If you ask me, shopping online is the way to go. No need to pack the kids in the car; no need to fight the crowds in the store. All you need is yourself, your computer and a piece of plastic. And in some cases, you may even be able to do without the plastic.
In fact, paying without plastic is No. 10 on our list of ways to get a discount on everything you buy online. Keep reading to see what other strategies made the cut.
1. Chat with customer service. Even people who regularly haggle for purchases in person forget they can negotiate online. The best way to ask for a discount is to open up the chat box on the retailer's website.
Sometimes, if you leave your shopping window open long enough, a chat box will pop up asking if you need help. Other times you may need to unearth the chat option from the contact page of the site.
Once you get a representative online, tell them you're shopping on a couple sites and looking for the best deal. Ask if any discounts are currently available. If none, ask if the company ever does free shipping. There's no guarantee of getting a discount this way, but it's a tried and true method that has worked in the past for me.
2. Give the retailer a call. Maybe you're on a site that still lives in the dark ages and doesn't offer customer service via chat. In that case, the phone is your new best friend.
It's the same routine as when you're chatting. Explain you're shopping for a deal, and ask if they have any discounts available or if free shipping is offered. The worst they can say is "no."
3. Check out coupon code sites. RetailMeNot is the very first place I look before shopping online. I find it tends to be the most comprehensive and accurate source of coupon codes on the web. You can also check out ShopatHome, CouponCabin and FatWallet for savings codes.
If you're not familiar with coupon codes, they're usually a phrase or a string of numbers and letters that you enter on the checkout page for an instant discount.
4. Install an extension on your browser. When it comes to using coupon codes, you can save time by installing an extension on your browser that will automatically search for savings. Honey is the most popular option, but there are others such as Coupons at Checkout.
You could also add an extension that will search for better deals while you're shopping online. InvisibleHand is one example. It will comb through 600 retailers to see if a better price is available elsewhere.
5. Abandon your shopping cart. It may not surprise you to know that online retailers are tracking your every move. And it's undoubtedly distressing to them to see someone with a cartload of stuff close the tab and move along. That's probably why you may find a coupon code landing in your mailbox a day or two after you leave your cart.
To get this trick to work, you need to be logged into your account so the retailer knows who abandoned the cart. Then put your items in the cart and leave the site. The list of retailers who offer codes to those with abandoned carts is likely fluid, but RatherBeShopping has a list of 17 stores that have been known to dole out the discounts.
6. Sign up for the mailing list. With sites such as RetailMeNot, shoppers can easily share codes with others. However, some stores have made that difficult by issuing one-time use codes.
To get these, you need to be on the VIP list, aka the mailing list. Sign up to receive newsletters from your favorite retailers so you can get discount codes and sales announcements delivered straight to your inbox. Just be sure to use a secondary email address so your primary account isn't overwhelmed by these messages.
7. Use discounted gift cards. Another surefire way to save money, even when there isn't a sale or coupon code in sight, is to use a discounted gift card.
View all Courses Why would anyone ever sell a gift card for less than face value? In many cases, they come from people who've received them as gifts and want to convert them to cash. Having $40 in their pocket can be more valuable than having a $50 gift card to a store they'll never visit.
While some people sell discounted gift cards on eBay and Craigslist, I'm wary of handing over my cash for cards that haven't been verified. Instead, I prefer to purchase through websites like CardCash or CardPool, which offer some buyer protections. To compare the discounts offered on gift card sites, go to GiftCardGranny to quickly see what's available.
Finally, warehouse club members can look online or at their local store for discounted gift cards. Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's all have a selection of discounted cards that cover everything from dining to travel.
8. Shop through a cash-back website. Using a coupon code and paying with a discounted gift card is a great way to double dip on your savings. On some sites, you can triple dip by shopping through a cash-back website.
Ebates is my favorite cash-back site, but other sites, such as ExtraBux, are popular, too. Cash-back amounts can range from a fraction of a percent to up to 30 percent for some retailers. You simply need to create an account and click through it to the retailers. After you make a purchase, the cash-back site will credit your account, usually within 30 days. Once you reach a certain minimum amount, such as $10, you can cash out via Paypal or opt to receive a check in the mail.
Similarly, you could use a site like MyPoints to earn points that can be redeemed for gift cards. And don't forget about the shopping portal for your favorite credit card, which can be a way to earn bonus points or miles.
9. Share on social media. Companies like Social Rebate and ReferralCandy are in the business of setting up companies with referral programs that let customers gain discounts simply by sharing their purchase online. While not standard on most major retailer sites, you can find the option to share for a discount at some smaller stores.
Speaking of social media, sending a message to a company on Facebook or Twitter can be another option to request a discount code if you strike out on chat or over the phone.
10. Pay with points. Our final way to get a discount on everything you buy online is to leave the plastic behind and pay with points or rewards instead.
This option is one that is just starting to gain traction, but I wouldn't be surprised if more rewards programs and retailers jump on board in the coming years. Here are a couple of programs currently available:
American Express Membership Points can be used to pay on Amazon.
Etihad Guest participants can use PointsPay to redeem points at 30 million merchants worldwide.
Discover Cashback Bonuses can be spent on Amazon, iTunes and Overstock.
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