You already might consider yourself a savvy online shopper. Perhaps you’re signed up for email discounts at your favorite retailers, only shop on the sale section of websites and use a retail card to get the most out of your purchases. But there are other ways to save big on sites such as Amazon, Target, Best Buy and more that are not as publicly advertised by the retailers themselves.
GOBankingRates spoke to shopping experts to get their best online shopping secrets and tips to save money.
Last updated: Nov. 13, 2019
Abandon Your Shopping Cart
Depending on the retailer, simply waiting to complete your purchase can score you a discount.
“Sometimes, if you place an item in your online shopping cart and close the browser window without buying, you will receive a discount promo code from the retailer within 48 hours in an attempt to sway you to complete your purchase,” said David Zyla, a stylist and the author of “How to Win at Shopping.” “Don’t let this lure you into buying something you are unsure of. However, if you do really want the item, use it to your advantage.”
Do Your Online Shopping on Tuesdays
There is a best day of the week to online shop, according to Zyla.
“Always shop online on Tuesdays,” he said. “While it can be tempting to shop online any day of the week, you’re better off waiting until Tuesday. It’s the day most sites post sales and new items.”
Never Make a Purchase Before Searching for Online Coupons
Even if there are no active promotions on the retailer’s site, you might be able to find coupons elsewhere on the internet.
“Online coupon codes are always initiated at the beginning or end of a month,” said Zyla. “Seek out a coupon code by searching online to see if one is available for you to use. They may be specific to a certain deal, offer something such as free shipping or give you a discount of a set dollar amount or percentage off your total purchase.”
Or Use a Coupon Code Plug-In
The Honey browser extension searches the web for all applicable coupon codes and automatically applies them to your cart.
Take Advantage of Customer Service
You might contact customer service only when you have an issue, but the representatives also can be an invaluable resource for tracking down sales.
“Always feel free to communicate with online customer service,” said Zyla. “They are your best asset when shopping online. Customer service can answer almost anything and can tell you when an item will be marked down.”
You also can contact customer service about a price adjustment.
“Sometimes if you buy something that has since gone on sale, the retailer will credit the difference,” said Zyla. “Put a copy of your receipt in your drafts folder. If you happen to be on the site again shortly after your purchase and notice your previously purchased item on sale, contact customer service and inquire whether you can get a refund on the difference.”
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Don't Ignore the Live Chat Bots
Many times, you don’t have to be proactive about contacting customer service before they contact you. If a “live chat” pops up on your screen, ask about any available promo codes they can share with you.
Save On Other Expenses: How To Save Money on All Your Monthly Expenses and Bills
Use Price Tracker Plug-Ins To Find Out When an Item Goes On Sale
Instead of manually hitting the “refresh” button every so often on an e-commerce site to see if an item has gone on sale, let technology do the work for you.
“A better solution is to use tools like Distill.io, which can track prices and deals for you, even on sites that do not have a price alert option like Ikea and Best Buy,” said Tarun Jain, head of growth at Distill.io. “Another great tool is Keepa, an Amazon Price tracker chrome extension that checks the historical price of a product. You can see if the price will drop anytime soon or if the price has been bumped up by the seller to deceive people during the ‘sale’ season.”
Retailers might show you a higher price than they show other customers based on your location, browsing history and spending patterns, a practice known as “dynamic pricing.” To prevent this, use incognito mode when online shopping.
“This shopping hack can help you prove that you are way smarter than the machine,” said Madiha Jamal, saving expert at PennySaviour. “You can avoid dynamic pricing and get a lower price if you always go to incognito or clear your cookies or browser history before making any purchase.”
Use a Cash-Back Browser Extension
You can get cash back on your purchases at many retailers by installing a browser extension, such as the SwagButton by Swagbucks.
“Another one I like is InvisibleHand because as you browse, it lets you know if there’s a better price elsewhere,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert for TrueTrae.com. “With either extension, a pop-up will alert you [if cash back or a better price is available] and then you just click it to activate.”
Time Your Shopping Strategically
Different categories of products typically go on sale at different times and knowing these pricing trends can help you save.
“If you need to make a big-ticket purchase, good timing can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars,” said Bodge. “For instance, end of season is always a good time to buy seasonal items, so if you need a grill, consider purchasing it in September vs. June. Electronics are typically well-priced over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, so if you can wait until then to invest in a TV, stereo system or laptop, you’ll likely save quite a bit.”
Sign Up For New Customer Discounts With Multiple Email Addresses
“Some stores offer exclusive discounts to new customers, so sign up for a new account using a different email address to get those new member deals,” said Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.
When Shopping on Amazon, Check For Third-Party Seller Pricing
“Amazon doesn’t always show the cheapest price on its product pages,” said Karl Quist, an online shopping expert and president of PriceBlink.
“Sometimes, there are third-party sellers that offer the product for a lower price than what is shown on the main product page. Look for a message that says ‘Available for a lower price from other sellers.’ Many of the lower-priced alternatives still qualify for Prime two-day shipping.”
Use 'Subscribe & Save' — Even for Things You Don't Want To Buy Again
Target, Amazon and Walmart all offer auto-delivery shipments for many products, and if you choose this option, you’ll save up to 15% off recurring shipments on the product you want to buy.
“Only need the item one time? Don’t worry,” said Melissa Cid, site manager for MySavings.com. “You can cancel any future shipments with no penalty after you receive your first one in the mail — easy peasy and risk-free.”
Stack Your Savings
Many online retailers allow you to use more than one promo or coupon code, and you might be able to use these codes on sale items as well. Shop through a cash-back site or with a cash-back plug-in to save even more.
“Never pay full price for anything and don’t be afraid to browse the sale and clearance sections of stores,” said Rebecca Gramuglia, shopping expert at TopCashback.com. “If you stack those savings while using a cashback site like TopCashback.com, you can earn a percentage back of the money you spend on qualifying purchases from over 4,000 retailers including Best Buy, Target and Nike.”
Create a Target.com Registry — Even if You're Not Getting Married
Creating a wedding or baby registry — when you’re not actually married or having a baby — is a sneaky way to save on big-ticket items you want to purchase from Target.com.
“What I do to save money at Target is that I create a registry for items that I need,” said Becky Beach, founder of MomBeach.com. “After the date of the registry [event, Target gives you a coupon] for 15% off [the remaining items]. That’s how I was able to get a brand new TV set cheaper after our toddler broke the one we had.”
Shop With Discount Gift Cards
Before making a purchase from any online retailer, check discount gift card sites like Gift Card Granny or Raise to see if they have any available for your retailer of choice. You’ll automatically save on whatever you purchase.
Use the 'Pick Up In Store' Option To Save On Shipping Costs
Take advantage of the “pick up in store” option available on sites such as Macys.com and Walmart.com to save on shipping costs and avoid any free shipping minimums.
Always Take the Time To Comparison Shop
If you’re browsing a retailer’s website and spot a heavily discounted item, you might assume that it’s the best deal you’re going to get. However, it’s always worth it to take the extra step of doing some comparison shopping.
“If you’re buying an item that you can buy from multiple retailers, like name brand sneakers, clothes, game consoles, household appliances, etc., do some research to see who is offering the item for the lowest price,” said Gramuglia. “Especially with the holiday shopping season fast approaching, lots of retailers will offer different discounts to truly bring down the prices.”
You can use Google Shopping to compare prices at numerous retailers at once.
Use Expired Coupons
You might be able to use an expired coupon code or promotion code. Call a retailer’s customer service number to see if they will honor the deal for your transaction or if they can offer you a new code.
Take Full Advantage of Free Returns
Even if you’re on the fence about buying something, don’t hesitate to add it to your cart if the retailer offers free returns. This is helpful to keep in mind if you’re in between sizes and want to order two to try on.
Shop Outlet Stores Online
You don’t have to visit a physical outlet mall to get outlet store prices. Many major retailers allow you to shop their outlets online, including Best Buy, which has an outlet deals section on its main website. You can save big on electronics simply by opting for the already opened or refurbished version of an item that’s selling for full price on the main site.
Sign Up For Student Discounts
If you’re a student, you can qualify for student discounts on several sites, including BestBuy.com. To get Best Buy’s student discount, create a My Best Buy account and sign up for student deals.
Get Automatic Price Adjustment Refunds
Sign up for Paribus with whichever email you use for your online shopping. Paribus will check for price adjustments on items you purchased from the retailers the site monitors, and if a price drop is detected, Paribus will work on your behalf to get you a refund on the difference.
Only Sign Up For Amazon Prime for the Months You Need It
You don’t have to buy a year-long membership to take advantage of Amazon Prime. If you tend to take advantage of Amazon’s free shipping only during certain times of the year, like back-to-school or the holiday shopping season, consider switching to the monthly membership. If you keep the membership for just two or three months at a rate of $12.99 each month, you’ll save significantly compared to the annual membership cost of $119.
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About the Author
Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert.