Everyone knows shopping online is often cheaper than physical stores, but there are plenty of ways to cut those costs further. We round up the best options.
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10. Stay Away When You’re Emotional
If you’re tired, unhappy, drunk or in a rush, you won’t make rational purchase decisions. Online stores are open 24/7, so what’s the rush? Return to your purchases when you’re happy, rested and have time to spare.
9. Use Comparison Sites
A major advantage of shopping online is that you can compare pricing before you buy. Beyond the obvious strategy of simply dumping the product name in Google, category-specific search sites can be useful. We particularly like Booko for books and DVDs, StaticeICE for computer gear, and our own ShopStyle for clothing.
8. Impose A Delay
Impulse buying is dangerously easy online. To avoid excessive spending, try this trick: once an item is in your online shopping cart, force yourself to wait 24 hours before completing the order. That gives you time to reflect on whether you really need it.
7. Pretend You’re American
Some US stores won’t ship to non-American addresses. If a special is massively good, or you just have to have a particular item, then using a shipping service such as ComGateway, HopShopGo, Price USA or WorldPurchases can make sense. You’ll typically pay a service fee and you’ll have to pay postage, so run the numbers carefully. In a similar fashion, setting up a US iTunes account will get you a cheaper and different range of media options than the Australian iTunes store.
6. Minimise Credit Card Fees
If you’re shopping via overseas sites, conversion charges and transaction fees can quickly pile up. Seek out a credit card with minimal overseas shopping rates (such as Lifehacker reader favourite 28 Degrees) so you don’t end up paying more in fees than for actual goods.
5. Cut Down On Shipping Charges
Postage is a major component in online shopping, and regrettably few stores offer free Australian shipping. Check out our guide to cutting shipping charges to cut down on your bill.
4. Favour Digital Goods
As an extension of that last point: shipping charges aren’t a problem when you’re buying digital goods (music, movies, software, ebooks). This doesn’t always mean massive savings — the fact digital goods are charged at similar levels to their physical counterparts is a frequent complaint around these parts, especially when considering how Australians are overcharged. However, if you are ordering a physical object, ask yourself if you couldn’t do just as well with the digital version.
3. Are Specials Really Special?
High-pressure sales tactics aren’t the exclusive domain of dubious mall spruikers. Deal of the day sites, group deals, online sales and “get item A cheap when you buy item B” are all methods that try and force you to make a quick buying decision. Don’t be fooled. Do some research and work out if you’re really getting a “special” price. Remember: 10 per cent off RRP is meaningless if no-one usually sells at the full price anyway.
2. Search For Coupons
Once you have a particular store in mind for purchases, search online to see if there are any discount coupons available (OzBargain and RetailMeNot are good places to start). You won’t find coupons every time, but it’s always worth checking just in case.
1. Use Deals Sites
Keeping an eye on deals sites ensures you’ll know about genuine specials when they do occur. Our recent roundup of the five best deals sites gives you the tools you need. (And keep an eye our for Lifehacker’s regular Dealhacker posts as well, including our daily App Deals roundup.)