4 Simple Rules to Get the Best Deals When Shopping Online

by Jessica Sommerfield · 5 comments

I do a large portion of my holiday shopping (or any shopping, for that matter) online. Not only is it more convenient because I live about an hour away from the closest city, but I often find precisely what I need for a lot less.

But there are, of course, some trade-offs in online shopping that aren’t as optimal as shopping in a physical store. I’ve learned to deal with this medium so make it not just convenient but cost effective. Many of these tips I’ve learned mostly by trial and error, and wasted my share of money along the way.

So, if you’re new to shopping online (or even a veteran like me), here’s some wisdom that will hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls of shopping online.

Shop Cautiously to Avoid Returns

Paying for shipping to get the purchase to your home, and then returning it eliminates the cost efficiency of your purchase. Depending on which company you’re shopping with, you may have to pay full shipping price for returns.

In addition to the initial shipping price, this is an extra expense you won’t get back. So not only did you fail to get the item you wanted — you paid for it. So push the buy button cautiously when shopping online.

Over time I’ve learned which sites I can shop online with minimal sizing/quality issues, and I only take a risk on a new retailer if the item is dirt-cheap, keeping in mind I might have to return it.

Not only are returns costly, it’s easy to forget you need to return an item and miss the window of opportunity to get a refund. I’ve purchased items I couldn’t use but didn’t return in time, and chose to donate them. This is a big mistake that can cost a lot of money.

The easiest way to avoid returns is to shop online only with retailers you’ve visited in person and are familiar with their styles and fits, especially with clothes. Electronics should also be rarely purchased online unless they’re from a reputable retailer, since they’re more easily damaged in delivery and more likely to have quality issues.

Always Use Discount Codes and Coupons

Use emails discount codes and percentage off coupons for all your purchases; they really do save you money.

I despise having an inbox full of junk email just like you probably do, but I’ve learned to deal with the tediousness of sorting and deleting because in the middle of twenty useless offers, there’s usually a coupon or savings code I’ll actually use.

Entering coupon codes online is an extremely easy process and just a few seconds of online searching can yield major savings. And if you’re a frequent customer, you’ll be more likely to get bonus percentage off offers and other secret coupon codes.

Shop Online Clearance Sales

Online shopping clearance sales are often much nicer than stores, have a wide variety to choose from, and deep discounts that abound.

Online retail stores have to change out their seasonal merchandise just like brick-and-mortar stores. The plus side to this is that, unlike store clearance racks which are often crowded, unorganized, hard to shop, and full of dirty or damaged apparel, online clearance inventory is super organized and sure to be fresh.

The first place I shop in stores is the clearance aisle, and that’s also the first link I click when shopping online.

Comparison Shop for the Best Value

Many retailers sell the exact same products, so if you want to find the best value, be sure to comparison shop. You might be familiar with comparison shopping with grocery stores, but did you know you can also do this very easily online?

Simply searching for a specific item online will render many links of various retailers who carry the same or similar products. Sites such as Amazon.com, Zappos.com, 6pm.com, Overstock.com, and others feature links to multiple retailers of the same products.

Again, be cautious about which retailers you use so you don’t end up returning loads of items. If you’re not familiar with them, ask your friends or do a search for customer reviews to get a better feel for their reputation.

Shopping online can be very rewarding because it saves time and money — if you’re willing to do your homework, order cautiously, and take advantage of emailed coupon deals.

Do you shop for purchases online or in-store? What’s your preferred method for saving money with online shopping?

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  • Scott Ross says:

    Really nice advice! Many people pay full-price online when they don’t have to do so. As you say, using a coupon code or shopping clearance sales is a good way to save some money!

  • DealForALiving says:

    I would include use a cashback site like Ebates. I’ve shopped at Groupon through Ebates on top of existing coupon codes and really gotten good deals.

  • Brian says:

    A good rule of thumb when it comes to online deals is to seriously ask yourself whether or not it’s something you would need if it weren’t on special. Great advice.

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says:

    I like shopping online as well. I figure I can look around, get a good deal, and won’t feel pressured to buy anything I’m not ready to yet. Thanks for the tips, I’ve still got lots of shoppin to do before Christmas!

  • Joseph Hogue says:

    Great rules Jessica,
    I missed out on most of the cyberMonday deals I wanted but still do a lot of my Christmas shopping online as well. Might not be quite in the spirit of totally online, but I do a lot of my online shopping in the stores. There are a couple of apps that will do a quick search for comparison prices if you photo the barcode. Makes it a little easier.

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