Save Money Online Shopping With These Sneaky Tricks

Illustration: Chelsea Beck

Everyone loves to use a coupon code when they shop online. But there’s not always one handy when you’re ready to spend some dough on essentials (or items that are very much not essential). Sure, you could Google around for a promo code that may or may work. Or you could use one of these clever tactics to lock down some savings.

Abandon your cart

If you’ve stuck a few items in your online cart and are on the fence about whether you buy them, leave your cart full and think on it for a few days. You need to be signed into the website for this to work: on some occasions, the retailer will email you a coupon for an item in your cart, or notify you if the item’s price has gone down.

Stores are always looking to reduce their cart abandonment rate because so many people—about 70% per cent—change their minds before checkout and don’t follow through with purchasing. Stores are willing to take a hit on the purchase amount if you’ll just please get out your card and buy something.

Sign up for the email list

Many stores will ask you at checkout if you’d like to receive promotional emails. That’s fine if you plan to continue buying from them regularly, but any discounts that arrive in your inbox will be too late to help you on the order you just placed.

If you’re eyeing items from a new-to-you retailer, your first step should be signing up for their email list. I know you don’t need any more emails cluttering up your inbox, but more often than not, you’ll find a small welcome offer from that brand within a day or two of signing up.

Sign up for the text list

Email lists are so 2010, you say? Then sign up for text messages from the brand. Matt Baglia, CEO of text marketing platform SlickText, said that retailers tend to send their best discounts to text list members. That’s because text messages have a 98 per cent open rate, he said, and there’s no spam folder for them to get filtered into.

You may not feel compelled to get sale texts forever, but signing up for a few weeks could help you get a nice discount on your next purchase. Then, of course, you can unsubscribe.

Clear your cookies

Some sites—no names, no names—will futz with the price of an item the more you look at it. If the price goes up, you think, “Oh crap. It’s getting more expensive, so I need to buy it now.” That’s dynamic pricing, and it can seriously mess with your confidence.

But before you enter your payment info, clear your browser cookies and cache to make the website “forget” you were there. Then go back to the website and do your ticket search or item selection again. You’ll get a fresh, clean look at the website and the prices listed.

You can also open another browser to get an untarnished view of the website. If you’re browser monogamous, Lifehacker senior tech editor David Murphy said that you can open an incognito or private browsing window for the same effect. It’s a quick fix if you don’t want to fiddle with your browser settings.

You may not get a bona fide discount through this method, but you can ensure you aren’t being overcharged.

Sign up for the loyalty club

This one’s obvious—store loyalty members get some sort of perk, often in the form of an occasional discount. But before you go on autopilot, pay attention to the birthday field. If the retailer gives birthday bonuses (like a coupon or free product), make sure your “birthday” happens soon, you know what I’m saying? Then wait for your birthday coupon before making the purchase.

People really hated this hack when I shared it earlier this year, saying it was dishonest and I was ruining birthday coupons for everyone. But I am not recommending you suddenly have 12 birthdays a year on the same store’s loyalty plan. It’s one day a year, but late capitalism doesn’t give two hoots when that birthday takes place.

Enlist a student for help

Did your own student ID expire years go? Then befriend a current student to get yourself a discount a discount of up to 20 per cent off, depending on the store. “If you’re planning a big haul it might be worth having a college student do the shopping and passing on the savings to you,” sad Marc Mezzacca, CEO of CouponFollow.

Sure, you won’t want to find a student by lingering on the quad, but if you know a student who has a valid ID handy, why not let their access work in your favour?


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