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Shipping Smartly: 5 Frugal Tips to Save Money When Shopping Online

Joel Lee 02-10-2014

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 Buck the Trend: 5 Tips to Avoid Shopping Impulsively Online Are you an impulsive shopper? Do you throw away money on items you don’t really want or need? Here are some tips and tricks to help you regain control. Read More . 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 5 Reliable Online Shopping Alternatives to Amazon Amazon is the biggest player in the game of online retailers, but that doesn't mean you have to use them. Read More , 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 The Amazon Shopping Guide This free Amazon shopping guide outlines everything you need to know to make the best use of Amazon and secure the best deals. Read More and become acquainted with the site’s main features. After that, you can explore some of our lesser-known Amazon tips and tricks 20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore Amazon is packed with cool features that can make your life easier. Here are 20 useful perks that you can take advantage of right now without paying an extra cent. Read More and learn how to get the best deals on Amazon How to Get the Best Discounted Deals on Amazon There are lots of great deals on Amazon, but you need to know how to find them. Here are some tips and tools to help. Read More .



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 we pointed out in our article on free international shipping 20 Online Shopping Sites With Free International Shipping Plenty of online shopping sites offer free international shipping. Which can save you a fortune when shopping online. Read More , non-Americans can participate in the free shipping experience too.


Here are some of our favorites:

There’s no better way to save on shipping than to take advantage of free shipping offers. And if not these sites, then you can always try sites with very cheap prices and shipping fees, including online retailers like AliExpress Is AliExpress Legit and Safe to Buy From? What is Aliexpress? Is it safe to shop on? Are there any security vulnerabilities? Our Aliexpress review finds out if it's legit. Read More .

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 we outlined in our post on package forwarding services How to Buy on and Get the Items Shipped Worldwide Have missed some great Amazon deals because the items were not being shipped worldwide? With the right package forwarding service you can buy on Amazon and have packages delivered to you. Read More , 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 5 Ways To Make Sure You Get The Best Deals On Steam Games Steam is known for being super convenient for managing one’s video game library, and it’s also useful in a few other ways, but did you know that with a bit of effort you can obtain... Read More . The same is true for purchasing digital music $1 Per Song? No Way! 5 Cheaper Alternatives For The iTunes Store The world of music is constantly changing. Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and now MP3s - and that means that we’ve gone from analog to digital. The best thing about digital music, in my opinion, is that... Read More .

But if you’re on the hunt for a gift, there are plenty of awesome digital gift ideas The Best Last-Minute Digital Gifts That Don't Require Shipping Need a last-minute gift? Going digital may be your only hope for timely arrival. Here are the best last-minute digital gift ideas. Read More that won’t burden you with shipping fees.

How do YOU save on shipping costs when shopping online? Share your best tips and tricks with us!

Image Credit: Amazon Mobile Via Shutterstock, Promo Coupon Via Shutterstock, Package Forwarding Via Shutterstock, International Shipping Via Shutterstock, Digital Download Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Online Shopping, Save Money.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. eincar
    September 4, 2016 at 7:47 am

    it seems good , we like it , and we also like this company:

  2. Indiana Whitelegge
    June 30, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Nice post with great tips. Saving money is like a tough job for me but coupons sites like, and rebate sites work great.

    • Joel Lee
      July 4, 2016 at 2:06 am

      Thanks Indiana, I'll give those sites a look. :)

  3. Anonymous
    September 5, 2015 at 8:03 am

    YAY! I am gonna fill the filler items now, Never thought bout them before. Yeah I used to wait for a big order so I can save on shipping charges. But thanks to you now it will be easy and free.

    • Joel Lee
      September 24, 2015 at 3:38 am

      You're welcome, Lisa. I hope those filler items help! :)

  4. Tony
    May 24, 2015 at 2:39 am

    I have been buying household stuff online from Amazon for years. The free shipping is great. The number of products is great. Generally I find that there is a significant cost savings with Amazon products relative to the grocery store.

  5. venkat
    December 13, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Great tips

  6. Willem
    December 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Great tips, you would be surprised how many store owners will just give you a couponcode for free shipping if you just straightforward ask for it. This is a shameless act of selfpromotion, but useful if you are not from the US and can't use Retailmenot. offers coupon codes currently in 22 different countries and counting. So for all the people from Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and many other European and Asian countries it will help you out finding codes for discounts.

  7. Gina
    November 22, 2014 at 3:18 am

    These are great tips! You can also save some money and get cash back from shopping online. Just use Mr. Rebates!

  8. Ben
    October 12, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Thanks for these great tips! Perhaps mine will ad some value too for your readers ;-)
    I personally buy a lot on Amazon because I love there service and speed. Since a few months I use what's called the 'Fast Discount Finder' website every time I buy on Amazon to find the best discounts. Saved me a ton of money already. Check it out yourself It's easy and free. After putting in the item or product you're looking for the discount pages appear in a split second. Enjoy!