The advent of shopping online, much like catalog shopping back as early as the late 1800s, has opened up a whole new world of products to the American consumer at prices they can finally afford. Many companies exist entirely online with warehouses scattered throughout the United States, ready to ship products out on a moments notice. Their selection is larger, their prices are better, the sales tax is waived (in most cases), and the only hurdle they have to overcome is the cost of shipping products to a customer’s door. In many cases, it’s cheaper to order something online than it is to walk into a store to buy it off the shelf.
So, if the last hurdle is shipping, what steps can we take to help minimize the cost of shipping?
Reach free shipping order minimums
Many vendors offer free shipping if you spend over a certain dollar amount. Amazon.com, for example, offers free shipping if you order over $25 of eligible products. Find out what that limit is and try to reach it, you could save on shipping and get more product for the same dollar amount.
Search for free shipping coupons
If the store doesn’t offer an automatic “free shipping with $25 order” (or something similar), search for a free shipping coupon. Shipping is usually very inexpensive for stores because of how much volume they do so to help get a purchase out the door, they’ll usually offer up a free shipping coupon as an incentive.
Use the ship to store option
If you can’t find a free shipping coupon, the next best option is to try the “ship to store” option if there are stores in your area. This is obviously only possible if the online store has actual stores (Amazon.com doesn’t have an actual store, thus no “ship to store” option). This option may or may not be free, but it’ll usually be cheaper than shipping to your home.
Many online stores offer a variety of product lines so it may be worth it to buy all of your products at one location to maximize the effectiveness of the shipping you do pay for. You may not be getting the best prices on every single item through one store but you may lower your total cost by bundling your purchases together. For example, you may not be getting the best price on a tube of toothpaste from Amazon.com but because of free shipping (or lower shipping prices), the total cost of the toothpaste is lower than a tube you buy at another online store.
Free shipping is the holy grail of shopping online, as it really equalizes the playing field between online and brick & mortar stores, but it takes a little trickeration to get it.