How many times has this happened to you: you’re shopping online, with a budget, and find the perfect item just within that budget, only to notice the shipping is just way too much?
Don’t let shipping fees weigh you down. Here’s how to cut those fees down to size.
Note: Online shopping is extremely convenient but it can lead to impulsive shopping. Be careful of being sucked into the endless vortex of one-click purchases and spur-of-the-moment transactions!
Maximize Your Amazon Shopping
Despite the handful of alternatives to Amazon, the fact remains that Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world. For some, “Amazon” has become synonymous with online shopping just as “Google” is synonymous with online searching.
And while it is a popular service that everyone knows about, many people aren’t taking full advantage of Amazon’s offerings.
Get started with our guide to shopping on Amazon and become acquainted with the site’s main features. After that, you can explore some of our lesser-known Amazon tips and tricks and learn how to get the best deals on Amazon.
What about Amazon’s free shipping? In most cases, Amazon will ship your order for free as long as your cart has at least $35 USD worth of products in it. Most people wait until they have a few big purchases to buy and then buy them all at once to meet the cut-off. But there’s another way.
Think of all the cheap household consumables that you’ve been meaning to replenish — e.g. paper towels, toilet paper, cotton swabs, non-perishable snacks, kitchen supplies, etc. — and add them to your cart until you hit the threshold.
These are known as “filler items” and there are a few free tools you can use to help “fill out” your Amazon cart when you’re short of the free shipping limit. CheapFiller is a well-known option, but SuperFillers and FillerItemFinder are helpful, too.
Search For Promos And Coupons
The Free Shipping Promotion is one of the most common promotions you’ll encounter. Ideally, the free shipping would automatically apply to your checkout without any effort on your part, but often you’ll need to enter some sort of code or coupon to unlock the promo for your purchase.
The next time you make a purchase — whether on Amazon or any other online retailer — take a moment before submitting your order to search for relevant promo codes and coupons. In your search engine of choice, type “<company> coupon codes” or something to that effect.
RetailMeNot is a great site where users can submit active promos on a per-store basis. Users can also rate each promo as successes or failures so you, the shopper, can know which promos are most likely to work. If you aren’t using it, you’re missing out on a lot of savings.
There are two lesser-known ways to receive promos and discounts.
The first method is to try haggling with the support staff of whichever online retailer you’re shopping at. For best effect, you’ll want to dial their customer service line and ask for ways you can get discounts like free shipping. They’ll usually be happy to share a promo code with you in order to solidify a sale.
If you don’t like talking phone-to-phone with customer service, you could try Live Chat instead (if the retailer supports such a feature) or simple email. However, these may not be as effective as a direct call.
The other method is to wait at the last step of the checkout page. Many sites will detect your “cart abandonment” and send you a promotional email to clinch the sale. Not every site will do this, mind you, so don’t expect it to work reliably, but it is a treat when it does work.
Sites With Free International Shipping
Even though it might feel this way, free shipping isn’t always limited to those who are domestic to the United States. As Erez has pointed out in his piece on free international shipping, non-Americans can participate in the free shipping experience too.
Here are some of our favorites:
- ASOS for clothing and apparel. Minimum $25.
- Book Depository for books. No minimum.
- StrawberryNET for cosmetics and fragrances. No minimum unless purchasing fragrances, in which case free shipping only applies if the cart also includes a skincare product.
- DealExtreme for electronics, accessories, and gear. No minimum.
There’s no better way to save on shipping than to take advantage of free shipping offers, so consider using these sites when applicable.
Use Package Forwarding Services
But international shopping isn’t always that easy. What if the costs are prohibitive? Or worse, what if they don’t ship to your region at all?
Fortunately, as Kihara outlined in his post on package forwarding services, there are ways to ship your purchases to the United States (to avoid international shipping costs) and have them forwarded to your location worldwide.
These services aren’t free, of course, but they can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run. Plus, you gain the ability to purchase items that are normally only available to shipping destinations within the United States.
ShipIto is a great choice for this. With warehouses in California, Nevada, Oregon, and recently Austria, they’ll provide you an address to use while shopping on sites like Amazon, eBay, and more. They also provide the option to consolidate multiple packages into a single package before forwarding, which can save even more of your money.
Think Digital Instead
At the end of the day, when neither free nor discounted shipping are valid options, you could always go with the alternative: digital goods don’t need to be shipped.
Obviously, some products are easier than others to purchase in a digital format. Video games are great for this, particularly with the abundance of discount options in the form of Steam deals and GOG sales. The same is true for purchasing digital music.
But if you’re on the hunt for a gift, there are plenty of awesome digital gift ideas that won’t burden you with shipping fees. Feeling more experimental? Forego the games and music in favor of a giftable online subscription.
How do YOU save on shipping costs when shopping online? Share your best tips and tricks with us!