I’m only a little embarrassed by the fact that, while I don’t shop often, it takes me forever to actually purchase something. This is because I refuse to buy mass-produced things at full price, and love maximizing cash back. I already shared my hacks for online shopping for before you actually purchase, but these are the hacks I use once I’m ready to buy.
1. Coupon Codes
Always look for coupon codes. It’s as easy as googling “[site] coupon code” and testing a few out, but I like to live life in the fast lane.
I use Honey, which has a Chrome extension that lets you know when they have coupon codes for the site you’re on. It’ll even run through those codes for you, and select the one that offers the most savings. It’s not perfect, but it’s fast and easy, and consistently finds codes that actually work.
2. Cash Back
Even though I don’t shop a lot, I’m always a fan of cash back. Every little bit builds up, and since starting with Ebates and Honey, I’ve gotten over $100 back either in the form of Amazon gift cards or through Paypal. Typically, these services will give anywhere from 2-15% cash back, depending on the retailer.
I will say, though, this one is a trade-off. These businesses offer cash back for shopping online in exchange for knowing what you bought. Remember – they’re making money with your information, otherwise they wouldn’t be giving you money for it.
Personally, I’m ok with these sites tracking my purchases in exchange for cold hard cash, but I understand why someone else wouldn’t be. Each is opt-in (so they don’t see what I purchase unless I click the button), and I tend to use it every chance I get.
Honey’s cash back feature is called Honey Gold. They offer rewards for your purchase information in the form of Amazon gift cards.
Here’s the kicker, though: even though each will partner with different retailers, sometimes they’ll overlap and you can get both the Ebates rewards and Honey Gold for the same purchase.
3. Gift Cards
But wait, there’s more! I know, I know, just buy the stuff already. But bear with me. I’m trying to save you money here.
Once I have a cart total, coupons and all, I’ll grab discounted gift cards online. Gift Card Granny is probably the best of the bunch, aggregating available gift cards from different sites, and making it searchable by percent saved, total value, or even just whether it’s a physical gift card or something you can use online.
I’ll then find the combination of cards that get me closest to my total – for the least amount of money – and make sure they are delivered via email same-day. Usually, this will save me anywhere from 3-25%, depending on the cards available! Combined with the coupon codes and cash back, it makes one hell of a deal.
Even though you probably just got an awesome deal with all these tricks, there’s no guarantee that your new purchase is going to fit, feel, or look just right. Always make sure there’s a no hassle return policy, so you can ship things back for free. I always think about my buys in terms of cost per wear (total cost divided by how many uses I’ll get out of it), and if I won’t wear it enough because it just isn’t what I wanted, it’s not worth it. I tend to hold onto something for a few days and decide if I really love it. If by the end of 3-4 days, I realize I won’t wear it, I send it back.
Whew! Ok, that’s all of them. Yes, my hacks are probably overkill, but these tricks have saved me enough cash that they’re worth the extra 5-10 minutes. That said, it really comes down to two rules:
- Only spend money on things that are worth it to you
- Never buy full-priced
The rest is just bonus.
My favorite free financial tool I use is M1 Finance. I've previously written about M1's free trades, automatic rebalancing, and easy-to-use interface, but it really does make investing accessible and easy. If you're not already investing in some way, or if you're looking for a tool that makes it easy to manage, I recommend trying it out.
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