How I Shop Online: Tips for Saving Money

As I'm sure a lot of you are as well, I am an avid online shopper, and as I get older and become more of a homebody, I've only embraced online shopping even more.

That being said, there is no way I am going to sacrifice saving money for the convenience and ease of online shopping. I'm going to maximize whatever savings I can get - from coupon codes, cashback, discounted gift cards, and more - to get the best of both worlds.

Level 1: Free Shipping

This is probably pretty obvious, and I'm sure most of you do this too. If a product is sold at more than one site, I will always choose the one with free shipping. If a site requires that you spend however much money to get free shipping, I will only wait until I have that much money's worth of products that I want before making a purchase, or I will see if that site has a "pick up in store for free" option and do that. I used to fall into the trap of spending more to get free shipping, but then I realized I was spending way more money than I planned to, so I stopped. Don't fall into that trap!

Level 2: Wait for a Sale

This is probably another obvious one, but if you don't need it right away, wait for a discount. If possible, wait even more for a steeper discount. There have been a couple of times where I've jumped at purchasing something at first discount, only to see an even better one a week later. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, as some items can be so popular that they sell out before they can go on sale. And if you really love something and are worried you won't get it, then get it! But most of the time, I think this is a good rule. And if it does end up selling out, and you're not that bummed, you probably didn't want it that much anyways.

Level 3: Coupons/Promos/Discount Codes

I am always on the hunt for some type of code to save money. I'm subscribed to most email lists and am on any reward programs for the sites that I shop at most, which often times will provide you with member exclusive codes. I also frequently just google "[store name] + promo code" to see if I can find any better codes as well. The Honey extension is also great, as it will list as many promo codes as it can find, and will even try inputting them all for you in the checkout window.

Level 4: Membership/Rewards Programs

This one is pretty much a no-brainer, especially if you frequent specific stores/sites, but is definitely recommended regardless. All it really requires is providing your email and/or creating an account for the site. Usually, this program involves points, and for every time you hit a certain point threshold, you get some type of reward.

Sephora Beauty Insider/VIB/VIB Rouge, Ulta's Ultamate Rewards, and Birchbox Loyalty Points are three great ones to join if you enjoy buying beauty products - Sephora's program allows you to redeem deluxe samples of various products for points, while Ulta's and Birchbox's programs allow you to redeem the points at a dollar value. Many clothing retailers now also have a rewards program, and drugstores like CVS also have their own programs.

Basically, before you make a purchase, check whether that site has its own rewards program. Even if you don't think you're going to shop there again, many times, there will be some type of new member bonus that makes it worth it.

Level 5: Cashback/Rebate Programs

I always use a cashback/rebate program, primarily CouponCabin and Ebates*. I have the Chrome extensions for both on my browser, so when I go to a shopping site, both will pop up and tell me how much percent of my purchase I can get back:

2018-04-18 14_18_20-Calculator.png

You can't stack different cashback sites, so usually, between CouponCabin and Ebates, I choose whichever site gives me more cashback. If you sign up for CouponCabin, every time you hit a certain number of shopping transactions using the service, you get a certain percentage of bonus cash back. Right now, I am getting 10% bonus on every purchase I make with CouponCabin (just goes to show how much online shopping I do...). This means that I usually end up using CouponCabin. You'd be surprised at how quickly even something like 2% cashback adds up if you're shopping online often.

I'd say the only downside to these cashback/rebate type of deals is that you don't get the rebate immediately. For CouponCabin, you get cash back when you hit a certain threshold of total cashback - the minimum is $7, which is what I have my threshold set at. For Ebates, you get your rebate every three months. Both sites offer many different methods to receive your cashback, including check, PayPal, and gift card. CouponCabin only offers Amazon gift cards for the gift card option, but you'll get 10% bonus cash back if you choose this option (Amazon gift cards are like cash anyways, so no big deal). Ebates offers more variety for the gift card option, including Sephora, though the bonus cashback percentage varies depending on which card you choose.


See if your credit card has some type of shopping rewards program. I have a Southwest Rewards credit card, so if I can't shop through Ebates or Coupon Cabin, I'll shop through Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping to get points. I can redeem these to use on a Southwest flight.

Level 6: Discounted Gift Cards

This was something I discovered in the last couple of years, but there are sites that exist where people can sell gift cards they'll never use, and other people can buy them at a discounted rate.

There are plenty of these sites out there, but Raise** is my favorite. I've both sold and purchased gift cards on Raise, and there's often times an additional discount on top of the already discounted cards. I most often buy Target and Sephora gift cards on Raise, and there's never a shortage of these on the site. Usually, I can get Sephora get cards for about 5% off their value, though I've gotten some as high as 8% before.

If you see a gift card with a steep discount, you have to move fast - there have been too many times where I added the card to my cart, only to have it already gone when I go to check out. If you have more patience than me and/or have a specific purchase already in mind, I'd recommend checking Raise regularly so you can get the best deal.


You can get cashback from either CouponCabin or Ebates for purchases at Raise.

Level 7: Drop


This app*** is literally free money. All you have to do is link your credit cards and add whatever offers you desire to your Drop account. There are ongoing and active (aka limited time) offers. Ongoing offers are always in your account, and you'll always earn a set amount of points per dollar spent. For example, I get 15 points for every dollar I spend at Trader Joe's, and this is all the time.

Active offers are slightly different. They're one-time offers more times than not, and usually, you have to spend x amount of money to get y amount of points. Y amount of points is usually a substantial amount. For example, my active Starbucks offer shown above will get me 200 points if I spend at least $5.

Drop also has this new thing where you can get points when you shop online through their app. I can't say much about this feature because I haven't used it yet.

You can redeem these points for gift cards. They offer quite a few, and the value of the gift card is basically $1 for 1000 points. I always like getting the $10 Amazon gift card right when I hit 10,000 points, since like I've mentioned above, an Amazon gift card is basically cash.


I hope you found this post helpful! I had tons of fun writing this because saving money/getting a good deal gives me life :) What do you do to save money when shopping online?

*Get $10 back on your first purchase of $25 or more with Ebates when you sign up with my referral link!

**Get $5 off your first purchase when you use Raise via my referral link.

***Get 1,000 points when you sign up for Drop with my referral link!

lifestyleCathy Liu