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 freakin’ hate what it does to my bank account. It was that second hand that led me to explore ways that don’t involve braving the black Friday sales to save money shopping. I was quite happy with myself with I realized those methods to save 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 lengths sake I broke the bad chicken into two parts, one with tips to save when online shopping and one for offline since many of us that hate Black Friday end up at Cyber Monday. 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, complete your purchase to receive a percentage cash back. Rakuten gets a portion of the sale for referring you and gives you back 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 4 times a year) via Paypal. Rakuten also has a nifty tool bar that will blink when a site offers cash back. All you have to do is click the blinking button to get cash back that way 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, pay with your credit card and use Rakuten, pay the balance before your due date, and you’ll earn double cash back without paying a penny in interest.
What is it?
Dealspotr is a coupon network where users submit coupons (along with screenshots verifying they work) and are rewarded with points. Those points can then be exchanged for Amazon gift cards. Users searching for coupons can also “spot” deals and earn points themselves. There are lots of coupon sites out there, RetailMeNot.com is another of my favorites, but Dealspotr is unique in that all codes require verification and you can actually earn gift cards using the site. Dealspotr is free to use.
Caution: Visit Dealspotr before clicking the Rakuten button and copy the codes you need down. Dealspotr will wipe out the tracking code for your cash back when you click the coupon code and visit the site.
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 which 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 visit through a link on their site, rather than just paying with that card, you cannot also use Rakuten, unfortunately. Compare the rates to see which offers better savings.
What I like best about these options is once you get Rakuten 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.