Online Shopping Hacks: You Had Me at "Free Shipping"

What's better than online shopping and coffee? If you answered "nothing," then you have never tried online shopping and wine ;) 

This post is a collaboration with Saje Cox Fitness Sisters, and it's only available to members of the group. So, if you're reading this—congrats! You have great taste! 

I think an accurate blanket statement about deals is: everybody loves them. Even if you have enough money to pay full price, why would you if you could get a discount? Don't worry; I'll wait. 

I'll let you guys in on a little secret. I used to hate online shopping. Literally hated it. "How?" you ask. Well, I just wasn't doing it right. 

Fast forward years later, and I've got this $@#% down to a science. (That may not actually be the best comparison because I always got C's in science, but I make straight A's in shopping—promise.) 

Hack 1: Compare Prices

I know this may seem like an obvious one, but you wouldn't believe how many people are literally just too lazy to look for a better price. Use ShopStyle or Polyvore to search for the item you're looking for and see which site has the best deal. If what you're looking for doesn't pop up on ShopStyle, head to Google. We use Google to ask questions, research our symptoms (never a good idea btw), and look up our ex-boyfriends (just me?), but we're hesitant to use it to actually save us some money? It makes no sense! 

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As seen in the screenshot above, you can even see which stores have shipping costs, taxes, and how much they are. You can also narrow your search to only show sites with free shipping. Which— let's be honest—is almost irresistible. (Who doesn't love free shipping??) If I bought the dress I searched for at any other store other than Lulus, I would have lost almost 20 bucks. Um—that's like four pumpkin spice lattes—no thank you! 

Hack 2: Sign Up For Newsletters—DUH!

"All the emails are annoying." Well, unsubscribe once you get the discount code from the store IDK?? Take this with a grain of salt because this is coming from someone who has more then 100,000 emails in her inbox right now. (Did I just make you cringe?)

But seriously, it is more difficult to find online stores that don't offer discounts for subscribing to their email lists. Everybody's doing it. I'm not going to list every store that does this because I want to finish writing this blog post eventually. But trust me, almost every store does, and if it's one that you shop at frequently, it's worth the influx of emails. Just sayin'.

Hack 3: Use Filters! 

No, I'm not talking about the ones that make your teeth whiter on Instagram. I'm talking about refinement filters on websites. 

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You see those little buttons at the top that read: designer, size, color, price? They are what I like to call literal lifesavers. On a budget? Use the filters to display clothing from Low to High prices. Looking for a navy dress? Use the color filter to refine the results. Only looking for items from a certain designer? Filter it, babe! Most importantly: only want items to display in your size? Don't we all! How disappointing is it when you fall in love with a top or dress or whatever only to see those dreaded words: Sold Out. *bites lip, suppresses tears* This tip is life changingggg, y'all. Srsly. 

Hack 4: Find Deals Anywhere You Can — Literally

Who is guilty of signing up for "free trials" with multiple email addresses? *raises hand* We've all been there. Don't be afraid to hit up our friend Google again to browse the internet for deals. And check your email! Sites have sales all. the. time. Especially near holidays. Take advantage of the sales! Just be aware of what the item is normally priced as; some stores inflate prices around holidays and take a percentage off the new price to make shoppers think they're getting a deal, when really, they're paying the same as the original price (or more!). 

Have you ever been on a site and that annoying little chat box pops up in the lower right-hand corner of the screen? Me too. It's kind of bothersome, but it could be worth the effort to actually ask the person (or robot?) on the other end if the company has any discount codes. They normally have access to more discounts than they are currently advertising, so it literally never hurts to inquire. Why not save 10% if you can? 

You can also shop through sites like Ebates to earn points and accumulate cash back on purchases you wanted to make anyway. Ebates will send you a check for the amount of cash back you've racked up every three months. Free money—yas! 

Hack 5: Read Reviews!

How many times have you gotten an online purchase in the mail, and you're like wth is this?? It's a different color than on the site, it's two sizes too big, or the material is just plain gross. These things can usually be avoided with just a quick browse of product reviews. If you can't find any reviews on the site you're on, you can often Google the item + the word review, and something will pop up. You don't know how much time and effort you can save just by learning from others' experiences. 

Also, if you feel strongly about a product you've purchased, write a review! Did love it? Did you hate it? Tell us! The people deserve to know! 

Hack 6: Familiarize Yourself With The Store's Return/Exchange Policy and Shipping Costs

There is a site in particular (I won't name names) that I have been wanting to buy from for months, but I never commit because they have a bad return policy. They won't refund your money; you can only get store credit—the horror

Always always always check a store's return policy before making a purchase. I cannot stress this enough. Stores whose return policies don't suck: Nordstrom, Shopbop, Lulu's, Revolve. These are literally my favorite stores of all time, and it's in part to their amazing return policies. There are also many stores that have free shipping always ... or once you hit a certain dollar amount Other websites (like Amazon, Sephora, and ASOS) offer discount programs that often offer free shipping. You may have to pay a monthly (or yearly) fee, but if you're a frequent customer, it will be worth the up-front cost to save big on shipping costs year-round.

Free shipping and free returns are life! Know your rights, people! 

Hack 7: Abandon Your Cart

On the fence about an item, but you could be persuaded by an extra discount? Add the item to your cart ... then leave. This only works if you're logged in to your store account/you are signed up for emails from the store. But most stores send out an "abandoned cart" email to incentivize you to pull the trigger on whatever you left in your imaginary cart. It's genius, really. 

Hack 8: Don't Get Caught Up in a Shopping High

One reason I prefer shopping online to in person is because I can sit back and reflect on what I'm about to buy. But sometimes—even online—I find myself getting a little too giddy with my "Add to Cart" button. Does this happen to anyone else? 

Some of my best advice is: if you wouldn't buy it at regular price (if you had the money), then don't buy it at all. Don't buy any item JUST because it's on sale. Even if it's only ten dollars, if it's something you don't end up using, you just threw away ten bucks. You feel me? 

I would also advise y'all to stay away from "Final Sale" purchases unless it's a brand you're really familiar with and feel 100% comfortable with the purchase. I know it's tempting, but if a $300 dress is on sale for $80—that's great!—but if it's a final sale item, then you may be out $80 if the dress doesn't fit properly. Am I right? 

There are so many other tips and tricks out there, but these are the ones I use EVERY time I shop online (which—let's be honest—is often). What did you think about my list? Leave your No. 1 online shopping trick in the comments!