Monthly Challenge: How to Shop Smarter

Shopping can be challenging as we try to find items that are not only of good quality, but also of good value. There are so many options online and in stores how can you be certain you’re getting the best deal? Scroll through some of the great tips we’ve found to improve your skills as a shopper!

shopping online


Fill it and forget it. If the items you need are not time-sensitive, fill up your online cart with all the items you want, then leave the site. Most major retailers use email marketing campaigns to encourage you to come back to the site to complete the purchase. What does that mean for you? Depending on the retailer, you could get a coupon code emailed to you as early as 24 hours after you left the cart to help encourage you to complete the purchase.

Pay to shop, not to ship. Shipping is an extra cost that is easy to avoid. If the site doesn’t offer free shipping regularly, check for free shipping promo codes (we’ll tell you easy ways to find them later on) or find the product that you like on a site that offers in-store pick up. It takes an extra step, but you’ll save on shipping and have access to online-exclusive offers.

Know all your options before you buy. It happens to all of us: we research an item, find the brand we want and commit to that purchase. Then, a week later, a friend points out they got the same thing on another site and for less than what we paid. The difference? They compared prices across multiple sites and found the best deal. However, they probably also spent a ton of time looking — time is money too. Save time and money with a browser extension like Invisible Hand. While you shop online, Invisible Hand will crawl the web looking for pricing on that item across dozens of retail sites and notify you if it’s cheaper elsewhere.

Sweeten the deal. Searching for coupon codes can be just as challenging as finding the product you need. The one you find may be expired or only qualify for certain purchases. Instead of trying a dozen codes, install the Honey plug-in and have it do the work for you. When you get to the checkout page for any site, Honey will test every coupon code they have available automatically and choose the best deal for you. You can also choose your promo code manually. Take the guesswork out and just save!

Get rewarded for your purchases. Want to get paid for shopping at the sites you use regularly?

With commission-based lead sites like Ebates, it’s easier than you think. Popular retail chains like Macy’s and Kohl’s, travel sites like Travelocity and Hertz, and others pay Ebates to be listed on their site. When you use Ebates to navigate to the online store you are looking for, you get a cashback bonus based on a percentage of what you spend. At the end of every three months, Ebates sends you a check. It’s a simple way to get rewarded for making the purchases you were already planning on!

Price alerts trump wish lists. You may read an article about a great product or a friend may recommend an item they love, but it’s just not in your budget to purchase it. Instead, you put it on a wish list for a later time — but what does that wish list do for you in the meantime? Switch your wish list for price alert tools. Try price-tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel that monitor the price of the item you want across sites like Amazon, Best Buy and more. Wait till you get an alert via email when the price drops below the threshold.


shopping in store


Keep your eye on the prize. There are research studies that show how the ambience and layout of a store can be manipulated to encourage impulse purchases. For example, jewelers use special lighting to make diamonds and gemstones sparkle in ways natural light wouldn’t. Clothing stores will place an eye-catching but mediocre deal right in the entryway to the store to lure you in, but tuck away the real deals (like clearance and sale items) all the way in the back corners. Avoid being seduced by fancy scents and comfortable lighting by sticking to your list you brought with you.

“Would you like to give your email address for additional offers?” This question is a common on among retail store cashiers, so much so that it is a knee-jerk reaction to say “no,” and complete your transaction without sharing that. However, the next time you head to that same store you could be walking in there with coupon in hand and savings galore. Just because email coupons can be annoying doesn’t mean you should pass them up. Instead, filter them strategically for maximum savings and minimum headache. You can even set up a specific email address strictly for promotional offers. If you’d prefer to keep things simple, set up a filter in your email account to siphon all those promotional emails into a folder. Then, when you are ready to shop, you can sort through and choose which offer best suits your shopping needs.

Offline shopping improved by online shopping. You’re out shopping and find the product you’ve been searching for and the price tag is not what you expected at all. Are you out of touch or is the store off base? It’s time to compare prices — but does that mean driving around to all the competitive stores? No way. Try the scanning feature on the Amazon app. You can view a large catalog of items and see how their price compares. That way, you know if you’re getting the best deal even when you’re not online shopping.

Spring into local small business rewards. Small businesses don’t always have a wide reach when it comes to their marketing scheme. Your favorite little boutique may be having a sale this weekend, but without walking past the storefront you may never know. Luckily, small business owners in many major cities have teamed up with third parties to help collectively get noticed (and reward their customers in the process). Try signing up for a frequent buyer program like Spring Rewards. You can get cash back when you meet certain thresholds at the stores you love or even get discounts to places you’ve never tried before.

Gift yourself with savings. If you have a store you regularly shop at, or if you have plans to make a decent sized purchase at a specific store, search for gift card deals. Many convenience stores and online gift card retailers will sell bundles of gift cards for less than the total value they’re worth. If you can’t find bundled gift cards, explore sites like Raise where you can buy unwanted gift cards for less than their face value.