Shopping can be the enemy of frugality. If you slip into too comfortable a state while roaming the mall, you can find yourself dropping cash on everything from a Cinnabon to a new wardrobe — probably because it all seemed like fun at the time.
Still, unless you live in a completely self-sufficient bunker, you’ll have to buy something sooner or later. Avoiding the mall is a solid lifestyle choice if you’re committed to saving money because you’ll eliminate so much temptation to browse and spend on things you don’t need.
Online shopping is definitely where it’s at. Not only do you avoid the psychological pitfalls retailers use to make you want to buy, but you also have the full power of the internet at your fingertips to help you find the absolute best bargain on the things you need.
The next time you’re in the market to make an online purchase, try one of these helpful websites or apps to make sure you get rock-bottom pricing.
- Retail Me Not
Retail Me Not is the best place to find discount codes when you’re shopping online. They have a huge array of retailers and codes available — so much so that it can be a little overwhelming to sift through all the options. Make it a habit to check this site before you check out at any online shop. Just search the store you need and read through the options that come up. The best coupons are usually at the top, and you may have to do a little math to choose between a flat dollar amount discount, a percentage or free shipping — but it’s definitely worth it.
If you really want to get your online promo codes but aren’t sure you can remember to look at Retail Me Not before you check out, try adding a browser extension instead. When you join Honey and install their extension, it automatically applies the best coupon code to your purchase for you. It works on most browsers and also offers a cash back program for your purchases, so there’s a lot to love.
The Flipp app is useful online or in stores, and it’s especially great for groceries. It lets you choose which retailers’ circulars you want to be updated on every week and aggregates them for you — no more waiting for Wednesday or trying to find the online equivalent to Grandma’s Sunday newspaper. It also has cool extra features to help you organize your shopping list and your favorite coupons so you don’t look like a crazy person in the checkout line.
Pricegrabber is Consumer Reports’ pick for the top price comparison search engine. Just type in the name of an item you’re looking for, and it pulls up every retailer that sells it. You’ll consistently find the lowest available price, along with accurate shipping and tax information so you can make the best decision for your wallet at any given moment. You can also save your search and get an email whenever there’s a price drop if you think you can do better.
- Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner
When you’re already in the store, you can still take advantage of price comparison search engines. The Shop Savvy app lets you use your phone’s camera as a barcode scanner; it then takes that info to find the lowest price available for that item. You can make a solid decision on the spot about whether or not to buy, or try your luck trotting over to the customer service desk to se if they’ll match the price shown on the app.
- The Camelizer
If you’re an Amazon devotee, you’ll love The Camelizer. It’s a browser extension that lets you pull up Amazon’s price history for any item they sell. This is crucial information to help you decide if you’re really getting a good deal, or if you should wait for a price drop. This is a great weapon against sellers who inflate the price so they can offer a “discount.” It’s also a good way to see if buying an item that’s available for Prime is really a better deal.
Speaking of Amazon, they do offer to refund your money if there’s a price drop on your item — but how are you going to know if that happens? Enter Paribus. This app tracks your email receipts and scans the internet for price drops at your retailers. When it happens, the app files your claim automatically. You get your refund without having to do anything at all. Paribus takes a percentage off the top for their trouble, but odds are strong that you’ll come out ahead of where you’d be if you had to track prices forever and file those claims on your own.
Sometimes the best thing to do is just to shop at a retailer you know has great prices all the time. Overstock is a great choice for terrific deals on housewares, furniture, clothes, electronics — it’s basically the mall at your fingertips, but everything is on sale all the time. Bonus feature: Most items qualify for free shipping.
Looking for luxury goods and name brands? Try SmartBargains first for jewelry, watches, luggage and other high-end items that are hard to find on sale. They’ll give you a coupon if you sign up for emails, so your purchase can be extra sweet. Pro Tip: Unsubscribe from the list as soon as you get your first email to eliminate the temptation to browse for things you don’t need later.
There’s no way to avoid shopping at some point, but you can definitely make the most of your money by giving these websites, apps and browser extensions a try. Once you’ve gotten your deals, challenge yourself to funnel those savings into your emergency fund or to pay a little extra on that credit card bill.
What will you do with the money you save using these handy online shopping tools?