Buying online generally offers the best deals, but by the time you've factored in postal costs, the deal doesn't always look so good. Here's some of our favourite tactics for getting free shipping when you shop online.
Picture by cmahon
According to Sensis, 61% of Australians have ordered goods or services online. On the other hand, we clearly don't have an online shopping culture that has spawned any category-straddling giants like Amazon. I've always figured that a reason for this is a relatively slow and expensive postal service (unless you utilise Express Post), combined with courier services which manage to become more incompetent and expensive every year. (I deal a fair bit with couriers as part of my job, and there isn't a single company in Australia that I would consider even vaguely up to scratch.)
Regardless, delivery costs can often make the difference between ordering online and heading off to the shops. If it's an item you'll only be able to get online -- a rare book or an odd electronic component -- saving on the postage can still be useful. Here's some of the basic tactics that are useful for getting free delivery.
eBay actively encourages its sellers to offer postage-free options, most recently in its announcement of a local classifieds service. That relies on picking up the goods yourself, but you can also easily identify items which don't attract delivery charges.
Hit ebay's Advanced search page and scroll down to 'Postage options' and tick 'Free postage', then enter your search terms at the top of the page. Depending on your category, you may not get a lot of results, but it's worth checking.
The one to beat in this area is The Book Depository, which, as we've pointed out once or twice before, offers free shipping worldwide. That said, it's worth double-checking on (another Lifehacker favourite) to see if you can get it cheaper (especially if it's an Australian-published title).
If you're travelling to the US or UK, Amazon's Super Saver free postage on larger orders can seem tempting for books (and many other categories). However, if you're staying in a hotel, bear in mind that you may get hit with charges for receiving goods.
When it comes to gadgets, it's usually a case of keeping your eye out for good deals (or trawling eBay using the technique mentioned above). Apple, for instance, didn't charge shipping on the iPad when it was released recently; Kogan doesn't charge for goods that are ordered ahead of the ship date. Using a price comparison site like staticICE is also a handy way to find cheap or free shipping if you've got a specific device in mind.
While those are all good basic tactics, I'm sure Lifehacker readers have other go-to locations and techniques for getting free delivery. Got your own favourite ways to avoid shipping or postage charges? Share them in the comments.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.