In 2021, it’s possible to stand in your kitchen while making dinner — or let’s be honest, pouring a glass of wine — as you tell a speaker no bigger than a bar of soap to order more almond flour, toilet paper and shampoo. And then those items are miraculously delivered to your door, usually for free, in less time than it takes to get the results of your latest COVID test. Yes, this is the new reality of online shopping.
While life in the New Year seems made for shopping from the comfort and safety of your sofa, there are things you need to remember to ensure you keep receiving the best deals and that those great buys are exactly what you ordered. Because the landscape for internet bargain hunting really has been changed forever. Here’s what you need to do in this New Year and beyond to keep on saving.
Use Price Trackers
In a digital world, a little automated research on your online shopping can go a long way. Before you pay for your Amazon purchases, check sites such as CamelCamelCamel, says consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.com. While it’s only available for Amazon products, it can help you track the price history of an item so you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal or if you should hold off for now.
Price-tracking websites and apps, which also include Slickdeals and Honey, typically send subscribers email alerts or cell phone notifications when a product they want goes on sale. They are free to use and pretty easy to set up. Many price trackers also come with automatic coupons or rebate features in addition to the price alerts.
READ MORE: Where To Find The Best Deals At Costco
Opt for cashback apps, extensions and reward cards
More people than ever are shopping with apps and extensions like Rakuten and BeFrugal to earn cash back on eligible purchases. For promotion codes, download an app such as RetailMeNot on your phone or go to the website before you check out for hundreds of current discount codes from national chains.
You can stack your savings even more, Ramhold says, by choosing to use a rewards credit card or debit card that provides cash back or points on your purchases. Just remember to pay your monthly bill on time every time so you don’t cancel out the cash back savings with penalties for paying late in the form of higher interest rates.
Some cards, such as the Target REDCard, can be set up to draw funds directly from your checking account, just like a debit card, and gives Target and Target.com shoppers an instant 5% discount on in store and online purchase. Target.com shoppers who use the REDcard also receive perks such as free shipping and discounts on the items they buy often.
Only buy items on sale
It can be really hard to resist the temptation of taking home a full-price handbag when you hold it in your arms and inhale the subtle scent of new leather while browsing in your favorite store in person. One of the great things about online shopping, though, is that it’s often much easier to step away from your laptop or put down your phone until the urge to splurge on that full-priced non-necessity subsides.
We understand that household staples such as milk and bread rarely receive discounts. For nearly everything else, though, you can check out websites such as DealNews or BradsDeals to get the latest updates on sales including apparel, electronics, cosmetics, credit cards, insurance and even subscription food and meal services from brands including Butcher Box and EveryPlate.
Get your thrift fix on resale and reconditioned items
Savvy thrift store shoppers have surely missed browsing racks of gently used vintage and modern clothing, accessories and home goods since the pandemic made in-store shopping harder to manage.
Whether you call it clothing circularity or resale therapy, (see what we did there?) there are some pretty great online stores including ThredUP where you can buy (and sell) used clothing, including brands like Coach, Lululemon, Lily Pulitzer, Old Navy and J.Crew.
Payment methods matter: Use a credit card
When shopping online, it’s always best to pay by credit card rather than platforms like PayPal or Venmo, for example. When you use a credit card, way, you’re protected under federal law, so you don’t have to pay for merchandise you ordered but never received.
If you have a problem with an online purchase, first try to work it out with the seller. Some credit cards also offer purchase protections. “Even if you end up getting scammed,” Ramhold says, “by using these services you can both mitigate the reach of the scam and even receive your money back.”
Plus, when you pay with a credit card, you can always reverse an unauthorized or fraudulent charge directly with your credit card issuer by filing what’s known as a chargeback dispute. If you suspect a scam, let the FTC know at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
READ MORE: Frugal vs. Cheap: What’s The Difference?
Research the seller
To avoid scams and fraudulent sellers in the first place, take a little time and check out your potential seller’s rating. “If you have any hesitation about shopping with them, it’s best not to risk it,” Ramhold says. “When reading ratings, be sure that they’re actually providing valuable information, though. I can say I’ve seen a seller rating that consisted of 5 stars, but the only thing written was ‘yes.’ Something like that is a red flag for a scam.”
Also, look for ratings and reviews through sites such as Trustpilot, or see if a seller is verified through Google. While these won’t necessarily mean vendors can be trusted 100% of the time, she says, it does offer confidence in your shopping and a little peace of mind about handing over payment information.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
- The 8 Best Bargains At Dollar Tree, No Coupons Needed
- Bargain Shoppers Unite: The 10 Best Discount Stores
- 5 Places You’re Not Looking For A Bargain — But Definitely Should Be
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