Frugal Living 

How to Get Free Shipping

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ShippingI love shopping online for a lot of reasons, many of which tap into my deeply rooted love of laziness and sloth. I like that something is delivered straight to my door. I love that I usually don’t have to pay sales taxes on it. I love that I then have this awesome box or envelope I can use to ship other things (like the books you all win in the auctions!). I just simply need to be patient and wait for the package to arrive! It’s a win win.

The only downside to getting things shipped is the cost. Fortunately plenty of stores offer ways for you to get free shipping and today I’ll tell you what we do to maximize the times we get free shipping.

Find Filler

We all know that Amazon offers free shipping if you spend more than $25. How many times have you gotten to $23.50 or $24.89 and you are mere cents away from free shipping? You have two options when this happens – pay shipping (boo) or find a filler item that you can use to get over the hump. There are plenty of websites out there that will help you find filler so a quick search could get you some quick savings.

Most items under a dollar are pipe fittings and other hardware type items. Personally, I try to find a kid’s book or something (like this Little Mermaid Stained Glass Coloring Book) so at the very least you can donate it or give it to someone. You can’t give them a tube fitting or O-ring. That just becomes junk or clutter.

Amazon Mom, Student, Prime

At the risk of being Amazon-centric (90% of anything we buy online comes from Amazon), you can always find a way to join their Prime program at a cheaper price. Amazon Prime is a program where you pay $79/yr and you get free two day shipping. If you are a Netflix member, Amazon Prime also has instant video which is a good competitor and could replace Netflix if you’re a streaming only member. Amazon Mom and Student are versions of Prime. Student, for students, and Mom, for moms, gives you discounts on various products but also free two-day shipping for six months. Where’s Amazon Dad? C’mon Amazon.

Is paying $79 a year worth it for the shipping perks? Absent the discounts, in the case of Student and Mom, probably not since you can get free shipping for $25+ orders (not two day, but still free shipping) but that’s really up to you. You do get savings off sales tax in most states. With 6% sales tax in Maryland, I just need to buy $1316 of stuff on Amazon to “make back” that annual fee in sales tax.

Alternatively, ShopRunner is a membership service that gets you Amazon Prime-like terms (two day shipping) at various retailers. I signed up when they were giving away free memberships.

Search for Coupons

Searching online for coupons should be the first thing you do after you add something to your cart. There are always coupons online and chances are you’ll be able to find a free shipping coupon for the merchant you’re buying from. If you’re lucky, you might even find a $X off $XX purchase coupon too to make your purchase even cheaper.

If you try a search engine but fail to get anything, try to find the retailer’s Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest page. A lot of companies are turning to social media to get their brand out there and sometimes that includes social media only promotions.

If that doesn’t work, sign up for their newsletter. Many companies send out newsletters with special coupons. It might mean not being able to make the purchase today, if you’re intent on not paying shipping, but it’ll help you later on.

Ship to Store

Lastly, if the merchant has a local store that is convenient, see if they’ll ship to the store for free. Some companies will ship to the store for free or at a discount. This is the last option because if there is a ship to store option, that means there’s a physical location and you’ll have to pay sales tax. You might save more buying somewhere else and paying the shipping fees, depending on the cost differences and your state’s sales tax.

What are you favorite ways to get free shipping?

(Photo: eddie.welker)

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “How to Get Free Shipping”

  1. Jose says:

    I always do an online search for coupons when shopping online. I find free shipping or $$$ off more often than not!

  2. I love the ship to store option, because it gives me a reason to get out! 🙂

    Generally, I weigh the sales tax against the shipping, going with the lesser evil.

  3. Daniel says:

    You are supposed to pay Use Tax on every purchase for which Sales Tax was not collected. Every state that has a Sales Tax also has a Use Tax of the same amount. In North Carolina, it is now on the state income tax form, so it is tax evasion to not pay it.

  4. Bryan says:

    <3 my Amazon Prime account. I also have a Shoprunner account, and they run "a free year of Shoprunner" promotions quite often.

  5. I can’t really remember the last time I payed for shipping.

    Amazon Prime for students is often free. I don’t know if the promotion expired but my wife got 6 months free of charge and it’s still current!

  6. Jim says:

    I don’t know a single person who pays “use tax.” 🙂

    • Texas Wahoo says:

      It’s just like income tax if your bank does not produce a 1099. You still owe money on the interest, but you are unlikely to get caught if you do not pay it.

    • Daniel says:

      Jim, I do. Why do I do that? Because I want to live with integrity, and that means filing an honest tax return. I hate paying it, and I think it’s a stupid and lame tax, but I pay it. Yes, it’s true: I never, ever knowingly cheat on my taxes. I take every deduction I’m allowed up to the limit, but I do not cheat my taxes.

  7. bloodbath says:

    When the sale is less than the minimum for free shipping I decide based on overall cost:
    If the cost of the item plus the cost of gas used to pickup at the store is the same as or more then the cost of the item plus shipping then I pay for shipping else I elect store pickup.
    But when I buy fabric, I add in extra yardage and make up the shortage, because I can never have enough fabric.

  8. Ria says:

    Install the Yahoo toolbar on your browser. The far right icon is a pair of scissors for “coupon clipping”, and every time that you go to ANY website, it will alert you to whatever coupons and promotions are being offered by that website. This is automatic, and many sites will offer a free shipping coupon code through this utility.

  9. Shirley says:

    Jim, I laughed out loud at your first paragraph because it described me exactly!

    Staples is my favorite go-to store for computer and office supplies and they have a new policy as of March 13th. If you sign up for their rewards program (it’s free and we all like rewards) all shipping is free.

  10. Savy Shopper says:

    It is not very difficult to find free shipping; in fact I find the deals and coupons that offer free shipping. Usually there is a tab on top that directs you to free shipping deals and discounts. There are several websites that makes it easier for users to get the free shipping deals with just a click. I usually prefer to get the free shipping from and save money on getting the items delivered.

  11. Jared says:

    My favorite ‘filler’ item on Amazon is a roll of Scotch tape. It’s $1.29 as of today. It’s something I’ll use so I know it won’t be clutter. What cracks me up is when I add this on to my order, the tape usually ships separately from the other item.

  12. skylog says:

    i have had amazon prime for several years now, and i have found it to certainly be worth the cost. i split the cost with another person and take full advantage of the kindle lending library as well as the video streaming.

    it would be worth it for me even without the shipping, but it is great to have things ordered and received in two days, as well as the option to have something ordered and received in one day for a low price.

  13. skylog says:

    thanks for this top shirley! i am heading to sign up for their program now.

  14. admiral58 says:

    american express holders can now get a free year of shipping. I’d look into if you have an amex card

  15. Judy says:

    There’s really no such thing as “free shipping” anyway. Ninety-nine % of the time, the shipping is figured into the price of what you’re buying. Same with the “free return shipping” labels, as well. I won’t buy anything from Les Wexner brand stores (The Limited, Victoria’s Secret) simply because of their shipping/return shipping policies. They pay bulk mail ‘per piece’ rates based on volume for their shipping costs but charge you based on how much you spend. Big rip off! Their return shipping costs are (again) a per piece rate based on volume and charge you their ‘per label’ rate. LL Bean says ‘free shipping’ but it’s not. It’s ‘figured in’ somewhere.

    There’s no such thing as free shipping — or free return shipping — from anyone.

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