The holiday season and I have a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, I love the process of dreaming up things that make other people smile. On the other hand, I hate what it does to my bank account. It was that second hand that led me to explore ways to save even more money during those awesome holiday sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I was quite happy with myself when I realized the saving methods I found work all year round.
Below you’ll find ideas beyond the typical “shop around,” “catch sales,” and “buy used” advice—which is good advice, don’t get me wrong, just what else can you do? For length’s sake, I broke this bad chicken into two parts, one with tips to save when online shopping and one for offline shopping so that you can maximize your savings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday no matter how you choose to shop. You can find the offline portion here.
Easy Ways to Save Money Shopping Online:
What is it?
Rakuten works off referral income. You find the site you want to shop at on Rakuten, click it, and you’re redirected to the site. Then, just complete your purchase to receive a percentage of your total in cash back. Rakuten gets a portion of the sale for referring you and you get a portion of that. Rates vary by site. For example, Ebay is often 1%. Kohls is often 6%. I have seen rates as high as 25%.
There are a lot of sites like Rakuten out there, but in my experience at least, Rakuten often has the highest percentage back, and it is one of the few that offers cash back at Amazon. They pay all accumulated cash back quarterly (so four times a year) via Paypal. Rakuten also has a nifty toolbar that will blink when a site offers cash back. All you have to do is click the blinking button to get cash back rather than visiting Rakuten and searching for your store. Rakuten is free to use.
Tip: While you can’t double up on referral programs like Rakuten, you can double up using credit card rewards. So, if you pay with your credit card and use Rakuten, then pay the balance before your due date, you’ll earn double cash back without paying a penny in interest.
PayPal Honey works the same way as Rakuten, but offers “Honey Gold,” which can be exchanged for PayPal shopping credits, cash, or gift cards. Every 1,000 points equates to $10. The browser extension also takes things a step further: it automatically combs the web for coupon codes and allows you to try them with one click. It doesn’t always find every code available, but it does a decent job and really makes finding savings a quick process.
Another cool feature of Honey is that on some sites, like Amazon, it provides a price checker tool that will notify you if the product is available elsewhere for less and show price trends for that item so that you can ensure you’re getting the best deal. You can even add items to your “drop list” and get price alerts when the item is on sale. The only downside is that you can’t double up rewards with Rakuten and PayPal Honey, so you’ll need to compare the cashback percentages between the two. However, you can use all Honey’s tools and then just click Rakuten’s button right before you check out if necessary.
Store Cards: (Also applicable on offline shopping)
If you frequent a store, consider getting their charge card. The interest rates are always ridiculous, so be sure to pay your balance before your due date, but many offer great savings. For instance, Amazon’s store card offers 5% back on all purchases. Target’s Red Card offers free shipping and a 5% discount. Kohl’s card comes with exclusive coupons which often stack. For example, last week there were three card member codes that could be used together for free shipping (no minimum), 30% off your total, and $10 off any $25 purchase, meaning if you spent $25, your total ended up $10.50, 58% savings!—even better, you could use these codes on the clearance section in conjunction with Rakuten cash back. (Can you tell Kohl’s is one of my favorite sites to save at?)
If a store doesn’t have a store card, consider checking to see if one of your existing cards offers a shopping program. For instance, Shop Discover has many cash-back offers for stores such as Home Depot. Though keep in mind, if the offer requires you to visit through a link from your credit card provider’s site, rather than just paying with your card, you cannot also use Rakuten or Honey, unfortunately. Compare the rates to see which offers better savings.
What I like best about these options is once you get Rakuten and Honey set up, get a feel for which sites often have coupons and when, and apply for any store cards or find which of your credit cards offers bonuses, none of this is complicated or takes a ton of time. It saves, and it saves quickly.