I’m an online shopping expert, here’s how to get big discounts

High angle view of young woman making credit card payment while doing online shopping on laptop. Technology makes shopping easier. Mockup image for woman doing online shopping.
Certain tricks usually make for steep discounts, including using a VPN and pretending to 'walk away'. (Getty)

With the cost-of-living crisis having squeezed Britain’s purse strings, many of us are looking to trim our budgets.

But if you’re shopping online, there’s several proven ways to save money, no matter what you are buying, says Tait Pollack, CEO of e-commerce experts Pivotal Digital.

Tait said, "Even in tough times, there’s no reason to give up on those planned purchases that have been sitting on your wishlist for months. A few clever tricks can make those purchases much more affordable."

Use a VPN and a ‘second’ email

You’re at a disadvantage when shopping online, as big retailers can have a huge amount of information about you before you start browsing.

Tait says, "If you’ve used a site before, they’ll know your purchase history, and they’ll have a good idea how motivated you are by discounts, and even what price you’ll be willing to pay.

"This means that retailers can show you higher prices based on your browsing history."

To combat this, clear your browser cookies before shopping online or use a private or incognito browsing window – this means you’ll get the standard prices, Tait advises.

"But you can go one better. If the site offers a discount for new customers, you can sign up using different email addresses to get the promo code multiple times," he says.

"And don’t restrict your search to this country. Check the retailer’s prices in other countries by using a VPN – a virtual private network. These apps make the site think you’re in a different country, where prices may be cheaper."

Use discounted gift cards and cashback apps

Sites offering discounted gift cards and cashback apps can offer significant savings, says Tait – as can specific discounts available to certain groups.

Tait says, "If you need to buy a product from a specific store, it’s worth checking out discounted gift cards from places like CardYard. They resell unwanted gift cards, meaning you can get up to 20% off big household names like Waterstones, iTunes and even Amazon.

"It’s always worth asking if a retailer offers reductions for students, military, teachers or nurses. Sign up for a Blue Light Card if you work for one of the emergency services, as discounts are significant for a number of popular brands."

Cashback credit cards can also offer significant discounts, particularly if you use introductory offers which can push discounts up to 5%.

"Another way of getting paid to shop is using cashback apps and browser extensions like Kindred, TopCashback or Quidco. Like cashback credit cards, you’ll get a percentage of what you spend back as money in an account. But the amount can be much higher than credit cards," he explains.

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Use price-matching

Whatever you want to buy, don’t take the plunge before you investigate what deals might be available, Tait advises.

"Check out deal blogs and sites like LatestDeals or hotukdeals, where people can post great online deals, coupons and offers. Deals include big brands and cheaper options."

It’s also well worth using price-matching offers to get better deals, says Tait.

Tait Pollack, CEO of e-commerce experts Pivotal Digital
Tait Pollack, CEO of e-commerce experts Pivotal Digital. (Supplied)

Tait says, "Look for shops that promise to match prices if you find the same product cheaper elsewhere. Sneaky shoppers that buy gifts at John Lewis in December and spot the item discounted in the Boxing Day sales or within 35 days can reclaim the difference using a Price Drop Claim. Halfords and Currys will both match prices within seven days of your purchase."

"And you can save on internet shipping by negotiating at local bricks and mortar stores by showing them a lower online price."

Buy returned items

Second-hand doesn’t have to mean battered and broken. "Once an unwanted item has been returned, most retailers won’t be able to sell it as new. This means that an unused product can be offered for a major discount."

"Check online stores for open box, refurbished, or used options for items like electronics, which can be steeply discounted, but essentially are good as new.

"And it’s worth checking for unwanted Christmas gifts or gently used items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, but take precautions to make sure you’re getting what you pay for."

Walk away

‘Walking away’ can mean you’re offered special deals, he adds. "Just like in the real world, retailers don’t like to miss the opportunity to make a sale.

"Do your shopping as usual, but then purposefully abandon your online shopping cart.

"If you wait a few days, you may find that stores will send you a discount code by email in a bid to encourage you to complete your shopping."