Keeping your costs down while shopping online

My email box dings with a notification. What’s that? An important message from my daughter’s school? A new opportunity to speak somewhere or write another article? A friend or family member sending me a sweet message of encouragement?

No, the one online retailer that brings me to my budgetary knees has courteously brought this small interruption of my day.

You see, I can avoid all sorts of spending traps. I can curtail my desires in the stores. I can shop safely on Amazon.

I can navigate my way through all sorts of temptations. But this one site gets me every time. They must have magic marketing voodoo that puts all of the items I love on sale at the price points that don’t seem too bad, limiting the sale window for only a couple of days and making me want to buy all of the things, all of the time.

Online shopping has become a way a life for many consumers.

The convenience factor makes our worlds a bit more comfortable. Shop from the couch in my pajama pants at 10 p.m.? Please and thank you.

However, it can also be a dangerous venture for our bottom line and bank accounts. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe online, both protecting your privacy and your budget.

Look for coupons

I don’t care which site you’re using or how much you’re spending, you are forevermore required to search for coupon codes before you check out. It takes less than five minutes and could save you hundreds of dollars. If it doesn’t yield an additional discount, at least you’ll know you tried.

cash-back websites

You may have seen commercials for Ebates on television. Or perhaps a friend sent you a referral link to one of the dozens of online shopping cash-back websites. You may have to do some research but using one of these sites can help put money back in your pocket, simply by going first to their online shopping portal and clicking out to your chosen retailer.

Cash back sites work fairly simply, they gain revenue for you visiting their site. Typically the site features a number of great coupon codes for a variety of stores. When you click through the link for your shopping destination, a percentage of your purchase is put in your account and at the end of the quarter, you’re paid out either via check or PayPal. The time for your search for coupons is cut in half plus you get money back. Double bonus.

Ask friends and family members which sites they’ve used and love. They might be able to score a referral credit for you signing up and you’ll know you’re using a reputable company. I love Ebates but have also used Sunshine Rewards and even Swagbucks to get earn extra money on purchases I was going to make anyway.

Reward yourself

Many brick and mortar stores with online sites also have great rewards programs. You want to be sure that you make the most of every purchase and collect those points, too. In particular, I love the programs Kohl’s and JCPenney offer.

Look for the lock

Be a smart consumer when you’re shopping online. Be sure the website you’re making a purchase from has a small lock in front of the URL. This means the site is secure and your information has an extra layer of protection. Anytime you make an online purchase you also want to be sure that you’re carefully monitoring your statements to guarantee you haven’t been overcharged or mischarged.


If you can relate to the tale of my daily email notification, you may need to unsubscribe from a few companies marketing to you. Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s on sale or new in stock. At a minimum, make sure that when you sign up for stores’ rewards programs or give a company permission to email you, you set up an account especially for coupons, deals and sale notifications. That way, you won’t have an inbox clogged full of shopping temptations.