How to Shop Online! Our Best Tricks and Tips

Nov 5, 2020 | How To Save Money, Shopping Tips

Loading up the kids, strapping them in the car, and heading out for a LONG day of shopping sounds like SO much fun, right?! The more stops the better. Ha! We’re about to show you how to shop online like a true pro. Boom–problem solved!

woman holding credit card while shopping online, from Fun Cheap or Free

It’s hard to beat the convenience of online shopping, but there are risks involved, too, like overspending. Eek! We’re about to drop some insider knowledge and share some of the mistakes we’ve made along the way, so you don’t have to learn the hard way. 

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Whether you're shopping for clothes, makeup, or home decor, we’ve got the hacks you need to save money and time. You’d be kinda crazy not to follow this advice! More money in your pocket and more free time for that next Netflix binge? Uh, okay! Here we go.


woman browsing deals on her laptop, from Fun Cheap or Free

If you’ve been following us for a while now, then we may be preaching to the choir. New here? Well, hello! If you take nothing else away from this post, here’s an important little tidbit of online shopping info. Are you ready?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are NOT the best times to shop online. Yup. We said it. We’re just gonna let that sit for a minute.

You may be thinking, what the heck?! Why pass up those deals? Well, most of the time, those deals aren’t all that great, because retailers jack up the prices just before those big “sales” in an effort to make the discounts look better. Don’t be fooled!

We follow this simple rule of thumb for finding the best online deals (in-store, too!): shop in the J-months. January and June/July are the BEST times of year to get great deals. We’ve got a whole post about semi-annual sales that goes into a deep dive on that topic, so definitely check it out. 

Phew! Felt good to get that off our chest. For now, rant over! Let’s move on and chat about how to score the best prices on some of your favorite products. 


woman smiling and shopping on laptop, from Fun Cheap or Free

Before we go any further, let’s pause for a quick PSA: if you’re not using Rakuten, you should be. Period. End of story. Hands down, Rakuten is one of the easiest, best ways to save money and earn cash back on the things you’re already buying. We really don’t see a downside. So go ahead and sign up

Alrighty! Now that you’ve got your Rakuten account all set up, let’s do some shopping. Here are a few quick tips for online shopping like an expert:

  • Check Return Policies – The tricky part about shopping online is that you don’t always know if the purchase will work out for you. Before you add that item to your shopping cart, take a peek at the return policy. Can you send the item back for an exchange or refund if it doesn’t work out? If you do need to return it, who will pay for the shipping? 
  • Look for Ship to Store Options – We are all about in-store pickup! It’s a total timesaver, but it’s also a great way to avoid shipping costs and wait times. In many cases, you can buy an item online and pick it up within a few hours. 
  • Read the Reviews – Okay, this may seem super obvious, but take a few minutes to read through product reviews before you make a purchase. On many sites, you can even sort reviews by positive and negative. We like to read a few of both to get a full picture. 

Don’t forget about the three-month rule! For any BIG purchase, save up for at least three months. Not only does this prevent impulse shopping, but if you plan ahead and time it out well, you can buy in January or June when the prices are lowest. Score! 


hands opening a drawer full of clothes, from Fun Cheap or Free

Okay, who’s ready to shop for some clothes? If your closet needs a refresh, consider these tips before you go on an online spree:

  • Buy Off-Season – Plan ahead! When items for next season go on clearance, go ahead and stock up! Staples like pajamas, jeans, and coats will never go out of style, and you know you’re going to need them, so you might as well buy while the price is unbeatable. 
  • Consider Fit – Pay attention to how the clothing fits the model — know your body type and what looks good on you. Here’s our philosophy: it’s never gonna look better than it does in the sales pictures, so if it doesn’t look great there, skip it.
  • Know Your Colors – Just because a color looks gorgeous on the model, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna love it. We’ve made the mistake of buying too many red shirts that just sit in the back of the closet. Hey, red’s just not our color. Buy what flatters you and makes you feel confident, so your purchases don’t collect dust. Any deal is a bad deal if you don’t end up using it! 
  • Learn What You Need to Try On – There are some items you just NEED to try before you buy. For example, we like to try on jeans and swimsuits because the sizing and fit can vary so wildly. Figure out what those must-try items are for you, and buy them in-store instead. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, money, and hassle. 

One more quick tip about trying on clothes! Tons of sites allow you to fill out a quick quiz to determine which size will be the best fit for you. Take it! The results are surprisingly accurate most of the time, so it’s worth the 60 seconds. 


woman applying eye makeup, from Fun Cheap or Free

Anyone else a beauty fanatic? We love our quick and easy 10-minute makeup tutorial. Plus, it’s so much fun getting glammed up for a date night! But before you go crazy buying makeup products you may not need or use, consider these quick tips:

  • Avoid Color-Matching Products – Buy in-store first, then buy online.
  • Sign Up for Rewards – We once got an Urban Decay palette FOR FREE. Yup! If a beauty company asks you to sign up for their rewards program, do it. You won’t regret it. Promise!
  • Watch YouTube Tutorials – Follow a few of your favorite beauty bloggers and find out which products they love the most. Follow their advice on using any products you buy. No matter how great that BOGO deal on eye shadow is, you’re throwing away money if that palette just sits in your makeup bag unused.

Another word of advice for makeup-lovers: do not miss the Ulta semi-annual sales. Mark your calendar. They’re that good!


Need a new sofa? Some artwork for the dining room? Before you hit that “buy now” button, stop and do a little research and prep work! We suggest following these three tips before you shop online for products for the home:

  • Ask Yourself if You Need It – Before you go any further, stop and ask yourself if you really need that couch/painting/bench. Be honest. We know it can be tempting to buy something really cute on impulse because it’s such a great deal, but when it comes to home goods, a minimalist approach is usually best. 
  • Check Shipping Costs/Policies – One of the downsides to buying furniture online is the shipping can get pretty dang expensive. Before you get your heart set on a piece, research the shipping costs, times, and policies. 
  • Measure, Measure, Measure – Here’s a “no-duh” tip, because we had to learn the hard way. Before you buy any furniture or artwork, measure the space where you plan to put it. It may look like it will fit, but if it doesn’t you’re going to have a fiasco on your hands. We’ve been there. Not fun! Measure twice, just to be sure. You can even use painters tape to box out and visualize the space.

If you follow this advice, you’ll be well on your way to making smarter online purchases, saving tons of money, and sticking to your budget!


We want to know what you think! Comment below and share your best tips for shopping online.

Image with text that reads "how to easily shop online on a budget" from Fun Cheap or Free

Don’t go just yet! We’ve got more advice that will help you shop like a pro.

Keep calm and shop on! (And stick to your budget, of course!)


  1. Rachel Schuth

    Thanks, Jordon, for all your helpful tips! As well as following you for a long time, I’ve been using Ebates a little while now, but knowing about the in-store option is awesome.

    I love the way you decorate your home–my family just moved this past weekend into our first house! We’re trying to do careful planning and to spend our money decorating slowly, and I’d be very interested to hear how you planned your decorating all to fit a theme! And just how you planned in general. Picking a certain style and colors and sticking to them is hard for me, haha! So, buying a little at a time is tough when I want to jump to the finish line and see how nice a style looks in a room (before I change my mind), if you know what I mean. So, hearing your experience would be great!

  2. Amanda King

    Loved this video! One question though…when shopping online how do avoid the expensive shipping fees???

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Ship to store!! Or sometimes if you reach a certain amount shipping is free, OR, check Retail Me Not for free shipping codes!

  3. Kaliste

    Hi Jordan – can you use Ebates if you aren’t living in the US? Thanks – K

  4. Missy Hyde

    Before you buy check for a discounted gift card. The item then ends up being 5% or up 20% off additionally. Make sure to go through Ebates to get 1% back.

  5. Cassidy Brady

    I wanted to check out ebates but jusy never gave them a shot, but I’ll look what they got going on! Thanks Jordan!

  6. Natalie DeTurk

    Thank you for the great tips for online shopping. I have been ill, so shopping online has been much easier than sending my hubby. Ebates did me good this past Christmas.

  7. Diana Burk

    For some reason I have always been skeptical of eBates! Thanks for breaking it down for me!

  8. Heather B

    Ebates is seriously awesome! Getting those checks in is like Christmas!!

  9. Estrella Garibay

    I’ve been using Ebates a few years now and have gotten money back. So easy.

  10. Sarah Davidson

    Normally i would be intimated to shop online but oh helped me change that.


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