Online shopping has been a boon for busy people who don’t have time to hit the malls and need the convenience of home delivery.
It’s also great for people who shop around for good deals before they buy, and save even more because they don’t have to waste gas and time sitting in traffic.
Shipping and handling, however, can really eat at your budget unless you know how to look for great deals and/or free shipping.
The Amazon Experience
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that Amazon’s magic free-shipping number has gone up to $49.
Although it’s inconvenient, you can still take advantage of that huge buying power by paying attention. For instance, if you’re ordering books, look for offers for free shipping if your order totals at least $25. You won’t find this for every book, but many can be combined for free shippling.
Try shopping the Amazon Marketplace. Many items Amazon offers in the $49 free-shipping program are also on sale in the Marketplace, and many of those ship free on their own. It takes a little digging, but you’ll almost always find what you’re looking for at a price you can live with.
If all this sounds like too much trouble, invest in an Amazon Prime membership. For $99, when your order meets certain requirements, Amazon Prime offers you options for free two-day shipping, free same-day and one-day shipping and free 2-hour shipping. You can even earn rewards for using free No-Rush shipping and still get your goods in five days.
Play your cards right, and your membership can pay you back many times during the course of a year, in both reduced shipping costs and steep discounts on the merch.
And Then, There’s eBay
Long gone is the time where you had to ride out auctions on eBay to know whether you’ve actually bought something or you have to start looking all over again.
The Buy It Now option lets you purchase up front, and many such offers come with free shipping, even on large items.
In general, Buy It Now pricing is competitive with Amazon, and many sellers now accept major credit cards in addition to PayPal. This means that you can use the guest option at checkout without having the establish eBay and PayPal accounts.
Now that eBay’s more convenient to use, when you can’t find something on Amazon, often it’s just as easy to buy it on eBay.
Free In-Store Pickup
Every once in a while, you run into an e-tailer who won’t ship what you want no matter how much shipping you’re willing to pay.
Home Depot and Walmart are prime examples. However, their boon to shoppers is free in-store pickup. So, while you’ll miss the convenience of home delivery, after pre-paying, your order at either is ready to pick up when you show up to get it. Both now accept PayPal online, and Home Depot even accepts PayPal in store.
Make the Most of Free Shipping Minimums
While higher free-shipping minimums mean you have to think harder about how much you need, they are opportunities to help others shop online who don’t have computers and the Internet at home.
Before you click “Complete My Order,” ask around to see if other people need just one or two things. Pretty soon you’ll have met the minimum, and everybody enjoys more free shipping.
Be a sport.
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