10 Tips for How to Save on Online Shopping

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Online shopping has been a popular shopping method of choice for many Canadians who appreciate the ease of being able to do it from the comfort of their own home. However, during COVID, the demand for online shopping has been on the rise. According to a study by Statistics Canada, retail e-commerce sales reached a record of $3.9 billion in May of 2020– an increase of 110.8% compared to May 2019.

As more Canadians turn to online shopping for everything from groceries to clothing to technology, they are also looking for ideas on how to spend less. Well, we have you covered. Here are 10 tips for how to save on online shopping.

Sign up for emails and memberships with your favourite brands

Email lists are usually for those who want to be in the know of the latest products and sales. However, email lists often tend to include coupons. Bed Bath and Beyond is a popular one for this; they frequently send out 20% off one item discount coupons to their email list.

You should also sign up for any membership programs for your favourite brands. These memberships often lead to discounts, bonus products, and birthday coupons or freebies. For example, The Body Shop gives members a $10 birthday reward and Sephora Insider members get a free birthday gift.

There’s also PC Optimum which is one of the best loyalty programs in Canada. If you join PC Insiders, you could earn even more points.

Check for discounts or coupons before you buy

If there is a coupon available, you can be it will be found somewhere on the internet. So before you buy, do a quick search. Websites like Websaver, Smart Canucks, and Save.ca are all places you should be checking regularly. Remember, some websites allow you to stack coupons as well, so don’t give up right away after finding just one!

If coupons don’t work, then turn to websites like Great Canadian Rebates and Rakuten that allow you to earn cash back for shopping through them.

Leave it in the cart & see what happens 

Have you ever been shopping online, added something to your cart, then got called away from your phone or computer which leads you to forget you were shopping? If yes, chances are you also then received an email from the brand, a friendly ‘reminder’ that you forgot something in your cart. If you’re lucky, that reminder will also come with a discount code as an extra incentive to buy and get your business.

Now, granted, not every brand does this. You are also more likely to be successful using this ploy as a new customer to a business. However, if you aren’t in a rush, then it can be worth playing this little waiting game for a day or two.

Plan ahead

As consumers, we already know that there tend to be themes to sales and promotions depending on the time of year or even the day of the week. So, if you can wait, it’s best to plan ahead and shop during these times to ensure that you get the best possible deals.

Common annual themes to keep an eye out for include:

  • Back to School time for computer and technology related purchases
  • Black Friday for sales on pretty much anything
  • Boxing Day for sales on pretty much anything
  • End of season clearance for things like home décor, patio furniture, clothing etc.

There are also some days of the week that tend to offer more lucrative deals than others. For example, travel experts have pegged Thursdays and Sundays as the best days of the week to find deals on flights. According to a Skyscanner study from February 2020, the average price of an international flight ticket purchased on a Thursday was $1049.30 while the average for one purchased on a Monday came in at $1058.41.

Clear your browser history and cookies

When shopping online it’s also smart to consistently clear your browser history and cookies. Or even to shop in incognito mode. Websites read cookies and if a site can tell that you have been searching aggressively for a particular item, well, chances are you will see a price increase. This is particularly true for travel related purchases, like buying flights.

Shop around & compare

With so many online shops now including bigger companies that carry name brand items like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and more, it’s worth your time to shop around. Some places may have sales, others may have coupons or even free shipping. Do your research rather than just buying from the first place you look.

A really easy way to do this is by using Google Shopping. Click the shopping tab Google, enter the product you want, and see what different retailers are charging.

It’s also important to note that some stores who price match will also offer those services online as well. Best Buy Canada is one that matches both in store and online.

Shop from Canadian brands

One of the most annoying things for Canadian online shoppers is that so many things seem to ship from the USA. This often means conversion fees, higher shipping, and those dreaded duty bills. According to the Canadian Border Services of Canada, any product valued at more than $20 Canadian will result in duty fees. That’s not a lot of wiggle room and can increase the cost of the original product really quickly!

To avoid this, always try to look for the Canadian site. If there isn’t one, then see if the product is available elsewhere on a site like amazon that does have a Canadian option. Or, see if there is something similar available from Canadian retailers. After all, we should be supporting our own economy right now as much as possible.

Shop with an app

There are several money saving apps available to Canadians that will help you save while shopping online, either through finding you discounts or coupons or by offering a cash back type deal.

Ampli is a popular one that allows users to earn instant cash back. All you have to do is download the app, link your bank account, and shop with partner brands. One of the biggest perks with Ampli is that is allows you to double dip. So you’ll get cash back through the app, but also be able to earn points or rewards through your credit cards. Win-win!

Click here to sign up for Ampli.

Shop with a prepaid credit card

Pre-paid credit cards can be very handy for shopping online as well. We’re big fans of KOHO which is a no fee prepaid card ideal for shopping online. Users will earn cash back on their purchases plus, since it’s pre-loaded, you won’t have to worry about typical credit card concerns like interest if you don’t pay it off online. The typical earn rate is 0.5%, however, there is a Premium option which is $9/month. That comes with an increased cash back rate of 2% which means if you spend at least $467/month on the card, it pays for itself.

Use a credit card

Last, but not least, using a credit card while online shopping can be lucrative too- when you use the right card.

Cash back cards are a solid choice. After all, why wouldn’t you want to get back some of the money you are spending?

You can also use online shopping as an easy way to build up your favourite rewards that you can later turn into travel, merchandise, and more.

Additionally, if you do plan on doing some online shopping in foreign currencies, it’s best to have a credit card on hand that offers no foreign exchange fees as one of its perks. Avoiding these fees will save you 2.5-3% on every purchase.

Aside from allowing you to save money and earn rewards, there is another big draw to shopping online with credit cards and that is security. Shopping online with credit cards is generally very safe. If your credit card information is compromised, you can immediately get in touch with your credit card company who will get to work on disputing the charges. You are not held liable for unauthorized transactions and those transactions will be frozen, meaning you don’t have to pay and it will not affect your credit score. In comparison, if the same happened with your debit card you would be out that money until it was resolved.

Final thoughts

Shopping online may be safer and easier given the current times, but it can also be more lucrative if you use some of the tips and tricks above. Always remember to shop smart; be careful with your personal information and only shop from reputable sites.

10 Tips for How to Save on Online Shopping

About Hannah Logan

Hannah Logan is a freelance writer based in Ottawa, Canada. She specializes in finance and travel writing and has bylines at Fodor's Travel, O Magazine, and more. She also runs two travel blogs, Eat Sleep Breathe Travel and Ireland Stole My Heart. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @hannahlogan21.

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