Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2016 126.8 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users by 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.
Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look. A simple Google search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well.
Shop online with cash
No, that’s not a typo, but it is your biggest safety net against diving into debt. You might assume there is no way to pay for online purchases with cash. That’s because you don’t know this trick:
Use the cash you have to spend to purchase gift cards for your favorite online sites like Target, Walmart, and Amazon. Stores like Walgreens and just about every major supermarket have racks and racks of gift cards that you can purchase in denominations that fit your budget and can be used to make online and in-store purchases. See how easy that is to stick to plan to make this an all-cash Christmas?
MORE: How to Shop with CASH at Amazon
Discounted gift cards
If you know you’ll be shopping at a specific store, instead of paying full price for that store’s gift card, go to a site like Raise that resells gift cards at a discounted rate—gift cards others have received but want to sell to get the cash instead. You can find gift cards for just about any store, available to use almost immediately. (I was suspicious at first, but I’ve confirmed that this is legitimate, legal and completely above board.) You can rest easy because Raise offers this one-year guarantee on all purchases made at its website.
Another place to buy gift cards at a big discount is Costco. If you are a member, take a look either instore or at Costco.com.
Rakuten is a rebate site and because I’ve have signed up, I can click on any of the store links on the Rakuten site (there are hundreds including favorites like Amazon, Old Navy, Chico’s, JCPenney, JCPenney, Lowes, Groupon and on and on!), make a purchase and get cashback—2% to 10% of the total sale is typical. Rebates are small, but over time they all add up. Every three months I get a rebate check in the mail for cold hard cash, provided I’ve earned at least $5 in rebates. It’s an awesome way to build a cash stash.
Ibotta is another cash back app you may want to consider, one that many of my readers use and highly recommend.
Heads up: Right now Rakuten many retailers are offering double cashback (8% and higher). If the past is any indication of what’s coming, I can nearly promise we’ll see as high as 25% cash back for some retailers as we near Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
There is a shopping app that acts more like your personal assistant. Install the Honey app and you’re good to go. Honey will search for you to find the best coupons and discounts available for the website where you are shopping. It’s really quite remarkable just how smart Honey is, and easy to use, too.
It’s still a thing, and something super savvy shoppers use all the time to get the best deal. Here’s how it works generally: A retailer like Kohl’s or Target guarantees to match the advertised price of a competitor. But you need proof—like the store’s weekly flyer or online ad. But that’s not hard when you have a smartphone with you. Just show the proof at checkout and they should be able to match that lower price.
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Use a robot
Can’t be bothered with taking all that time to figure out price matching? Or get all bummed out when the price of something you bought drops like crazy a week later? I get it. That’s why I’m going to recommend you consider a robot app to do that for you. This is tricky, but hear me out.
Earny gets you those refunds on the difference—automatically. Once installed Earny goes through receipts in your email, tracking your online purchases. If the price drops or a competitor offers it for less, Earny takes care of filing the paperwork for you.
Pro tip: You’ll feel a lot more comfortable with Earny if you have a designated email address you use only for online purchases.
Oh, I love this tactic. I’m one to put things in my shopping cart and then get distracted and leave. But sometimes it is totally intentional! I’ve discovered things left in an online shopping cart get a lot of attention.
First, I get a reminder. Of course, I don’t react or respond because I did that intentionally. I’m waiting for something better.
You can’t believe how many times, I’ve received a follow-up email days later, offering me a coupon code to entice me to finish up and check out. Of course, by then I’ve had time to think about it which means I’m well fortified to walk away for good—or snap up another discount.
Store pick up
Some retailers have still not caught on that we want free shipping all the time on any purchase! How irritating to see that shipping is going to boost the final cost of that item way beyond reasonable. But before you give up altogether, check to see if the online store offers free shipping but to their local retail store where you can pick it up. Great idea! You’ll skip the long lines, the out-of-stock signs and possibly get a preferred parking place.
Clear the deck
There is a term out there, dynamic pricing. It means exactly what you’ve been suspecting all along—the prices and terms you see on your screen are influenced by where you live, your previous shopping habits, and so forth. This is especially true for booking air flights.
What can you do about that? Clear the deck! By that, I mean before you shop online, clear your browsing history and cookies. Log out of all social media sites, too. Now you’ll start out with a clean canvas, which makes super deals and discounts more likely because you appear to be a brand new shopper.
Who wants to wrangle a great discount, then give it all up to pay for shipping? I don’t see a single hand. And I totally agree. While free shipping is becoming more common, don’t assume you’ll get that automatically. You may have to work at it.
Whenever shopping online make sure you are on a secure site. Here’s how to tell? Look at the URL—the web address, at the top of your screen. Does it start with “https?” If so, you and your personal information are secure (s=secure). If you see only “http” you’d be best advised to leave. Quickly.
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