying things impulsively on the internet helps improve their mood. But it doesn’t take long for buyer’s remorse to kick in, as 90% of Americans admit they end up regretting these purchases.
If you’re committed to saving money online while avoiding unnecessary costs, it’s time to break this bad habit. Even if you manage to find some excellent deals during unplanned shopping sprees, there’s always a chance you’ll buy something you don’t really need — and that’s where planning your spending is particularly useful. Research reveals that people are 13% less likely to purchase things impulsively when they plan their shopping beforehand.
When making your list, it’s also important not to order something you already have enough of in your closet or pantry. Most products — especially groceries — go bad fairly quickly, so overstocking is never a good idea. Plus, the grocery delivery industry is currently booming, with 70% of US shoppers expected to be buying groceries online by 2022. So even if you forget to buy something, you can always order it and have it on your doorstep in no time.
2. Shop During Sales
Shopping during sales is one of the best ways to save money online. Most brands host large sales during the year’s biggest holidays, including Labor Day, Christmas, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. The latter two bookend the popular Cyber Weekend, the post-Thanksgiving period when many retailers serve up their most generous deals of the year. Cyber Weekend sales in 2020 lasted longer than ever, with online discounts averaging 48% on Black Friday.
If you need more proof that holding out for big sales is the way to go, a recent survey found that Americans who shop during seasonal sales and use other cost-cutting methods save an average of $407.48 a year. And that’s not all — waiting for the best deals during the holiday online shopping season helped 7% of US consumers save upwards of $1,001 in 2020 alone.
Of course, you can’t buy all your day-to-day necessities on sale. Groceries, beverages, and cosmetics are all products you need in your daily life. But for those items you only buy every once in a while — e.g., clothes, electronics, and furniture — waiting for sales could save you a lot of money. And even if you need some other products urgently, you might want to check out the retailer’s website first, as there may be some special event right around the corner.
3. Use Coupons
Online coupons help unlock the best deals, so it’s no wonder that 145.3 million Americans use them each year. In fact, 83% of US consumers say that the availability of online coupons has reshaped their shopping habits. Moreover, 40% of shoppers say they’ve bought items sooner than planned because they didn’t want to pass up on a coupon deal they had found.
When looking for the best coupons and deals online, the retailer’s official website should be your first stop. If there’s an ongoing sale or a currently active sitewide coupon, you’ll typically find the code prominently displayed on the homepage. It’s also always a good idea to sign up for the brand’s newsletter. Even though you might not find much use for the promotional emails, every so often, the brand may send out an exclusive discount code for subscribers. For more info about couponing, read this ultimate guide.
Finally, you’ll find plenty of coupons and deals from the nation’s leading brands and retailers right here on SaveMyCent. And if you’re wondering how to save money using coupons, each page contains in-depth instructions on redeeming coupon codes. A useful tip: most of these codes have an expiration date, so don’t sit on them for too long. Less than 1% of all coupons end up redeemed — and you wouldn’t want to miss out on an excellent savings opportunity.
4. Join Loyalty Programs
While signing up for retailers’ newsletters has many benefits, joining their loyalty programs brings even more perks and money–saving deals. A recent survey revealed that 80% of US adults belonged to some kind of loyalty program, and most got a lot of value out of the deals provided. The most valuable were grocery deals, which 86% of Americans cited among their favorites. Moreover, 65% rated loyalty programs by clothing retailers and brands as lucrative.
Most of these programs work in the same way. As soon as you create an account with the platform and apply for membership (if necessary), you start collecting reward points for each purchase. Loyalty programs are typically organized into tiers or levels, with the best online shopping deal selection reserved for the highest tier. As a rule, the more you spend on the site, the more points you’ll collect — and once you’ve accumulated enough, you’ll level up.
As the name suggests, you have to be “loyal” to a brand or a retailer to get the most out of these programs. For example, if you regularly buy clothes or other items from the same retailer, joining their loyalty program may give you access to excellent deals. But if you’re not that concerned with brand loyalty, you won’t get much value out of joining such programs.
5. Compare Prices on Different Websites
If loyalty programs aren’t your thing, comparing prices before buying something can help you save money with your online purchase. According to a US-based survey, 17% of Americans always compare prices across multiple stores before deciding where to buy the item they want. At the same time, 41% say they do so most of the time, 28% half the time, and 10% rarely. Only 4% of Americans say they never compare prices before purchasing a product.
For reasons including markups, storage costs, and units ordered, different stores will put different price tags on the same products. The difference in cost may be negligible, but it’s often significant — especially if you’re buying items in bulk. If so, running price comparisons and buying from the cheaper retailer could help you net sizable online shopping savings.
Of course, you could check each retailer’s site individually. But there are many platforms that have already done this for you — simply find the product you’re looking for, and you’ll see its current prices at all the popular retailers. And if you’re one of the 169 million Americans who prefer shopping from their phones, there are also apps designed specifically for this purpose.
6. Buy Through Cashback Websites
Cashback online purchases can help you save lots of money, as well. All you need to do is find a reputable cashback website, create a free account, and use the links you find there to go to the sites you normally buy from. According to the latest available data, more than half (55%) of US consumers have used these sites to get a percentage of their purchase’s value back. These services are also popular in the UK (52%), Germany (49%), and Canada (46%).
Though it may sound too good to be true, cashback websites really do work — as long as they’re legit, of course. These websites act like portals that refer you to other online retailers’ sites. As such, they have special referral deals with these retailers, which allow them to give you a percentage — typically between 1% and 8% — of your online order’s total value back.
While this adds an extra step to the proceedings, using cashback websites is essential to frugal online shopping. As soon as the retailer verifies your transaction, the website will issue the promised sum via the same payment method you’ve used for your purchase. And again, be sure to only use trustworthy cashback websites, as there are many scam sites out there.
7. Look for Free Shipping Deals
In recent years, free shipping has become a must-have feature for internet retailers. On that note, 73% of US shoppers say they’re more likely to buy items they can have delivered at no additional cost. What’s more, 90% say they would shop online more often if given the option of free shipping. Sure, the delivery cost usually won’t make a big dent in your budget. But even if it adds just a few dollars to your total — why pay for something you can get for free?
One of the best ways to shop online is to buy multiple items at once. That’s because most retailers only offer free delivery on orders that meet a specified spending requirement, so to qualify, your order’s total value must exceed this threshold. You’ll also find that many online stores include free shipping as one of the perks in their seasonal sales. But as we’ve already discussed, you can’t always wait for sales to buy the items you need in your everyday life.
This is another reason to join a brand’s loyalty program, as it usually includes free shipping on all orders. So if the spending threshold is too high or the retailer in question doesn’t offer free delivery, this is something to consider. Finally, to go back to one of our previous online shopping tips to save money — you’ll typically find free shipping coupons for most retailers. And to sweeten the deal, many of these don’t come with a minimum spending requirement.
8. Abandon Your Shopping Cart
Amid the global pandemic in 2020, the shopping cart abandonment rates went up to 94.4%. There are many reasons why shoppers leave their carts without submitting their orders. For example, 21% cite a complicated checkout process as the main problem, while 13% leave their cart due to a website crash or an error. What’s more, slow page loading times can lead to a 75% increase in the abandonment rate. For retailers, this is a major source of concern.
But for consumers wondering how to save money shopping online, this may be a very good opportunity. You see, retailers want you to finalize your purchase, and they’ll go the extra mile to make you do so. So if you back out after adding all the items to your shopping cart, many will send you an email with a special discount or some other perk the very next day.
All you need to do is check your email inbox regularly. As surprising as it may seem, only 45% of all shopping cart abandonment emails end up opened. And even though they often contain a discount, only 10.7% of users take advantage of these offers. So if you decide to leave your online cart before checkout, don’t forget to check your email within the next day.
9. Resell Your Unused Gift Cards
With 48.5% of the nation’s leading retailers currently accepting gift cards, many people have stopped buying traditional holiday gifts in favor of these certificates. Like coupons, gift cards typically have an expiration date — so if you’ve recently received one, be sure to redeem it before it expires. But if you don’t plan on using it, don’t let it go to waste. Instead, you can resell it online, earn cash, and help someone else save money with their online purchase.
Yes, this is more of a tip to earn money than to save it. But by selling your unwanted gift certificates through a reseller, you could get close to 75% of their value in cash. Better yet, unused gift cards for retailers like Walmart and Target fetch even higher prices — typically up to 90%. So, as long as you find the right reseller website and ensure the card you have isn’t about to expire, you could pocket anywhere between 65% and 92% of its specified value.
Many of these websites also offer money–saving deals. Namely, you can sell your unwanted gift cards for cash and then use that money to purchase a certificate for a store you want to buy from. And the best part is that you won’t have to pay the full price — just like sellers only pay a portion of the card’s stated value, buyers can get a card at a significantly lower cost.
10. Check Product Reviews
Reading reviews might not help you save money, but it can prevent you from buying subpar items that aren’t worth the investment. In fact, 40% of US consumers cite online reviews as their preferred method of learning more about a product they’re interested in. Doing your research is among the essential online shopping tips and tricks — one that can save you a lot of frustration. According to a recent survey, 91.3% of US shoppers check online reviews.
Research reveals that 36.4% of consumers read 1–3 reviews, 31% read 4–6, and 9.1% don’t make purchasing decisions without having read between 7 and 9 online reviews. Another significant portion of shoppers (14.6%) read at least 10 reviews to decide if a product they’re interested in is worth their money. Overall, 84% of shoppers say they trust online reviews as much as they do their friends’ recommendations — as long as they are genuine, of course.
When you’re shopping online, many of the best deals may seem too good to be true — and sometimes they really are. This is especially true for online auction sites where every user can become a seller. Before buying anything from these sellers, check their profiles and read the feedback left by other buyers. To avoid falling victim to an online scam, always buy from trustworthy sellers with high average ratings and at least a few dozen positive buyer reviews.
How to Shop Online and Save Money: In Conclusion
Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, planning each of your purchases is a surefire way to stay within your budget. But there are many other ways to score excellent deals when shopping on the internet. For one, you can take advantage of seasonal sales and discounts. You can also look for coupons that unlock excellent deals at your favorite retailers. And if you regularly buy items from the same brand, joining their loyalty program might be a good idea.
If you’re still wondering how to save money shopping online, there are other tricks you might want to try. For example, abandoning your online cart or buying through a cashback website may get you excellent deals, even though they may add an extra step or two to the process.
Whichever option you choose, always read user reviews — both for the items you’ve been eyeing and the third-party sellers you’re considering buying from. This might not help you save money, but it will prevent you from buying inferior products and dealing with unreliable sellers. Remember: always do your homework before parting with your hard-earned money!