The Internet has completely changed the way we conduct business. A few clicks of your mouse, and you can schedule appointments, book a hotel reservation, reserve an airline ticket, and even start your journey to earn a college degree. Of course, one of the biggest perks of the Internet – and one of the most widely used – is online shopping.
Online shopping has taken the world by storm, with more and more people hopping online to purchase everything from clothes to books. Why deal with crowded shopping malls and long checkout lines? Using the Internet to compare prices and make purchases is easy, fast, and fun.
However, despite the convenience and lower prices, many people have reservations about online shopping due to shipping fees. This is an understandable concern, especially if you’re trying to stay within a budget. Flat-fee shipping is rare, and fees are typically determined by the number of items ordered or the weight of the package.
Though shipping fees (and wait times to receive a package) can turn off some consumers, don’t make the mistake of entirely dismissing online shopping. There are a number of simple techniques you can employ to save money on shipping.
Ways to Save Money on Shipping Costs
1. Ship the Item to the Store
Usually, there is a fee to have items shipped directly to your home. However, several stores – such as JC Penney and Best Buy - can ship ordered items from the warehouse to local retail outlets for free. You have to leave your house to pick up the item, but with the item packaged and waiting for you at customer service, you don’t have to search the racks or fight crowds. Simply walk in, show your receipt, and walk out.
2. Choose Standard Shipping
Standard shipping is the cheapest option. Unfortunately, it can take up to a week or longer to receive your package in many cases. Packages are delivered rapidly with priority or overnight shipping, but you must pay double or triple the shipping fees. This can cancel out any savings from a sale or promotion, and you might pay more than the item’s worth. Consider whether you really need the item in one to two days. A little patience saves a lot of money.
3. Use Promo Codes
Don’t purchase a single item online without searching the Internet for promo codes. Several online retailers have promo codes for free shipping, and these codes are often shared on websites such as Coupons.com and RetailmeNot.com. Search for your retailer’s code, and enter it in the promotional box at checkout. If the code is valid, the retailer will deduct the appropriate amount from your total.
4. Shop When the Retailer Offers Free Shipping
To stay informed of upcoming sales and promotions, sign up to receive email alerts from your favorite retailers. Although shipping fees are customary when shopping online, retailers occasionally run free shipping promotions, or offer free shipping with a minimum purchase.
5. Become a Member
Join ShopRunner or become an Amazon Prime member and receive two-day free shipping on millions of items. The memberships cost $79 and $99 a year respectively, which is a little steep if you don’t regularly shop online. This breaks down to $8.95 a month – not a bad deal if the Internet is your preferred way to shop. And with an Amazon Prime membership, your annual fee also includes instant streaming of your favorite movies and television programs, and instant access to Kindle books.
Enjoy free two-day shipping with ShopRunner when you shop participating retailers, such as American Eagle, Toys “R” Us, Calvin Klein, and GNC. Visit the retailer’s website, add products to your cart, and then provide your ShopRunner information at checkout. This membership also includes free shipping on returns. Before signing up for ShopRunner, review their list of participating retailers and check for your favorite stores.
6. Check Competitor Pricing
Though you may typically lean toward online retailers with the lowest prices, the lowest price doesn’t guarantee the most savings. Therefore, don’t buy the first item you see – always research the competition and compare shipping fees. The product you’re looking for may cost more elsewhere, but if free or reduced shipping is offered, paying the higher price for the item may actually save money. This also applies when shopping on websites such as Amazon and eBay. Don’t just focus on the seller’s price, but also the shipping fees.
7. Check the Return Shipping Fee
There is always a chance that you won’t like a product ordered online. Some retailers, such as Zappos, eBags, and Nordstrom, offer free return shipping – however, other retailers make the buyer responsible for this expense. Know the retailer’s policy before placing your order. How much does it cost to return merchandise? Can you return the merchandise at a local store and save on return shipping fees?
8. Get a Store Credit Card
Apply for a credit card with your favorite retailer, and you may receive free shipping, among other perks. For example, you can receive free shipping when you shop with a Target REDCard at Target.com. Other stores that offer free shipping when you use their card include Express, Limited, and New York and Company. In some cases, there are minimum purchase requirements.
Understandably, online shopping isn’t for everyone. You run the risk of purchasing clothing or shoes in the wrong size, and you may question the quality of available merchandise. However, online transactions are rarely final, with many stores allowing returns and exchanges. This can be the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to buy merchandise, and if you are a savvy shopper, you can save a lot of money on shipping as well.
Has shopping online made your life easier? What other money-saving tips can you suggest?