These days, there are many reasons why many people prefer online shopping as opposed to going to retail brick and mortar stores. Not only can you shop in the comfort of your home, but you don’t need to spend time driving to the store and braving the crowds. You don’t have to worry about something being sold out, and finding more obscure items is easier.
There are a lot of stores that solely operate online, which helps save them money by not having to maintain a retail space. This, in turn, allows them to pass some savings onto the consumer.
Below are my top 5 favorite tools to save money when shopping online. Four out of the 5 picks are available as browser extensions, so that you don’t even need to leave the shopping webpage to take advantage. This makes them extremely easy and fast to use.
If you don’t know what browser extensions are, they are basically small add-on programs you can add to your browser. They generally sit in the top right corner of your browser and allow you to perform certain tasks without having to open full-blown websites or computer programs.
AMAZON.COM. Ever hear of them? They’re kind of a big thing… as in like we’re-going-to-take-over-the-world big. To think back to the time when they started out as a just an online bookstore… I’m not that old, am I?
These days, you can pretty much find anything under the sun on Amazon, and more. It’s important to realize that prices on Amazon can constantly change. Some item prices may not change very often, while others can fluctuate wildly.
If an item you were interested in (but did not urgently need) was listed at $50, but you knew that it often sells below $40, would you still buy it at $50? If it’s an item you don’t regularly buy, how do you know whether the price you see on Amazon is a good deal or not.
That’s where Camelcamelcamel (who came up with this name?) comes in. Camelcamelcamel allows you to track the price history of any item that is listed on Amazon. It exists as both a website and a browser extension (or a simple bookmarklet).
It is super simple to use. Simply copy and paste the Amazon link of the item you are interested in the top search bar of the CCC website. It will return a page with a lot of valuable information.
The biggest thing I like to pay attention to is the price history chart. This allows you to see what the historical price of the item you’re interested in has been. That way, you can see whether the price right now is a fair price or not.
The other great thing you can do is set up a price alert for a particular item. Say after you looked at the price chart, you notice an item has historically sold for cheaper than its current price. You can set a desired price and enter your email address. Then, the next time the item price drops below your desired price, CCC will email you to let you know.
The thing I appreciate the most is that you can do all of this without signing up for any sort of account with CCC. And it’s all free!
The browser extension makes it even easier to use. Simply shop on Amazon as normal. When you’re viewing an item you’re interested in, click on the CCC browser extension icon and it will display all the same information as the website version. You can even set up price alerts from here as well.
Cashback Shopping Portals
What if you could get paid whenever you buy something online? It may not be a large amount of money, usually 2-5% of your purchase value, but over several purchases, the amount can add up.
That’s the premise behind cashback shopping portal websites. Explaining exactly how cashback portals technically work is probably out of scope for this article. However, the basic premise is that when you open a store’s website through the cashback portal and make a purchase, the cashback portal will know and give you a percentage of your shopping cart total back to you as cash. The shopping experience on the store’s website is exactly the same as if you were to go to the store’s website directly.
There are a few things to know about cashback portals.
First, cashback rates for a specific store can change over time on a given cashback portal. Additionally, even though cashback portals usually only list one cashback rate, cashback rates can vary for different types of items within a specific store. This usually applies to stores that sell a large variety of items, such as Amazon. The portal will generally list the highest cashback rate, so it’s important to look at the terms to see what it’s paying for various types of items.
Another important point to keep in mind is that cashback rates can vary between different cashback portals.
So I should just pick the cashback portal with the highest cashback rate, right? Welllllll, not necessarily.
One thing to keep in mind is payout amount, the minimum amount of cashback you need to accumulate before you can claim it, and also payout frequency, how often the cashback portal pays out money. Another concern is click reliability and support. When you click a portal’s link for a store, will it keep track of your purchase accurately? Also, if you run into an issue like you didn’t receive your cashback for a purchase, is there support from the cashback portal to resolve your dispute?
It’s important to be aware that cashback rates can vary between different cashback portals for the exact same merchant. Say you’re shopping on Bestbuy… one portal could be paying 4% cash back, while another could only be paying 2%. How do you know which portal to use to get the most cash back without having to look up each portal?
That’s where Cashbackholic comes in. Simply search for the store that you are shopping on and Cashbackholic will show you the cashback rates from all the portals. It even categorizes each portal as cashback, credit card rewards, airlines miles or hotel points.
It may not be the most visually appealing website (like Camelcamelcamel), but I’ve found it simple to use and publish accurate cashback rates.
But wait, there’s more!
For as long as I’ve been using Cashbackholic, I’ve always had to open a separate browser tab to open Cashbackholic.com in order to search for the best cashback rates. However, in researching for this post, I discovered that they now have a browser extension available!
It must have been released fairly recent as there are only 1 review and 250 listed users on the Chrome web store as of this writing. This made me super excited as it makes comparing cashback rates so much easier.
After you have the browser extension installed, simply click on the Cashbackholic browser extension icon while you’re shopping online and it will show you all the cashback rates and portals available for the store you are currently shopping on. Then you can click on the portal you wish to use and it will open a new browser window for you to take you to that portal.
Another common way for online shoppers to save money is through the use of coupon codes. These are usually distributed as publicly as on the front page of a merchant’s homepage or as privately as through an email list.
There are many websites out there dedicated to providing coupon codes for online shopping. However, when you’re ready to check out, you have to go through the tedious task of searching for the store you’re shopping at, and then manually copying/pasting the promo code into your shopping cart.
Many times the listed promo codes are also expired or not working, so you end up having to work down the list to find a working promo code just to save some money. This can take up to a few minutes of your time. Honey drastically simplifies the process.
Honey primarily exists as a browser extension (the Honey website is not useful). When you are checking out your online shopping cart, there is usually a field to enter any coupon or promo codes.
While you’re on this page, you can simply click on the Honey browser extension icon and Honey will automatically compare ALL promo codes it has in its system for the store you are shopping on and finally settle on the one that saves you the most money. Using Honey literally only takes 5 seconds of your time with a good chance to save you money.
Unlike the other tools on this list that can provide functionality as a browser extension, Slickdeals is the only tool on this list that exists as a website. That’s probably for the better anyway, since it is chock full of deals and information.
Simply put, Slickdeals is a website with crowdsourced deals. By that I mean anyone can submit a deal that they come across, and then other members of the site can vote whether the deal is actually good or not.
The more people that vote up a deal, the higher the deal’s rating (thumbs up system) goes up. Eventually, if it’s a very popular deal, it will end up on the front page of the website.
Most of the time, deals are for single items, but sometimes they can be for a whole website who’s having a massive sale.
To a newcomer, Slickdeals can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating. I’ll admit that I probably don’t utilize everything it has to offer. If you think you will use Slickdeals, I definitely recommend registering for the website.
With an account, you can personalize the frontpage deals to display only categories you’re interested in. Additionally, you can set up deal alerts where if a deal includes certain keywords you’re interested in and reaches a certain deal ranking, Slickdeals will automatically notify you of the deal.
There’s a funny term among the community called the Slickdeals Effect. This phrase is used to describe two scenarios.
The first is when you’re buying an item that you saw on Slickdeals just for the sake of buying it because it was a good deal, and not necessarily because you need or even want it. I definitely discourage this habit, although I have probably been a victim to this effect a few times in my life.
The other time this phrase is used is when a deal is really popular and an item sells out or a website pulls a deal within a few hours of the deal being posted, likely due to all the traffic that particular Slickdeals is causing.
Those are my top 5 favorite tools to use when I’m shopping online. I hope at least one of them is new to you and helps you save money while you shop. If you’re interested in learning about new tools I come across to help you save more money, please sign up for my e-mail newsletter to be the first to know. Let me know in the comments below if you have a favorite tool you use to help you save money when you’re shopping online.