Once upon a time, I loved to shop. Then I had kids. Now I hate it. End of story.
Well, maybe not quite the end. I shop now out of necessity, not for fun. A terrible day for me is taking three kids for a day of shopping. And usually I'll drive an hour, go to multiple stores, and then not find what I'm looking for. Then I have to drive another hour home and try to find things online anyway. So, by necessity, I have learned the art of online shopping.
I am very frugal (aka thrifty, economical, cheap,tight--whatever you want to term it). I love a good deal, and I can at times almost obsess about finding one. One of the best things about online shopping is that you can sometimes even get better deals than if you went to the store, AND your purchases come directly to your door.
This Christmas, I'm hoping to get in one shopping run (which I'm sure I will regret). But the vast majority of things I'm going to buy online. Here are a few tips I've learned along the way. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, there are probably still secrets to be found, but here are a few things that have helped me find great deals.
Friends With Benefits
There are an ever-growing number of couponing sites dedicated to doing the work of saving you money. They do the work of finding great deals and share them with everyone else. You can even 'like' or 'friend' some of these sites on Facebook. Then you receive notices in your newsfeed when they post good deals. The downside is that sometimes the deals can go very fast, especially if a large number of people see the same post and want that same deal. The other downside is that these sites tend to post things a lot, which can clutter up your newsfeed. I have purchased t-shirts, nursing covers, and toys based on tips I have received from my 'friends.' As I said before, there are a lot of couponing sites out there, but the two I use are The Krazy Coupon Lady and Fabulessly Frugal. You can find them at their website (click on the previous links) or on Facebook.
I take for granted that everyone knows about coupon codes. When you are making an online purchase, most sites have a spot to apply a coupon code. This is an online coupon that gives you a discount or a special deal. Websites and stores frequently run coupon codes as part of promotions. My strategies for finding coupon codes are to Google the name of the store along with the words 'coupon code' or use a website whose job it is to gather and publish coupon codes from around the web. My favorite website for coupon codes is RetailMeNot. If you type in the name of any store, the website gives you a list of available coupons. Some of the best stores I like for coupon codes are Kohls and Payless Shoes. They're always running some kind of coupon code for a percentage off or free shipping. Walmart and Amazon are not very good for using coupon codes, but they can sometimes run good deals without them. For instance, Walmart frequently has 99 cent shipping on any item and Amazon always has free shipping on orders over $25.Did you know that even airlines and computer companies offer coupon codes? Don't ever think your purchase is too big or small. You may not find a coupon code, but I find it's always worth checking.
Once I find a fantastic deal, I try to make it even more fabulous by using a website that gives me a percentage of cash back on every purchase. Ive heard that Ebates is a similar rewards site, but I haven't used them personally. I use Shop At Home. It really is simple. All you do is create an account and then whenever you want to purchase something, find the store in their database and use their link to open the website in a new window and make your purchase. Shop at Home will then give you back a small percentage of whatever you spend. The money stays in your account until it reaches a minimum amount, then you can choose a pay-out method. Now I've never gotten a lot of money from using this method, but I figure every little bit helps.
Yes, Amazon is so amazing for online shopping that it gets its own category. When I need to buy something, such as a gift, I tend to get a little obsessive. I find what I want, and then I search the Internet to compare prices and find the best deal. While Amazon doesn't win 100% of the time, I would say they do win most of the time. And you can find just about ANYTHING on Amazon. I might be able to find a product cheaper somewhere else, but when you factor in the fact that Amazon will throw in free shipping on any order over $25, then Amazon can usually easily beat the competition. Another feature I like on Amazon is that I can put things in my cart and purchase them later. Most other sites empty your cart after a certain amount of time has passed. If I see something I want, I put it in my cart. When my cart reaches $25, I decide if I really need all the products and if I should make the purchase. The only downside to this method is that prices can change or go out of stock on the items in your cart. It in no way reserves them for you. So if you see a really good deal, don't wait!
I should mention that Shop At Home doesn't usually offer cash back on purchases made at Amazon. Also, coupon codes are not really useful for this site. The coupon codes Amazon does offer are usually very product specific and generally not at all helpful. But I love the selection and the free shipping. If I can find something on Amazon, it is usually well worth it to save the gas money and stress of trying to purchase elsewhere.
Although I don't have personal experience, I've heard very good things about the Amazon Mom program. My sister-in-law gets a great deal on diapers and other things delivered straight to her door through this program. I just haven't had the chance to check it out very thoroughly, but it's definitely on my to-do list!
Happily Ever After???
Online shopping takes both patience to find the good deal and smarts to get the deal while the gettin's good. Maybe someday I'll enjoy shopping in a store again, but I doubt it. Happily ever after for me would be everything, including grocery shopping, done online; free shipping and returns on all purchases; and never having to set foot in a store again. Happy shopping!