Stretching Your Dollars Online with Coupons and Cashback

Christmas is coming and with that comes a flurry of shopping. As most of you know, I’m all about keeping it simple. I think we’re often guilty of over-materializing this holiday to the point that the true meaning can get buried underneath all the wrapping paper and bows. If you’re already starting to feel stressed about Christmas, take a deep breath, step back, and go read this post.

If, on the other hand, you’ve got your Christmas budget in place and your gift list made and you’re ready to begin shopping, here are a few ways to make your money go farther when shopping online:

1) Don’t pay for shipping. When I order online, I pretty much refuse to pay for shipping. It’s just not worth it to me to have to pay high shipping prices–even if the online deal is spectacular.

I’ve found, though, that if you’re willing to look around and be patient, you can almost buy just about anything online without paying for shipping. Many stores offer free shipping year-round on a minimum order or they offer free shipping codes at various times throughout the year. Check FreeShipping.org to find free shipping codes and offers available at thousands of stores online.

It’s best to shop when an online store is running a free shipping special which requires no extra code so then you can not only get free shipping, but you can also get a percentage off your order by using a coupon code (see point #2).

2) Use a coupon code. I learned this tip from my blog readers and I’m ashamed to say that up until a few years ago, I never even thought to look for a coupon code when I ordered something online. Now, my husband and I both have a policy to never purchase anything without first finding a coupon code to use.

I’ve tried a lot of different coupon code websites and I’ve also tried Googling for coupon codes, but nothing compares to RetailMeNot.com. They are the best coupon code website in existence so far. All you have to do is go to their homepage, search for the store you’re planning to shop from, and ta-da! you have a long list of coupon codes which have been rated by their large community of users.

It is very rare that I’m not able to find at least one coupon code from the long list which works for me. And for possibly 1-2 minutes of effort, that coupon code will usually save me at least 10% off my order–sometimes even as much as 25%!

3) Shop through a cashback site. This is a no-brainer, but this is also something I only learned about in the last few years.

Cashback sites work with online stores to offer you a percentage–usually somewhere between 3-6% of your total purchase–back as a rebate. While 3-6% might not seem like much, it can really add up over time. And if you’re already going to be making the online purchase, you might as well get a little kickback, too, right? After all, it’s essentially “free” money. And none of us are opposed to that, are we?

There are three different cashback sites available that I personally have experience with. Each one offers a little different rebate structure and their specials and percentages back change all the time:

Ebates–One of the oldest cashback sites, Ebates has an easy-to-navigate website and, in my personal view, the best cashback program. You only have to earn $5.01 in rebates in order to get a check or Paypal payment. You get a $5 bonus upon sign-up, so with just one purchase, you can reach payout.

However, payments are only sent every three months, so you have to wait awhile to get your rebate. Go here to sign up.

Mr. Rebates–A smaller cashback site, Mr. Rebates still offers a pretty good payout: you get a $5 bonus when you sign up and you can choose to request a check or Paypal payment as soon as you’ve received $10 in rebates. Go here to sign up.

When you are ready to make an online purchase, go check with both of these sites to see which one is currently giving the highest percentage of cashback and then shop through that one. To ensure your cashback is credited to your account, make sure to search for the store on the cashback site you’re using and then click through the store link. This should guarantee that you are credited for your purchases.

By combining free shipping, an online coupon code, and a cashback rebate on all of your online shopping purchases, you will make your money go a lot farther this Christmas–and you’ll likely have a much easier time sticking with your budget. In turn, this will make Christmas much less stressful and more enjoyable this year!

Do you prefer to shop online or in-store? What are your best techniques for saving money when shopping online?

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Comments

  1. says

    Crystal,

    Just a small correction. Sign-up and referral rewards do not count toward the $5.01 minimum for the cash accrual minimum according to their terms. So one would have to accrue $5.01 above the $5.00 sign-up bonus before he/she gets paid.

    ********************
    Money Saving Mom here: Hmm, I wonder if they just recently changed their terms because I’ve known quite a few people who have gotten paid after placing just one order.

    Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Amanda says

    I love online shopping and currently use all of the methods you talked about to lower my costs on my purhcases. Of course I try to find everything on sale initially or for a better price I can find in a store then stack on the free shipping, coupon codes and cash back for an even better deal. Upromise is also a great place to shop through and earn cash back on your online purchases. In a little over a year I was able to request a $245 check to put towards my school loan. I also started using ebates as well and now go to both sites and shop with whoever has the greatest cash back reward! I like shopping at stores, but why not stay home and get great deals too!!!

  3. says

    I definitely prefer online shopping! Now that we have a 4 1/2 month old, it’s so much easier to shop from my favorite comfy chair (often while nursing or playing with her) than it is to haul her into and out of a car–not to mention the stores! We almost never pay for shipping, either, and then our orders show up right at our door!

  4. says

    I love shopping online. I too use RetailMeNot and eBates to earn money back on my purchases. I prefer to shop on line if I can, I feel they have better selections.

  5. Amanda says

    I prefer in store shopping on the day after thanksgiving. Not only is it a tradition in our family, but the deals are AMAZING! I try my hardest to get all the gifts I need on that Friday. For anyone who I cannot find a gift for I usually get them a giftcard at the end of the day. It’s nice to be done with Christmas shopping all in one day. It takes some planning before hand, but it’s worth it. I suggest making a list and budget for each person. That way, if the store is sold out of what you wanted to buy, you have back up ideas without blowing the budget.

  6. Lea says

    I am very, very leary about shopping online. I was a computer programmer for 6 years and know first hand how weak security can be on either end!

    If I do shop online (which I do with a couple of stores that I love and am very familiar with and that have excellent online resources) I use a credit card for the added theft protection it provides. I don’t use my debit card because it does not have that protection and I don’t want any identity theft person to have access to any of my cash!

    Plus, I find I spend a LOT less if I’m physically in a store, paying cold hard cash for a purchase than if I’m shopping online. Some stores are also willing to call other local stores and have them hold an item if they’re sold out or they will give you a rain check.

    Thanks for the info in the cash-back programs. I’ll pass it along to those I know who do shop online a lot and look into using them for the stores I do use!
    Lea

    **********************
    Money Saving Mom here: A great article on using your debit card online:

    http://beta.daveramsey.com/articles/display.article/articleID/113336/categoryID/100376/

    If anyone is leery of shopping online, I personally think the best method of payment is to use a pre-paid card or paypal as neither of those require giving access to your checking account to pay.

  7. says

    You should also mention UPromise’s Guest Link. I sent it to friends and family last year and asked them to do their online Christmas purchases through the link. Several people did, which helped pad my girl’s college account!

    If you are a UPromise member, you can find your guest link by clicking on “My Account” and then the “Guest Shopping” link under Family & Friends. If you’re not a member, put your feelers out and see if any of your friends or family members have a guest link they would like you to use!

  8. j says

    What happened to the post about earning 3 bucks from that survey?
    ********************
    Money Saving Mom here: They closed their site to any new applications for now so I pulled the post.

  9. says

    Thanks for the RetailMeNot.com link. I just added a code for my own online store. I have never used this site so thanks!

  10. Rose says

    I highly recommend BigCrumbs.com if you shop eBay at all. It’s the only site that offers rebates on eBay purchases and their cashback percentage back on other sites is comparable to Ebates and MrRebates. I really like their site – they pay with Paypal and it’s automatic…no requesting a check or anything like that. Anyway, I use all the others you mentioned, but for us bargain shoppers and frugal families who also shop on eBay, getting a little kickback on those purchases is nice!

  11. Christen says

    I love shopping online! I like knowing the exact amount I’m paying before I actually purchase anything…tax included. I like playing around with coupon codes to get good deals…

    I just recently purchased a few items from Newport-news for the holiday season. I found a 25% off coupon code and doubled it with a free shipping code. It was awesome!

  12. says

    I like to shop online and have packages delivered right to my door (or my office for gifts for my daughter and hubby). I don’t have to fight the mall crowd, I don’t have trouble with impulse buys, and I save a TON of time! I buy lots of Amazon and eBay!

  13. Kimberly says

    Just used “Retail me not” for the first time and so glad I did!!! I have been searching for a Halloween costume because I have been invited for the first time in years to a Halloween party. :) Found a coupon on Retail me not for $10 off the site I am going to use and now I am saving big… Originally costume was $69.00 now on sale for $33 and im gonna get it for $23 thanks for the post!!! :)

  14. says

    I recently joined a thrift challenge and for the next year I am to buy only secondhand and handmade items for my home and wardrobe. That includes Christmas.

    I love in-store shopping (our local thrift is really nice). But I also love getting packages in the mail from ordering on-line. We live quite far from any decent retail stores!

    I’ve been loving Ebay for gently used/like new items (you can easily find free shipping on hundreds of items), as well as Etsy for handmade. I also love Ebay for the buy-it-now price feature. It makes it so easy to find things for rock bottom prices, if you have the luxury to ‘wait’ and watch for new items that are added.

    I am able to save a lot of money by watching the items I’m interested in now, knowing I have plenty of time to wait for the perfect deal by Christmas. And, through it all, it helps to cut out all of the commercialism that we can so easily get caught up in at Christmas time!

    ~ Jennifer

  15. Linda Bossle says

    How many times can I say thank you? You have opened up so many things to me. I used to google “coupon codes” but was never very successful and would waste a ton of time. I just read your blog and new that I had to make an online purchase at Party City that I had been putting off because of shipping expense, and sure enough there was a coupon code for $10 off – more than the shipping expense. Keep sharing – I am reading and using and VERY grateful.

  16. Alice says

    I have no desire to go to crowded malls, so I love shopping online. Plus that way, I am saving gas and my time. I usually shop for a specific product I need, rather than randomly browsing, so there’s less temptation to buy things just because I see them in a store. I also don’t feel pressured to buy something right away, and I can think about it for a while before purchasing. I always check for coupon codes, and I agree that retailmenot is the best place for that. I try to only pay for shipping if it’s still an amazing deal, even with the added shipping cost.

  17. Erin says

    For those who are concerned about the security of your credit card information when shopping online, check to see if your credit card offers “one time use” card numbers. Both of my credit cards do — one calls it “Shopsafe” and I don’t remember what the other calls it.

    Basically, when I’m going to make an online purchase I log into my credit card website and request a one time use credit card number with a specific spending limit (that I specify) and is valid for just 2 months. It’s linked to my regular credit card account, so it shows up on my regular statement.

    Then I give the temporary card number to the online merchant. Once a merchant has charged the temporary number, no more charges can be made to that number — so if the info is stolen, whoever gets it can’t use it.

    It means I have to re-enter my credit card info every time I make a purchase online (because it changes every time) but I love the peace of mind it provides.

  18. Amy says

    I actually use mypoints.com – which I can earn giftcards instead of cash… It seems to take me forever to use the ebates and others to actually earn enough to get a check.. I like to actually “see” what I am getting versus a deposit into my Paypal.

  19. says

    I always always always look for coupon codes before making a purchase online. Like you, I had never done this before until a few years ago when a friend pointed out to me how many codes you could actually find.

    Free shipping is also almost always available for most companies. Especially if you’re a first time customer or even a long time customer. Also, most places will give you free shipping if you spend a certain amount.

  20. Rochelle says

    for those concerned about online shopping, paypal now has a downloadable plug in that will generate a one time credit card number that is linked through to your paypal account, which will link through your debit card. This adds extra security and protection to your online purchases.

  21. Elizabeth says

    I use FATWALLET.com

    Check it out. They have a pretty good cashback links and great forums. I found great chuck e cheese coupon links there.

    I also found out about betterbidding.com through fatwallet.

    Next time you are looking for hotel or airplane fares look at betterbidding.com first to compare what other people have bid in the past before you go to priceline and hotwire. Then go back to fatwallet to click through to get a few percent back.

    I tried shop to earn. I do NOT recommend them because you have to pay money before you earn money. It would only be good if you could get other people to sign up or to click through your website. Probably good for fundraising for groups.

    Happy deal hunting!

  22. Audrey says

    If you have a Discover Card, their website has LOTS of stores that offer 5-25% cashback on purchases if you click-thru. Not to mention the cash back bonus you get for every purchase. We use it for EVERYTHING and pay it off every month. That bonus adds up!! They also have a gift card program where you exchange your cash back bonus for discounted gift cards to major stores. I love the ones for Bed Bath & Beyond. The card is a 20% discount and then you can stack it with one of the millions of 20% coupons you get in the mail. Makes that nice cookware that much nicer. :) Discover Card also has the one-time use numbers.

  23. Amber says

    To cassie…..No you can’t shop Amazon through ebates….bummer I know. I also love Swagbucks (www.swagbucks.com/refer/ambersbbs)– which you can use your “swagbucks” to buy gift cards for Amazon; they come in $5 increments. I’ve already bought all my X-mas presents from Amazon, using my “swagbucks”. : )

  24. Allen Hurst says

    Great Post-
    Seems hard to believe that it is time to budget for the Holidays.
    Thanks for the advice

    Allen Hurst

  25. carla says

    Thanks for all your helpful advice!! Speaking of Christams how much is enough!? I am having a hard time deciding how many presents do my children actually need for christmas. I know lots of people say three because that is what Jesus was given-but that just not seem like enough to me. Got any advice?

  26. says

    Thanks for some cool advice. But i am afraid that there is any vendor who is not asking for the shipping charges. It would be great for me if I find someone without such charges. Also the cash back is a good option. I never cared about this point but I think I can save more if I follow this.

  27. kathryn bircher says

    We have used mypoints.com for a long time and have gotten between $30-60 a year in gift certificates (usually to very practical places like Walmart, almost like cash to us!) We shop through them when we shop online, and we quickly open our e-mail messages from them to earn points also. Now that we are in a better financial place, my husband and I get to pick out whatever gift certificate we want and use it for ourselves. It’s small, but helps the budget and keeps us excited about not spending!

  28. CB says

    I like fatwallet better than ebates since you can get payment at any point you have money, not quarterly. I’ve used Bing some too, particularly for Ebay. Also, check out evreward.com, which will tell you which cashback site has the highest percentage back.

  29. says

    I’ve been a member of SunshineRewards.com for 3 years, and it is the only site I use! Not only can you get discounts AND cashback for online shopping, you can also earn money doing daily surveys, offers, and playing games.
    You can cash out through paypal or choose from various gift cards.

  30. JMW says

    I also am a Fatwallet fan. No waiting around to meet a minimum before you can get your rebates back. And so far, every vendor I’ve checked, Fatwallet cash back percentages have been higher than eBates. Fatwallet even added eBay to their vendor list this year, although the cash back is only 1% (not sure how that compares to BigCrumbs). I did use MyPoints for quite a while, but I preferred to get cash back rather than getting points & being limited to gift cards for places I may or may not use.

  31. AMY says

    thanks for the great tips as always.
    I shop all year for gifts (christmas, birthday, thank you). My daughter has 8 teachers which alone can be expensive at christmas. In addition to teachers, friends, and family, we give to the salvation army angel tree, samaritans purse christmas shoebox, and we adopt a needy family at christmas. This can all lead to great expense. Therefore about 10 years ago I started year round shopping.I have a closet full of gifts that I purchase year round at a minimum of 75% off. Many times it is 90% off or free. Shopping all year allows me to enjoy my holidays without the stress of shopping. I am able to spend much less time and money and enjoy the holidays much more. I am able to give thoughful, quality gifts at a fraction of the cost. Mall clearance, thrift stores, yard sales, walgreens, etc provide unlimited opportunities. This past Saturday I purchased a silver plated candelabra with crystals regular price clearanced down to $1.00.

  32. Maria says

    For the person wondering about their kids Christmas presents. Here’s something I was told once, and I like it:

    Something they want
    Something they need
    Something to wear
    And something to read

  33. says

    To those who shop on Amazon… the only site I’ve found that gives ANY reward for Amazon.com purchases is goodshop.com — though the reward doesn’t go to you, but to the charity of your choice (as long as the charity is signed up and getting a certain minimum level of rewards). I’m glad to be able to support a local school when I shop online. :~)

  34. says

    I had trouble keeping all the cashback and coupon code sites straight (there are many out there) till a friend referred me to one site (http://evreward.com/store) so that’s where I always start. I type in what I’m looking for or the store where I want to purchase something, and evreward.com gives me a list of the cashback opportunities and any available coupon codes, also travel points and some other goodies that might be available. Just pick the option that has the best reward for you and click through there :)

  35. Emily says

    I have used BONDREWARDS.com for years and find the money back on that site to be higher than Upromise or Ebates, both of which I also use. The only catch is that with bond rewards, you get returns in the form of US savings bonds instead of cash. I have a little kid, so this works fine for me because I save them for him.