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.