Yes, online shopping may allow you to skip the queue, but does it automatically save you money? Often, the answer is no. Follow these tricks to turn the tables on those dollar-grabbing retailers.
Don't presume online is always cheaper
No, you won't be paying for gas to get to the store - but online retailers are all too aware of this, and as a result, will often charge you more when you shop online. So if you can, take a look at how the online price for a given product compares to those offline, not forgetting to look at online marketplace sellers as well.
Don't just go for whoever offers free shipping
Those mere two words - "free shipping" - seem to have some strange, must-do-it psychological effect on us. They seem to scream "bargain!", even when that's sometimes the last thing you're actually getting. It's worth reminding you that free shipping doesn't save you anything on the item itself. Not one cent! So, check other offers online first to make sure you're still getting a decent deal overall.
But if they do offer free shipping, make the most of it
If you really do have to jump on that darned tempting free shipping (we've all done it), you might want to pay particular attention to those free shipping offers that only kick in once a certain amount has been spent. You see, if you've got $99 worth of goods in your shopping cart and will only get free shipping if you hit the magical $1-0-0, you might as well buy those socks or whatever else you know you'll need anyway eventually. It's just another great trick en route to long-term frugality.
Check the returns policy
If you're not satisfied with an item that lands on your doorstep, it doesn't help to have to pay yet more moolah to send it back. That'll leave you with less cash in your pocket to spend on a decent replacement product. So, familiarize yourself with how your chosen store deals with returns. Does it offer free return shipping? Is there a 'brick and mortar' premises to which you are allowed to return the item at zero cost? If the return policy looks pricey, you might want to avoid buying that item in the first place.
Shop in incognito mode
With one Wall Street Journal study having found a tendency among some stores to use certain information gathered through a user's web browser - such as their ZIP code - to justify higher prices if they suspect the customer can afford them, now's a good time to go incognito. You can do this as a Chrome user, for instance, by clicking on the three dots towards the top-right-hand corner of the browser window and clicking 'New incognito window' from the dropdown menu.
Use tools that alert you to the lowest prices
InvisibleHand and PriceBlink are just two of the many browser 'add-ons' that enable you to be notified of the latest, most competitive prices for the items you're looking for, without requiring you to even lift a finger once they're set up - until you come to buy, of course. The likes of PriceJump and camelcamelcamel are also well worth checking if you are looking to buy specifically on Amazon.
Bookmark the sites of your favorite brands
Sure, if you're that much of a brand loyalist, you may be doing this already. Still, it's a more than worthwhile thing to do, as a brand may save certain coupons or money-off opportunities for its website rather than the obvious voucher code portals.
Apply a bit of patience
Do you really need that item right now? If the answer to that question is anywhere near no - and especially if it is a currently in-demand product that is liable to drop in price later - you might find that it's a better idea to check back over the next few weeks or even months. Don't just do this for the site's product page at the online store where you were thinking of buying it - keep an eye out for any relevant coupons on voucher code sites as well.
Learn how to intelligently 'stack' coupons
The practice of 'stacking' coupons - using more than one coupon in a single order - is sufficiently notorious as to be disallowed by certain online stores. However, some retailers do still allow you to do it, and when you get the chance to 'stack', you can maximize the savings simply by entering the relevant codes in a certain order. Let's imagine, for example, that you have a 20% discount code, as well as a '$10 off' one. By applying the 20% discount first, you'll slash a fifth of the item's full price. Then, take off the $10 to leave yourself with an even more alluring final purchase price.
Abandon your online shopping cart
Online retailers can't stand online shopping cart 'abandonment' - it's the ultimate sign of the customer that they got oh-so-close to hooking in, but who 'got away’ at the last hurdle. The big stores are desperate to avoid this! They know you were interested in buying from them at one point, given that you went as far as filling up your shopping cart. So, try leaving your virtual cart full for a day or two. You might just get the store in question winging a discount or other offer your way via email, in a bid to tempt you over the line. There you go - 10 ways to reduce the costs of your next online shop and of course, there are so many more out there. What are your own favorites?