I like nice things. A lot. Probably too much, if you ask my husband...but here is the dirty secret of how I float tossing sweet stuff into our lives without breaking the budget: I shop online.
Almost entirely, exclusively online.
I took my son to the mall the other day for a soft pretzel/play area Mommy-and-Me date on a day he had off school. I planned to let him pick out a Christmas gift for his sister during our time. We managed to agree on an item which left me feeling robustly proud of my mothering skills. What an excellent use of time! Only November and I was schooling this holiday jazz!
I then picked up the selected boxed Frozen doll and upon checking the price, gasped in horror, quickly replacing it on the shelf. $15 over the Target price?! No way!
My mind was reeling with all the other online saving tricks I could score if I shopped for it online: cash back, loyalty rewards, PROMOS…The siren song of snatching an item easily off the shelves is alluring if you are out and about…but it’s not something you want to answer.
When my son was born, my interest in online shopping was piqued. We all know how tricky carting a kid around to stores can be…Two years later, when he landed himself in a full body cast and I had a 3 mo. old baby to boot, it became a necessity. I schooled myself in all the tips and tricks to getting anything sent to my door sans a shipping cost and with a discount.
How do I save all this money without ever setting foot in the brick-and-mortars?
1) Always, always go through Ebates. What is this? It’s the first-step landing page for all of your online shopping. Start here and then select the store you where you want to shop. By taking the 5 seconds to start your shopping through Ebates you get a certain percentage of your purchase credited to your account, which you get back in a quarterly check mailed to your door. Tempted to scoff at that 1.5% back from Walmart.com? Don’t! It adds up and many of the percentage-back rates are much higher. When that Ebates check arrives every 3 months, it’s a happy day.
Also use this to shop for things you would never think to buy online. When we finally decided on a new refridgerator at Lowes, we went home and ordered it–online and through Ebates. It was delivered for free and the 2% back on a large purchase like that was a big bonus!
2) Keep yourself in the loop. Shop It to Me, Busy Saving and a local e-mail subscribtion, Mama Cheaps, are easy ways I keep myself abreast of the latest deals and steals. It takes no more than a few seconds to scan through the e-mails and see if anything is for you; if it’s not, ditch it and move on. Information is power; how will you snag the amazing hot BOGO on Legos if you don’t know about it?
3) Know your promos! Retailmenot.com is my favorite resource for snagging online promos, but I have learned that there are other resources, sometimes better ones. For example, if I have a cart at Kohls I want to process, I take the time to pop over to a general Google search for “Kohls promo codes” and see what pops up. It is a bit work to enter the suggested codes at check out to see if they work, and many times the codes are bunk, but I figure it’s worth a try. When that 25% off code works and is stackable on top of the $15 off coupon? Sweet!
4) To get around shipping costs, I always order enough to get my purchase mailed for free. If there is a physical store close by, I might order multiples of the same item and then return what I don’t need. Or, if I’m unsure of sizing, I order a pair of pants in 3 sizes, try them on in the comfort of my own home, and then return the rest. In truth, I ask my husband to return items on his lunch break; this saves me from going to into the store and being lured by yet another purchase.
Be careful with buying from stores that are online-only. Some, like Modcloth, offer free returns on any item, but if this isn’t an option, unless I am sure I want the item, I don’t order it.
If I don’t have enough things in my cart to get free shipping from such a store, I wait to order until I do. Or, I whip out my Christmas gift list (that I start keeping in the summer so I can grab items for cheap when I see them on sale), and check to see if there is a gift for someone I could throw in my cart to bump my total into free shipping territory. Free shipping for me and a gift crossed off my list is a win-win!
4) Leave it sit in your cart. Whaa?? I know, so hard to find a deal and not jump on it! But if time isn’t of the imperative, put it in your cart and walk away. This does two things: 1) lets you make sure it truly is a smart purchase for you and 2) alerts the store that you are interested and allows them time to start sending you coupons. When you should avoid this trick? It’s a hot item that might sell out quickly. If you definitely want it, don’t wait.
5) Loyalty rewards are no joke. Listen, my life is insane. I don’t have time to sort my undies much less organize my shopping excursions. But if Target wants to float 5% my way with every visit, SURE! Similarly with The Children’s Place and any other shop that offers a recurring-visit discount. It adds up.
If you want to save a boatload shopping for your family with the ease of online ordering, take these small steps. Together, they all add up–in a big way!
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