Image by Johan Larsson, Sweden
UK shoppers have definitely embraced the world of online shopping. Figures from Ofcom show that the average Briton spends £1,083 per year online. Without the overheads of renting or buying a shop-front and hiring sales associates, many retailers are able to offer products cheaper to Internet users, despite the additional postage and packaging costs.
If you're saving money by buying online, the following tips should help you save even more:
1. Sign up for your favourite retailer or supermarket's emailing list. You might feel like you already have enough direct mail coming to your inbox, but if it's a shop or website you use regularly then you want to receive emails with the latest deals, exclusive offers or coupon codes.
2. Abandon your online shopping basket before completing a transaction, especially if you've only decided to make the purchase today. Leave it a day or two and then decide if you still want to go ahead. Not only is this good for preventing impulse buying, but some retailers will see that you never completed your purchase and send you an email offering a discount to follow through with what you started.
3. Get the best deal by searching on multiple price comparison engines for the product you want before making a purchase. Remember that some sites don't include postage and packaging in their price listing, so be sure to factor in that charge before choosing where to buy.
4. Don't just compare prices for online purchases. If you're about to buy something in a physical store and you have an Internet-capable mobile phone, search sites like Google Shopping, Kelkoo and Pricerunner to see if it is cheaper online.
5. If you're buying groceries online, a site worth checking is mySupermarket. Select all the items you want to buy, and mySupermarket will compare the prices of several different high street supermarkets and shops to find out which would be the cheapest to order from.
6. Watch out for special offers that aren't that special. Supermarkets in particular will use signage to draw your eye to supposed money-off or multi-buy deals, and away from the standard price. Always take a moment to check the maths and see how much you're really saving. If it's just a few pennies and it means buying more than you need, don't bother. Supermarkets have even been known to advertise multi-buy deals that are more expensive than the sum of the individual items (e.g. 1 for 30p or 3 for a £1). Use your phone or computer's calculator to work out how much you're really saving, it might not be worth it if you need to pay for items you don't need.
7. Sites like Top Cashback and Quidco offer you money back on certain purchases, through partnerships they have with retailers. They're definitely worth using if you can find the product you want, but there are certain downsides to keep in mind:
- You don't get the cashback right away. Depending on the website, it may take a while to process your purchase and award you the cash, or you may need to earn a minimum amount.
- The sites mentioned above have been around for a while, but this type of business has a small profit margin and you'll lose your potential revenue if the company goes under. Withdraw the rewards regularly into your bank account so you can start gaining interest on the money.
- Occasionally the technology used to track purchases will fail, there's no guarantee you'll receive the reward you were expecting. Make sure your browser allows cookies, and clear your cookies before logging into the site to minimise this.
- Check comparison sites too. Even with the cash back, you might find a better deal, or a similar deal you can benefit from quicker.
8. Keep your spending under control. Using free personal finance software like Money Dashboard you can keep track of all your online purchasing by tracking your credit cards and bank accounts. The coloured graphs and charts make it easy to see how much your spending as a portion of your monthly income or of your total monthly spend.