Sick of paying full-price? You can continue overspending — or you can follow these online shopping tips and save money every time you shop online.
We all like to save money where possible, and online shopping is no different. After all, there’s always something we need to buy – food, groceries, appliances, gadgets, clothes, gifts, name it… Most, if not all of them, are now available online.
Shopping has never been easier or more convenient for consumers. And in the age of COVID, it’s safer than going out even if you’re fully masked and vaccinated.
While the internet has completely revolutionized the way we shop, what hasn’t changed is our desire to save money while we shop. Finding out how to save money is an important step in learning how to manage your money.
Luckily, there are also more ways to save money while shopping today than ever before. Between voucher codes, coupons, cashback apps, cashback credit cards, and even more ways to save at the checkout, shopping online to do most, if not all, of your shopping might be the best way to save.
If you want to get the best deals and make the most of your money regardless of how often you shop online, here’s how you can do it.
1. Come Up With a Budget
As you’re preparing for 11.11, Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas Sale, the first place to start is to come up with a budget. Having a plan in place and knowing exactly how much you have to spend will save you from buying unnecessary items or overspending. Remember, you’re not saving money if you purchase something you don’t need.
2. Make an online shopping list
Aside from setting a budget, you should also make a detailed shopping plan. Your plan should include a list of things you need or want. Just by cutting out unnecessary items, you’re already saving money.
If you’re already preparing for Christmas gifts, write out everyone that you need to buy gifts for, and come up with some ideas for things they may want. This will give you an idea how much you plan to spend for each person. As noted above, the best way to avoid overspending is to set a budget and stick to it.
Not making a list before hitting that ‘Order Now’ and ‘Add to Cart’ button is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. It often makes you get distracted and order unrelated items that you might not even use at all.
3. Download Online Shopping Apps
I’m sure most of us have these popular shopping apps installed on our devices already. However, if you don’t have them yet, make sure to download online shopping apps like Lazada, Shopee, and Zalora to take advantage of exclusive offers, vouchers, promo codes, and discounts that you can only get by downloading their respective mobile apps.
I was ready to buy a new pair of shoes at the Adidas store in the mall when I suddenly thought of checking its price online. The first thing that came up on Google search was Zalora, so I downloaded the app, and voila! I found the exact pair at 30% off with free shipping. Not only that, I also earned additional cash back from Shopback and credit card. (More on this later).
4. Buy at the Best Time
Watch out for sales that drop on certain days of the week. Most online stores roll out special discounts and deals on weekdays especially during midnights. For example, one shopping app releases cashback vouchers every Tuesday, free shipping vouchers at midnight, and additional coins cashback for utility bills payments during payday.
Every month, you can look forward to Double Double Sales (7.7, 8.8, etc.) full of promos, vouchers, cashback and discounts.
If you love the thrill of hunting down a good deal just a few times a year, be sure to mark your calendar for 11.11 (the biggest sale of the year for most online shopping stores in the Philippines), Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas Sale.
And if you’re looking for a deal so you can fly the friendly skies, Sunday is typically the best day for purchasing airline tickets with Monday being the most expensive.
5. Buy Off-Season Items
Plan your shopping for the right time and season rather than buying at peak when prices are their highest.
For example, Christmas decorations are always best bought in January, while swimwear and inflatable pools are mostly on sale at the height of the rainy season.
6. Compare Prices
Shopping online makes it super easy to compare prices from one app to another and from store to store. Make sure to check out the competition to know where you can get better savings.
Don’t assume a sale price is a good price even if the online store is offering 50% off. It’s probably not a steal or even the lowest price available. Some shops use deceptive practices, especially by offering continuous, misleading sales campaigns. The best way to know whether you’re paying a fair price is to compare prices at several retailers.
But no matter how good the deal is, make sure you only buy from credible merchants and retailers with a verified purchase history. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. So do your due diligence.
7. Use a Cashback App
Another way to stack savings onto your purchase is to use a cashback app in order to get a small amount of money back from your purchase. They’re able to do this because they receive an affiliate commission for sending you to whatever site you purchase the item from, and they return a small amount of it to you.
You can download the app on your device or use a browser extension and create an account before you can start using these apps.
My favorite is Shopback and I highly recommend it to everyone who shops online. Make sure to open the Shopback app first before logging on to other online shopping sites like Shopee, Lazada, Zalora, and FoodPanda.
Aside from earning cash back from your online purchases, you can also earn additional bonus by referring friends. As of today, my total Lifetime Earnings in Shopback from cash back and referrals is Php 52,788. But I have only been able to withdraw Php 9,020 because most of my referrals are still pending which means those who signed up using my link have not yet completed all the requirements.
If you want to start earning cash back too while shopping online, you can download the Shopback app on App Store or Play Store, and enter my Referral Code: 3URRK8. We’ll both get Php 100 bonus once you meet the requirements.
8. Get coupons online
Using coupon codes is another great way to shop and save online. If you don’t have a coupon, search on Google! You can find some of the best deals online that could save at 10% or more off your order or free shipping fees.
I always make it a point to search for coupon codes before purchasing something online. The most recent was for my blog’s domain and web hosting renewal. I just typed the keywords ‘domain provider + coupon’ on Google search, and I found a coupon that gave me an instant 20% discount!
9. Use multiple voucher codes strategically
If the website or online shopping app allows you to combine different voucher codes at the checkout, use them in the right order.
For example, if you have a promo code for a 10% discount and a voucher for PHP100, apply 10% promo code first. That will subtract 10% from the full price; afterwards you can dig more savings with your PHP100 discount voucher.
With Shopee, you can use various vouchers in one transaction including Shopee voucher, shop voucher, and free shipping voucher.
10. Take advantage of smart reward programs
Some apps offer you to redeem special vouchers for doing certain actions. You can earn vouchers by merely logging on to the app especially if you have not used it for a while.
For example, I received Php 300 worth of vouchers just by logging in to my Citi mobile app, which I redeemed at Shopee and Lazada.
You can also make it a habit to check the receipt when you purchase something online or in-store. Some merchants offer vouchers and freebies by doing online surveys.
For example, Burger King offers free upgrade on fries and drinks and KFC offers free sandwich on your next order by answering the survey on the receipt and sending it back to them online.
11. Sign up for Loyalty Cards or Online Reward Programs
Many retailers are now offering loyalty cards and online rewards program to attract their customers and client to shop more. Check your favorite brands or online shopping stores to see if they have apps or programs that let you collect points on your purchases.
Examples of these are SM Advantage, Watsons, and Air Asia BIG Rewards.
12. Pay using a cash back credit card
Take advantage of promos and deals offered by your credit card provider. Check the emails and text messages that your credit card provider sent you with the shopping deals offered by merchants they’ve partnered with.
Some credit cards offer cash, rebates, and voucher codes. You might be able to earn extra savings on particular items when you use that credit card to purchase them.
My favorite cash back credit card is HSBC Visa and here are some of the cash back I earned from my purchases.
If you CAN pay the credit card back each month, this is a great way to earn a little extra. But if you CAN’T, then AVOID this method as it will cost you a lot more than you save.
13. Use Your Credit Card’s Online Shopping Portal
Some credit card providers have internal shopping portals that complement and magnify existing rewards programs.
Credit card shopping portals routinely offer member-exclusive discounts or rewards bonuses for cardholders.
You can also redeem accumulated rewards points during the year at your card’s shopping portal. That’s a surefire way to significantly reduce your online shopping budget.
14. Take Advantage of Sign-Up Bonuses for Credit Card Applications
If you’re planning to apply for a new credit card, look for one with a nice sign-up bonus.
One of my favorite no-annual-fee credit cards is the CITI Rewards Credit Card. Its sign-up bonus is significantly better than most competing cash-back cards’.
15. Use a Store Credit Card to Earn Rewards
Maximize your spending budget when shopping online by using any store credit cards you have in your stash to make purchases. Depending on how much you spend, you may qualify to earn points, rewards or perks on your purchases including cashback, store credit and free shipping options.
There’s risk here, of course. Late fees and interest charges will easily wipe out these savings, so be sure to spend responsibly if you decide to use a store credit card. If you can’t afford to pay off the balance in full, consider paring down your shopping list.
16. Add the Items to Your Cart
After going through your wishlist, add the items you really want to your cart. Adding these items to your cart allows for easy and faster checkout especially during flash sales or if the item is fast-selling.
You will also get alerts when an item is no longer available and the price changes, either up or down. This can be a game changer when you are already ready to buy an item.
You don’t want to miss out on a deal so make sure that you have your payment and shipping information saved ahead of time.
17. Leave items in your shopping cart
Have you noticed that when you’ve been browsing an online shop, ads for that shop appear on other sites a lot? This is because they’ve seen you are interested in that product and they want you to buy it from them.
If you go one step further and add the item to your cart, when you are logged into that shop, you may find you get a voucher sent to you soon afterwards.
How does this work?
First, go through your shopping list and select the items that you want to buy. Once you’ve found an item online, open an account on the merchant’s website and add the product to your shopping cart. Leave the products in your cart and step away for a few days. This trick works well for items you don’t need urgently.
What happens next?
Most e-commerce sites usually have systems for encouraging customers to finish their purchase. Fearing that you are looking at other options or stores, they will often send you discount offers or other incentives to get your business. This is a great way to score a 10–20% off discount with little effort. Instead of acting quickly, just be patient! Besides, leaving a few items in your cart is a good way to avoid buying impulse items that you might regret.
18. Find Free Shipping Vouchers
It’s all too easy to just click OK when it gets to shipping fees online. If you’re willing to look around and be patient, you can buy just about anything online without paying for shipping.
Look out for products with the Free Shipping badge or navigate through Voucher Promotions in your mobile app and claim Free Shipping vouchers if available. Some are pre-loaded to your account during big sale days, and you can collect even more vouchers in different ways.
In some cases, merchants will offer free delivery when you spend a certain amount. If you are just under that amount, or know you’ll need something else soon, it might be worth spending a little more.
If you don’t want to buy anything else, you may be able to pick up your order from another pickup location. This service is usually offered for free or for a smaller delivery fee. Aside from the saving, it also cuts out the need to wait for the delivery or risk missing it.
On Food Panda, you can save as much as 40% when you choose the Pick-up option instead of delivery. For food deliveries, there is usually a minimum spend requirement to avail of the free delivery voucher. However, if you subscribe to Panda Pro, you can save a lot of money on delivery fees and special discount codes, especially, if you order food and groceries on a regular basis or at least twice a month.
If you don’t have Food Panda app yet, you can sign up using my Food Panda referral link. Once you place your first order (min. Php 400), we’ll both get Php 100 bonus.
If you want to order something and you are responsible for the shipping fee, you can sign up for Borzo (formerly Mr. Speedy) using my Borzo Referral Code: RP958159. You’ll get Php 80 off on your first delivery, and I’ll get Php 40 when you complete your first order.
Once you’re signed up to Food Panda and Borzo, you can also share your referral links or codes to your friends so that both of you can enjoy the discounts.
19. Top up and use the App’s E-Wallet Payment Option
Lazada eWallet and ShopeePay are convenient to top up with lots of payment options available. Not only is it so much quicker to checkout your orders when you use the app’s E-Wallet, but you also get more exciting deals. You can claim more Free Shipping Vouchers, Discount Vouchers, and even get exclusive discounts on Load and Bills Payment.
This is one of my favorite online shopping tips. In fact, I’ve been paying my utility bills on ShopeePay for over one year now, and I’ve already saved over Php 5,000 in bills payments. I’ve also never paid anything for shipping fees in more than a year!
This is one of my bills payment transactions on Shopee. Using ShopeePay as payment option, I was able to redeem Php 100 discount voucher for Meralco payment and Php 150 coins discount from my previous bills payment transactions. Instead of paying Php 1,000, I only paid Php 750.
20. Buy in Bulk
If you find yourself buying the same items week in/week out, then stop yourself and see if there are cheaper alternatives to try out or if you can buy in bulk instead. You can save a lot of money when you buy in bulk, especially for non-perishable groceries, whether it’s online or in-store.
For perishable goods, just make sure that the items you buy have long enough shelf life to prevent spoilage. And make sure to only stock up though if you have space to store things.
21. Buy Second Hand
There are places such as Facebook groups and marketplace that sell second hand items that may well be perfect for you instead of paying full price. You could also check out your friends’ posts to see if anyone is selling a similar item to what you need so that you can also support their business.
22. Follow brands on social media
If you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media channels, make sure you follow the brands you like. If you aren’t following your favorites you could be missing out on huge savings.
Many brands and retailers use their social media channels as a marketing tool to promote new product launches, promo codes or early access on sales to their followers — discounts that don’t get widely publicized on their online stores.
For example, last month, I was looking for a cake for my daughter’s birthday and I found a good deal on FoodPanda at 20% off. When I checked the merchant’s FB page, they were offering the same cake on a buy-one-take-one promo. What a steal!
23. Sign up for newsletters
If you love a store or brand, and you don’t mind getting emails from them, then it’s worth signing up to their mailing list. Most retailers offer discount codes or vouchers in exchange for signing up for their newsletter.
The newsletter may also be worth getting, as it will keep you in the loop about sales and special promotional events.
To avoid clogging up your inbox, you might want to set up a separate email address for these types of emails or send them all to a separate folder.
24. Include your birthday for a birthday discount
Signing up to newsletters has lots of perks, but don’t forget to fill in your birthday when registering if you’re OK with giving them that detail about yourself.
Some retailers will offer you a discount on your birthday or, in some cases, a special offer/treat when that date rolls around!
25. Talk to the Chat Box
Have you seen those live chat boxes that pop up while you’re doing your online shopping? They can be the ticket to scoring some extra savings! Ask if there are any ongoing sales or voucher codes they can share with you.
Or if you just missed a promo or your voucher code expired, ask if they can still honor it for you. Some smart companies will give you the discount because they want to keep you as a customer. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
I tried this when I received the products I bought from an online shop and told the chat agent how I love the products and she offered me a 10% discount code for my next purchase. It works!
26. Student? Teacher? Senior Citizen? Check If You Qualify for a Special Discount
You may qualify for extra savings at gadget stores and restaurants. Some merchants only allow these discounts for in-store purchases, but others apply the discount to online orders after a verification process.
Apple, for example, offers a discount to students who purchase Apple products. You can search online or on social media channels to know of any participating retailers.
27. Outsmart Dynamic Pricing
Your internet browsing history is tracked by many websites to determine the price you are offered, using your previous purchases, location, emails, and search history. This is known as dynamic pricing, and it permeates the online shopping platforms.
Some merchants might use this information to dynamically set prices, which means you could be shown a higher price than someone visiting the site for the first time.
To avoid falling into this trap, you can delete your browser’s history and cookies and log out of your account to compare prices. Alternatively, you can use your browser’s version of a private or incognito window, so cookies aren’t saved when shopping, especially for big-ticket items.
28. Know the Store’s Return Policies
Make sure you’re familiar with the return policies of the store where you plan to shop at and save all of your receipts. It’s hard to truly know what you’re going to get when you’re shopping online, so you want the ability to return items if necessary.
Some online shopping apps offer generous return policies that allow no-questions-asked returns for full cash refunds within a predefined timeframe – usually at least 15 days.
29. Unsure about a purchase? Sleep on it!
At the end of the day, if you’re unsure about a purchase, hold off a day or two.
Ask yourself, “Would I buy this if it weren’t on sale?”
It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of “This item is 50% off, but only for the next hour only!”
This is a sales tactic, so if it isn’t something you’ve been planning to purchase, step away from your computer or close that online online shopping app on your cellphone, sleep on it, and see if you’re still thinking about it tomorrow.
Saving money with vouchers and free shipping deals can feel rewarding, but if you get caught up in trying to snag that time-sensitive deal, you could end up spending more money in the long run.
30. Be an Intelligent Shopper
Saving money when online shopping helps with budgeting and enables you to make strategic purchases.
These 30 online shopping tips would test your patience but are a sure shot solution to saving money on online shopping. The sweet spot lies in how many tips and tricks you can combine to get maximum discounts on your purchases.
It doesn’t take much time or energy to get into the habit of considering your purchases more carefully. You may not always make the choice that will save you the most money, and instead, opt for convenience, but at least you will have made a conscious and well-informed decision.
With a little planning, you can get the most bang for your buck through discounts, cash back and rewards on almost any product. Just pay attention to how, where, and when you shop to maximize your savings and snag the best deals.
If you found these tips helpful, feel free to share this article to your family and friends.
Note: I wrote this article as a Contributor of MoneySense Magazine and it was published in Q4 2021 Issue. Special thanks to Sir Henry Ong and RFP Philippines for this opportunity. To God be the glory!