With 3 kids under 4 it is no small feat to take a shower, let alone go shopping successfully. Years ago I didn't believe in online shopping because of the high shipping prices, hassle-filled returns, and risk of not seeing it in person before buying. Now? The good news is online shopping has changed it's tune – and so have I. It can be the quickest, cheapest, and most convenient way to shop…as long as you do it right. So far 9 out of 10 of the Christmas gifts I plan to give will be/have been bought online this year. In lieu of Cyber Monday (coming in 3 days!), I thought share some of my favorite tips and tricks for successful online shopping:
1. Shop with a purpose.
The online shopping world is limitless…and so is the amount of time and money you can spend perusing through it! Before you even touch the computer, you must decide:
1. What you want
2. What your budget is
3. When you need it to arrive
Decide what your end goal is, and work backwards…rather than swimming in the sea of online shopping hoping to hook a killer purchase. I discovered the coolest site recently, Chippmunk.com. It's a site that pools all the best retail coupons from the web and puts them into one database. They also have exclusive coupons that you can't find anywhere else. With this site you can filter your search BEFORE you shop, and you can set your budget ahead of time, helping you find the coupons you need.
Be sure to put in a specific budget if you have one:
2. Always search for promo codes and coupons FIRST.
This is very important! You never know what coupons are floating out there, and as a rule, you should search for codes and coupons any time you buy something online. Today. Always. Forever until the end of time. I can't tell you how many times I've jumped online to buy something, almost hit “submit order” then thought, “I should check for a coupon real fast…” and BAM. 10% off. Free shipping. Free fighting monkey with purchase. Whatever it is, it's better than what you would've had so just do it! I used to type “coupon for ____[store name]” in Google, but now I use Chippmunk because it cross-compares the coupons and shows you the best.
3. Don't be blinded by the “sale” section.
While I always recommend checking out the clearance and sale sections of any store (online or otherwise), the catch is that you often times can't use coupons on sale/clearance items. Stores know this, so they heavily advertise sales but the prices are only luke-warm on the awesomeness scale. Using a 20%, 30%, or 40% coupon on a full-priced item could give you a better deal than what you'd find on sale. As a rule, never pay full-price for anything. Ever. Beyond that, just make sure you're keeping your eyes open on both sides of the sale fence.
4. Check out shipping before you head to checkout.
The biggest bummer in the history of shopping is heading to the cart to order an incredibly-priced item, only to learn that shipping costs more than your item does! Stores will use a sale sticker to lure you in, then will nab you with annoying shipping fees. Check shipping rates before you even start adding things to your cart, so you can factor that in to your budget and decisions. Be sure to check for site-to-store shipping. The drive to the store is worth the free shipping in many cases. And while “__% off” coupons are appealing, don't disregard “free shipping” coupons! They might just be more valuable.
On Chippmunk, once you select a store, at the top you can choose to see sales, free shipping, and other codes – so it easily displays what the best deals are for you:
5. Investigate the return policy.
In my opinion, the biggest downside to ordering online is the fact that you can't see things in-the-flesh before buying. Check their policy thoroughly before buying! “Free returns” could actually mean “free-because-we-don't-charge-you-an-extra-fee-to-return-it-but-you-still-have-to-pay-to-ship-it-back-to-us-and-it-will-cost-as-much-as-your-mortgage-payment”. Read thoroughly, and check for options. For example, I bought some things from Victoria's Secret and would've had to pay to return them online, but was able to return them free to the store.
6. Read the reviews and ratings.
If it's a site you've never shopped at before, and especially if it's one you've never heard of before, always read reviews and ratings online before buying. Likewise, read reviews on specific items before buying. It has saved my bacon many a time! Ask friends, too.
7. Give 3 a try before you buy!
Whatever it is you are buying, make sure to check prices at 3 stores before hitting the “submit order” button. It will help you avoid impulse purchases, and can give you an idea as to whether your price is a good one. Once again, factors like shipping and returns need to play into your decision. But over all, prices can very greatly from store to store so do a quick search first!
On Chippmunk it actually shows you competitors' deals so you can cross-compare easily (see the upper-left of the photo below…)
8. Be loyal.
If you find a site you like, become a fan! Sign up for their emails and rewards programs to get exclusive coupons. Hate the junk mail? Here's a simple solution. Points, dollars, and coupons can really add up!
Be sure to check out The Top 7 Sales You Should Never Miss post…it has lots more sneaky insider tips!
All-in-all, online can be a blessing if you learn to use it properly. PLEASE don't pay more for the convenience of it! Use your head and tools readily available for you to save just as much – if not more – money shopping online as you would in-person. Happy Cyber Monday coming up soon, may the force be with you!
This post was sponsored by Chippmunk, but only because I love the site and chose to partner with them because I believe in it 100%! So yes, the opinions are genuinely mine.