Online shopping is an art. More than that, some people make it their paid job to find the best products at the lowest prices. You’ve probably heard about intermediaries who are hired to find the best flight arrangements. Some people ask for professional help when booking a holiday involving a long flight because they know this will save them cash and hassle. Airline tickets are the obvious example since their price is high and always varies in the most mysterious ways. However, it’s the little things that actually make the difference, the frequent purchases make up for the most expenses. We live in a world that centers around consumption: more products, more offers, more money spent. This whole system is built to confuse and distract the buyer from behaving rational with money.
You can shop better, you can spend less and you can make better choices, just do your homework before you start! Here’s the complete list of hacks you can do to gain the most of shopping online:
1. Be organized, have a dedicated e-mail address for shopping online
Online shopping tends to become messy: online shops usually require you to create a login account, which is good for quick access and access to your order history. Even if you don’t sign up for newsletters and updates, you will still receive commercial messages and you may want to keep them away from your personal communication. Bottom line, it will become cluttered but knowing there is only one place that has your shopping history will make it easy to manage by using the search function.
2. Choose the right browser, it may influence the price you pay
Some online stores adjust their prices according to your browser, you never know. Apple’s Safari points towards a wealthier category so it may trigger higher prices, therefore it’s best to use a non-posh browser like Chrome or Mozilla. While you’re at it, browse incognito mode and clear cookies: some websites like airline ticket sellers identify returning visitors and spike up the prices.
3. Search for your product, start with the search engine
Check to see where you can buy your product, what the price range is and then move further onto the price comparison sites. Why price comparison when you have the search engine? Because the information is better organized and you may find a better price from one of Google’s page 5 results.
4. Read the reviews
This is the Bible of online shopping. No matter how convinced you are about that particular product, you’ll never know better than someone who actually tried it. Don’t rely on how something is advertised and search for the second opinion. Even when buying from a website with no reviews, search the same products on Amazon or Ebay and see what the buyers think about it.
5. Get your hands on discounts
- Sign up for that newsletter For clothing especially but not only you get 5%-10% discount instantly if you sign up
- Install price alerts If you’re determined to get the best deal there is, then you should install a browser extension that will let you know while you’re searching which site offers a lower price. Honey, Camelizer and InvisibleHand are top recommendations and index over 100.000 online stores including Amazon, E-Bay, Best Buy or Expedia to bring you the best deals and coupons while you’re searching
- Get cash back Affiliate websites like Ebates.com share their revenues with you when you complete a sale. And that’s far from little: think about 4% back from your Booking.com payment or 6% off your new Lenovo laptop. Just install the button and start cashing in!
- Go for deal-of-the-day If you’re not the type of impulsive shopper that buys just for the sake of the deal, Groupon is the perfect place to get serious discounts of up to 90% for manicures, eating out, bungee jumping and pretty much anything you need when you don’t look for certain brands. Just make sure you use the coupon before it expires. You also get additional discount for group deals, which are logical to get when going to a festival with friends
- Save money for being a student As you’ve already noticed, students get discounted prices pretty much everywhere at events, public transport and cinemas. But there are a whole lot more exclusive deals targeting students than the obvious. Use your student e-mail to gain access to Unidays.com and you’re set for great deals
- Bought already? You can still get cash in the discount Got your new Ray Ban sunglasses only to see them 20% discounted a few days later? Sign up with Paribus and it’s yours to take back!
6. Be patient
Getting a new gadget as soon as it becomes available is not very wise for lots of reasons.
- First, you will pay the highest price that item will ever cost. Think about the first iPhone, which a few months after launch shaved the price to generate more sales
- Second, you have no reviews to check, this item is not yet tested by consumers so you might be the first unlucky to discover the flaws, just like Wii U disappointed by performing worse than the previous Wii console. Waiting literally pays off when you find barely touched items on Ebay for less money, because no product ever satisfies everyone
- Third, if you’re a true shopping ninja you’ll resist temptation altogether and you’ll go for the second newest laptop. In terms of technology there’s little to no significant difference between the newest photo-camera and the generation right before it. Except for price and marketing
If you can’t live without the newest most innovative piece there is and don’t mind waiting till it comes out of prototype phase, get an early bird package. You’re set to be rewarded with very attractive discounts of around 30% and the chance to be the first trying out that brilliant new item nobody else has access to yet. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are homes of products from the future and every early adopter should check them out.
8. Online bidding
On sites like Ebay you can join bidding contests, just make sure you stick to your budget in the auction as spirits can get pretty heated! Best approach is not to go in too early: click “Add to watch list” and Ebay will notify you 15 minutes before the auction ends. Click “place bid” for the maximum amount you’re willing to pay 1 minute before the auction ends and push “confirm” seconds before time is up. You’ll most certainly get the product at a price lower than your maximum bid!
9. Buy second hand
Buying second hand comes with lots of advantages, especially money related, but it’s also good for the environment. Buy only from the best rated sellers with return policy and you’re good. If you choose to meet the seller and pick up your purchase personally, you have the chance to scrutinize it live before deciding to pay for it. Likewise, you have the right to not buy it if it’s not up to your expectations.
10. Watch out for shipping costs and taxes
Delivery costs and additional import taxes are added to the product price, so it’s important to be aware of them. Most online stores offer free delivery for orders exceeding a certain amount, so you can plan accordingly. Even if you can’t meet the requested amount don’t worry too much, check out next point.
11. Return policy
Never ever buy from a website without a reasonable return policy. This will help you ditch possible shipping fees by ordering for instance multiple sizes and returning what doesn’t fit.
12. Insure your purchase
It sounds complicated but it’s actually very simple. Make sure you don’t have to give out more personal data than necessary and pay with PayPal or credit card. Always pay with credit card for products that cost more than €200 and you’re fully covered against fraud. PayPal insures for prices lower than that.
13. Log out
Especially when you’re not the only one using that computer. Sign out of all login required environments before you leave the laptop. Safety first!
14. Keep proof of purchase
The order number and electronic invoice will be required in case you need to use the warranty services or return policy. It’s imperative that you provide it if you engage in a dispute with the seller.
15. General tips & tricks to shopping like a pro
- January and February (usually after holidays) are slow months for tailors, which means you’re very likely to get significant discounts when shortening those pants
- Traveling is more expensive during school holidays so it’s best to avoid booking during these times. Especially if you don’t fancy screaming children in the plane, train and hotel
- Buy out of season. You’re more likely to find good deals on ski equipment during summer and good priced bikes in snowy months
- Play the “match price” card. More often than not, stores want to secure clients by offering the best price. This is not always disclosed upfront for obvious reasons. If you’ve found the same item cheaper somewhere else but you’d rather buy it at store X, simply call store X and ask if they can match the price for you. Most of the times they will
- If the deal you found looks too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for counterfeited products and other scams. Real Louboutins don’t sell for €50. Ever. Sure, if you settle for a copy that’s fine too as long as you acknowledge and assume the risks that come with that. They might be well made and looking just like the originals, but they might just as well not 🙂