How To and Where To Shop Online

According to Forbes in 1998 online spending reached $13 billion. In 2009 it was $156 billion.

That’s quite an increase. Our time spent online is increasing too. It’s estimated that the average American spends 13 hours a week online. Most of that time is spent reading, playing games, social networking and shopping. $156 billion doesn’t spend itself you know!

In fact in some areas we spend more online than we do in traditional brick and mortar stores. An article on lifehacker.com reports that more dollars are spent online than at the physical store in some areas of spending like apparel and furniture.

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I’m not surprised. The advantages of shopping online go far beyond avoiding long lines and pushy sales people. It can also be cheaper…if you know what you’re doing.

One of the biggest reasons people shop online is because they can comparison shop faster and easier. If you want a new big screen TV you can take up a whole Saturday driving from Best Buy to Sears to Wal-Mart just to find out the cheapest price was at the first place you looked!

The internet has made comparison shopping so much easier. A few clicks and you can compare the price of the same item at three to four different stores. Often different stores will have the same item for vastly different prices. There are even some website that comparison shop for you! Check out sites like fatwallet.com, froogle.com, pricewatch.com and pricegrabber.com.

Shopping online is also cheaper because a lot of times you don’t have to pay sales tax on your purchase! Online only retailers like amazon.com and zappos.com don’t charge sales taxes, except to customers living in a few states. This is especially saver savvy for large purchases like electronics and furniture.

When buying online look for store coupons to save an additional percentage off of your purchase. Often times the discounts from coupons are in addition to the sale prices. For example, we recently bought a new laptop. We saved 10% off the price by buying a coupon code off of Ebay for $5. Using the coupon saved us $50. Find coupons and discount codes through couponchief.com, currentcodes.com, and retailmenot.com.

One of the caveats to shopping online is paying shipping costs. While some online retailers ship entire orders cheaply (thank you overstock.com!) most charge upwards of $10 to $15. I’ve used freeshipping.org for years to ship items to my house for free. This website gives free shipping codes for almost 2500 retailers nationwide. Find discount codes by retailers’ names or item categories.

I always feel like a schmuck when I try to haggle with store clerks, but online it’s easier and I don’t feel like such a cheap-O. The trick is when buying several items from the same online retailer fill up your shopping cart, then click the button that says Live Chat or Chat With A Representative. If you ask them for a discount there first answer will always be some form of no. Talk about buying the items from their competitors and they will quickly give you a 10-15% discount or free shipping. I don’t feel like a tightwad or even the slightest bit embarrassed because all of this is done online instead of in front of someone. I never have to see the sales clerk’s roll their eyes or knowing glances.

I like shopping online too because of gift cards. My birthday is coming up and I know I will surely receive some gift cards to a place I off-handedly mentioned I shopped at five years ago. This is also true of Christmas. A few years ago I would have stashed those gift cards in the back of my junk drawer where they would have just gathered dust. Giftcardrescue.com, giftcardsagain.com, and plasticjungle.com allow me to swap my gift cards for places I actually want to shop at. Plus I can buy gift cards for others for up to 30% off their face value.

My favorite scenario when I price shop online is to comparison shop to find the best deal, then combine sale prices with coupons for additional savings, get free shipping codes and get rewards. Ebates.com rewards you when you buy from any of their thousands of online retail partners. You choose a store which carries the product you’re looking for, based on who gives the highest percent of rewards back.

You can also compare prices here, so judge the best rebate with the best price and consider which method you would save more money with. Once you’ve chosen a company to buy from click on your selected stores link to access the store’s main page. You’re still buying from the retailers you trust so it doesn’t hurt you if you want to return an item or have issues with your purchase.

Rewards range anywhere from one to 40% of your purchase amount. Ebates.com will even reward you in CASH, check or to your PayPal account. You do have to register with Ebates.com but it’s free to do so. The only catch I’ve found is that you can’t take money out of your account whenever you want to, it’s only done a few times a year. But I like that, it allows me to build up significant rewards and receive even bigger checks!

Online shopping will save you time, headaches, the embarrassment of haggling, sales tax, and even reward you in the form of cash back now that you know the tricks. Plus you’ll skip all the hassles of parking, lugging bags around, eating food court meals and using public restrooms.

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Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson


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