There’s no question that shopping online is more convenient than shopping in-store, but sometimes you pay for that convenience in the form of shipping charges. With the holidays coming up, that cost difference can add up fast.
Thankfully, you can make up that difference by taking advantage of some tried-and-true online shopping hacks. Here are some of our favorite ways to save money when shopping online.
Download Money-Saving Browser Extensions
Rakuten, Capital One Shopping and Honey are some of the most popular browser extensions for saving money online. There are two ways that browser extensions can help: offering cash back on purchases and providing special coupon codes to save you money at checkout.
Capital One Shopping provides cash back, coupon codes and even shows if you’re getting a good deal on an item. If not, the extension will show where you can find a cheaper version.
When you download these browser extensions, they’ll pop up every time you visit an eligible site. For example, if you go to Target.com through the Rakuten extension, you can earn 1% cash back on your purchase in select categories.
Not every retailer provides cash back with these extensions, and some may have limits on which categories you can earn rewards with. For example, you often can’t receive cash back on electronics, toys or video games.
Different browser extensions may offer different rewards. For example, if you visit Walmart.com through the Capital One Shopping tool, you may receive 2% cash back in certain categories. But if you visit Walmart.com through the Rakuten extension, you’ll only earn 1% cash back.
That’s why it pays to download all three browser extensions and compare the various deals.
Pro-tip: Set up a holiday spending goal in the Mint app to help you stay on track.
Sign Up for Retailer Emails
Most online retailers offer a special welcome discount when you sign up for company emails, usually ranging from 10% to 20%. Visit the retailer website and wait for a pop-up that asks you to input your email address.
If you’re already an email subscriber to the retailer in question, search through your emails to see if you’ve received a coupon code recently. Check both your spam and trash folders since promotional emails often wind up there.
Abandon Your Cart
If you’ve ever put an item in your shopping cart and not checked out, you may have gotten an email for a special discount code. Many retailers will automatically send out these emails when the customer has abandoned their cart to entice them to complete the purchase.
Use this strategy to your advantage. Visit the retailer’s website, add the items to your cart and exit the browser. Within a day or two, you should receive an email reminding you about the purchase with an extra discount offer.
Not all retailers will provide a coupon if you abandon your cart, and an item in high demand may be sold out before you get the email. Still, it’s worth trying to see if you can snag a better deal.
Cash In Rewards Points
If you’re like some cardholders, you probably have credit card rewards points that you couldn’t redeem for travel purchases in 2020 and 2021. Instead of hoarding them for your next trip, redeem them for a digital gift card to use on purchases right now.
Cashing out for a gift card usually isn’t the most efficient way to use points, but it is a great strategy to save money on online purchases.
Reach Out via Social Media
If you’ve tried all the tricks mentioned above and still can’t find a discount, contact the company on social media. Twitter is usually the preferred method, but you can also try a private message on Facebook or Instagram.
Be polite, friendly and mention how you want to see if there’s a special sale or coupon. Not every company will respond with a discount code, but it only takes a few minutes to try.
Once, I posted a tweet about dying my hair purple using a specific at-home product. I received a discount code from its competitor in just a few hours.
Use a Rewards Credit Card
Many credit cards offer extra cash-back when you shop at participating retailers, usually ranging from 1% to 5%. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back card provides 5% cash back when you shop at Amazon.com.
Most cards provide a fixed cash-back percentage at all times, with special categories that earn an extra percentage. These categories often rotate every quarter.
The rewards may be given as a statement credit, miles you can redeem for travel or points you can use for digital gift cards. These cash-back rewards can be added on top of the browser extension or discount code.
Getting a new card in the mail can take up to two weeks, so apply soon if you want to earn rewards in time to buy holiday presents.
New cardholders may even qualify for an extra sign-up bonus, like $200 when spending $1,000 or 50,000 bonus points.
Follow Influencers on Social Media
Your favorite influencers will often post special discount codes that are only available through them. Follow influencers who shop at similar stores and check their Instagram stories daily to see if they’ve posted a code.
Search for hashtags related to the retailer you’re interested in to find influencers who provide special codes.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.