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5 easy ways you can save money shopping online, according to a savings expert

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  • In early 2019, online shopping surpassed shopping conducted in physical stores for the first time in American history.
  • With five easy tricks up your sleeve, you can save hundreds of dollars a year shopping online for products you were already going to buy anyway.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The question is no longer whether or not online shopping is here to stay, it’s whether brick-and-mortar stores are going to make it.

In early 2019, the sales volume of so-called non-store shopping, aka online shopping, surpassed the volume of sales at brick-and-mortar locations for the first time in the nation’s history. With four out of five Americans now shopping online, this type of commerce is the new normal.

Considering the fact that you and just about everyone else in America will be doing more and more of your buying via computer, tablet, or smartphone, it’s important that you learn ways to save money when shopping online, which you can do without changing the types of purchases you make.

Andrew Scarborough, cofounder and chief operations officer of PriceWaiter, said he knows that “everyone is looking to save some money when they shop online right now.” 

Here, he offers up five top tips to help you do just that.

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Use online resources like cash-back websites and coupon and promo code aggregators to your advantage.

A cash-back website is a reward website that pays members who sign up a percent of the money the site earns when a customer makes a purchase using an affiliate link. You can even use your own links in some cases and share your links with others. 

Scarborough recommends sites like Topcashback and Rakuten.  

Another handy online tool to use to save a few bucks are coupon and promo code websites that compile the best online codes for deals, saving you hours of virtual coupon clipping. 

“Go ahead and search for coupons online before any purchase – retailers haven’t forgotten about them,” says Scarborough. “Visit sites like Retailmenot.com and Coupons.com for great deals.” 

Additionally, he stressed to always try using online coupons even if they say they have expired, as often they will still work.

Leave it in the cart and play the waiting game.

The “shopping cart trick” requires some patience and restraint, but it could save you a bundle. Basically, you load up your shopping cart with the items on your wish list, but then leave the site instead of paying.

“Use the marketer’s playbook against them,” Scarborough said. “Visit the sites and add items to your cart or wish list and then leave. Many retailers will send you discounts and incentives to come back and complete your purchase.”

The Penny Hoarder said the trick is especially successful for first-time shoppers of a particular online retailer.

Time your purchases based on the season or the holidays.

If you can wait for a given product, you can almost always find a good deal tied to the calendar. Shop for beach toys and towels at the end of the summer and for winter coats in March to get clearance deals — the products will be just fine next year.

“Wait to make your purchase and time it out for holiday or special deal days sales like Labor Day sales or Amazon Prime Day,” Scarborough said.

Sign up for emails, newsletters, and select memberships — you never know what exclusive deals you’ll be offered.

Whenever you get the chance, Scarborough says you should “sign up for merchants’ newsletters or email lists, [as] many top retailers offer discounts just for giving them your email.” 

You can always unsubscribe later, but many sites only offer discounts and promos the first time you visit, so take advantage.

This advice extends to exclusive memberships. Perks not offered to the general public will sometimes be offered to members of credit card companies and airlines. Scarborough recommends taking a look at the member portals for miles and cash-back opportunities.

Don’t forget to comparison shop.

It might sound simple — because it is — but comparison shopping is often the best way to get the best prices when shopping online. 

“Always take the time to visit different marketplaces and comparison shop to get the best deal,” says Scarborough. 

You can compare a smaller retailer’s rates to giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Target — and don’t forget about auction sites like eBay where many brand new products are available at great prices.