I 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.
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 )