Shopping online is the way to go. No need to pack the kids in the car just so you can fight the crowds in the store. All you need is yourself, your computer and a piece of plastic.
And in some cases, you may even be able to do without the plastic. In fact, paying without plastic is No. 10 on our list of ways to get a discount on everything you buy online.
Keep reading to see which other strategies made the cut.
1. Chat with customer service
The best way to ask for a discount when shopping online is to open up the chat box on the retailer’s website.
Sometimes a chat box will pop up asking if you need help. Other times you may need to unearth the chat option from the contact page of the site.
Once you get a representative online, explain that you’re shopping on a couple of sites and looking for the best deal. Ask if any discounts are currently available. Or, ask if the company ever does free shipping.
There’s no guarantee of getting a discount this way, but it’s a tried and true method that has worked for me.
2. Give the retailer a call
Maybe you’re on a site that still lives in the Dark Ages and doesn’t offer customer service via chat. In that case, the phone is your best friend.
As with the online chat, ask if discounts are available or if free shipping is offered. The worst they can say is “no.”
3. Check out coupon code sites
RetailMeNot is the first place I look before shopping online. I find it to be the most comprehensive and accurate source of coupon codes on the web. You can also check out ShopAtHome, CouponCabin and FatWallet for savings codes.
If you’re not familiar with coupon codes, they’re usually a phrase or string of numbers and letters that you enter on the checkout page for an instant discount.
4. Install an extension on your browser
You can also add an extension that searches for better deals while you’re shopping online. InvisibleHand is one example. It combs through 600 retailers to see if a better price is available elsewhere.
5. Abandon your shopping cart
Online retailers track your every move. It’s undoubtedly distressing to them to see you with a cartload of stuff, only to close the tab and move along. That’s probably why you find a coupon code landing in your mailbox a day or two after you leave your cart.
To get this trick to work, you need to be logged into your account so the retailer knows who abandoned the cart. Then put your items in the cart and leave the site. The list of retailers who offer codes to those with abandoned carts is likely fluid, but RatherBeShopping has a list of 17 stores that have been known to dole out the discounts.
6. Sign up for the mailing list
Some stores issue one-time use codes. To get these, you need to be on the VIP list, aka the mailing list. Sign up to receive newsletters from your favorite retailers so you can get discount codes and sales announcements delivered straight to your inbox.
Just be sure to use a secondary email address so your primary account isn’t overwhelmed by these messages.
7. Use discounted gift cards
Why would anyone ever sell a gift card for less than face value? In many cases, they come from people who’ve received them as gifts and want to convert them to cash. Having $40 in their pocket can be more valuable than having a $50 gift card to a store they’ll never visit.
While some people sell discounted gift cards on eBay and Craigslist, I’m wary of handing over my cash for cards that haven’t been verified. Instead, it makes more sense to purchase through websites like CardPool or Raise, which offer some buyer protections.
Finally, warehouse club members can look online or at their local store for discounted gift cards. Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s all have a selection of discounted cards that cover everything from dining to travel.
8. Shop through a cash-back website
Using a coupon code and paying with a discounted gift card is a great way to double dip on your savings. On some sites, you can triple dip by shopping through a cash-back website.
Ebates is my favorite cash-back site, but other sites, such as ExtraBux, are popular, too. Cash-back amounts can range from a fraction of a percent to up to 30 percent for some retailers. You simply need to create an account and click through it to the retailers.
After you make a purchase, the cash-back site will credit your account, usually within 30 days. Once you reach a certain minimum amount, such as $10, you can cash out via PayPal or opt to receive a check in the mail.
Similarly, you could use a site like MyPoints to earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards. And don’t forget about the shopping portal for your favorite credit card, which can be a way to earn bonus points or miles.
9. Share on social media
Companies like Social Rebate and ReferralCandy are in the business of setting up companies with referral programs that let customers gain discounts simply by sharing their purchase online. While not standard on most major retailer sites, you can find the option to share for a discount at some smaller stores.
Speaking of social media, sending a message to a company on Facebook or Twitter can be another option to request a discount code if you strike out on chat or over the phone.
10. Pay with points
Our final way to get a discount on everything you buy online is to leave the plastic behind and pay with points or rewards instead.
This option is one that is just starting to gain traction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more rewards programs and retailers jump on board in the coming years. Here are a few of the programs currently available:
- American Express Membership Points can beused to pay on Amazon.
- Etihad Guest participants can use PointsPay to redeem points at merchants worldwide.
- Discover Cashback Bonuses can be spent at merchants such as Amazon.
Do you have other ideas for saving money on your online purchases? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.