Amazon has become synonymous with online shopping. The company, which started out in 1994 as a web-based bookseller, expanded over the years to sell just about every type of product you can imagine. That breadth of coverage means Amazon.com isn't always the easiest site to navigate. However, the savviest shoppers can jump to the front of the line for discounts and deals. Here are the tricks you can employ to save time and money, and get the most out of Amazon.
1. Take Amazon's apps into the real world
The Amazon Shopping app (free for Android and iOS) lets you compare the price of any product you encounter in the real world to its Amazon counterpart. Install the app, then scan an item's bar code to look up its price on Amazon and see if you'd save money by ordering it online. Scanning barcodes works best, but often, you can get a match from a normal photograph of the item.
2. Follow brands and interests
Take a cue from your Twitter and Facebook accounts—follow activities and brands that interest you on Amazon. By clicking the Follow button on pages showing items from major brands, you can get speedy updates when those brands offer new stuff. Go to this site to manage your follows and this one to see follow recommendations.
3. Dig for fresh deals
As well as the deals splashed across the front page (and just about everywhere else on Amazon), you can find discounts in two specific locations: Check out Amazon's Warehouse for returned items still in great condition, and its Outlet for new items discounted by 30 percent or more. It pays to check these two pages regularly for relevant deals.
4. Register for instant price alerts
Want to buy a product—but only after its price drops below a certain threshold? Many add-ons and extensions can track Amazon prices for you, and CamelCamelCamel is one of the best we've found. It will track prices over time, send alerts when specific items drop in price, and more. Once you register, you can use the free service online or access it through a plug-in for your browser if you prefer.
5. Get SMS delivery updates
Amazon does a very good job of letting you know your pending delivery's shifting location at every stage of the shipping process. But if you're on the move or lack an internet connection, then it can be a pain to log into the site for updates. As an alternative, you can sign up to receive SMS alerts. Simply visit the Shipment Updates via Text page and follow the instructions.
6. Secure your orders
If you don't trust your neighbors (or indeed your housemates), then consider having your items delivered to an Amazon Locker rather than to your door. Urban areas contain plenty of these secure cages, so you can choose a locker at the most convenient location. They also allow you to pick up your items at your leisure rather than waiting in the house for deliveries.
7. Apply coupons
The days of clipping paper coupons from mailers are gone. Instead, Amazon has a dedicated Coupons page where you can find all kinds of discounts and special offers on daily essentials from toilet paper to fruit bars. You can easily "clip" any of the coupons right from the page using the buttons underneath. When you're ready to check out, Amazon will automatically apply these discounts.
8. Find hidden savings
On top of Amazon's own coupons, you can find a wealth of additional discount codes online—if you know where to look. We've spotted some very appealing deals in the Amazon sections of Offers.com, RetailMeNot, Dealio, and SlickDeals. So click through and start saving money.
9. Settle for slow deliveries
Part of the reason people sign up for Prime is to get their deliveries faster. But, for those items you don't need in a hurry, check to see if Amazon is offering digital credit (which you can use to purchase a movie or music) for a more relaxed delivery option. These deals, which Amazon calls the No-Rush Shipping Program, come and go over time.
10. Order with a Dash Wand
Treat yourself to a Dash Wand ($20 on Amazon, although your purchase comes with $20 in credit, making the wand essentially free) to order items faster and more easily than ever. With the Wand, you don't have to visit the Amazon website or app to buy stuff—you can just scan a barcode or simply tell Alexa what you want to add to your shopping basket.
11. Rent textbooks
If you're a student, you're in luck. Load up a textbook on the Amazon site and you'll often see a Rent option near the usual Buy used and Buy new choices. This lets you pay a reduced fee to borrow a book until the end of the semester. At that point, you can return the textbook to Amazon using free shipping.
12. Find the deals of the day
The Today's Deals link is on the top bar of the Amazon site, but it's easy to scroll right by. Click it to see the items with the biggest discounts on the site. To really stay ahead of the pack, sign up for the Daily Deals email, which sends the best bargains to you rather than the other way around.
13. Pad out your wishlist
Your Amazon wishlist is a great way to keep track of stuff you want—or to inspire people who want to buy something for you. And the official Amazon browser plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox let you add items to your wishlist from any website—you don't have to go to the effort of finding the item on Amazon itself.
14. Find your friends' wishlists
Asking your friends or relatives for their wishlists kind of ruins the surprise of buying them their desired gifts. Instead, you can use Amazon to search for someone's wishlist based on his or her full name or email address. Head to this page and type in the name or email address of the person you're looking for to see if there's a match.
15. Subscribe and save
The Subscribe & Save program lets you sign up for scheduled deliveries of the stuff you order most often, like toothpaste and Scotch tape. As the name suggests, you can tell Amazon the quantity you want and how often you'll need a fresh shipment, and in exchange, you can often save money on the recurring order.
16. Unlimited photo storage
If you've signed up for Amazon Prime, you also get Prime Photos, a digital picture locker with an unlimited amount of storage space for your snaps. You can upload pictures from your phone or computer using Amazon's official apps. In addition to photo storage, look up the other Prime benefits that you're entitled to and make sure you're taking full advantage of your membership.
17. Track your spending
You can generate reports on what you've ordered in the past, based on a particular time period—just head to the Order History Reports page on Amazon. This can save money by giving you a much better idea of how much money you've been spending—and what you've been spending that money on—so you can budget for future purchases accordingly.
18. Review free stuff
The Amazon Vine program sends you free gear in exchange for reviews on the site. However, this service is only available by express invitation. To earn an invite, you must first "consistently write helpful reviews and develop a reputation for expertise" on the pages of Amazon. So write as many helpful and erudite reviews as you can, and hopefully, you'll earn a spot in the club.
19. Expand your household
You can fit up to two adults and up to four kids onto the same Amazon Prime account via Amazon Household—as long as everyone lives at the same address. That means you will all share the same fast shipping, access to Prime Video, and various other perks for the same $99/year subscription.
20. Donate to charity
Finally, you can do something good with your money without sacrificing any work, or any of your own earnings. If you start your shopping quest at the Amazon Smile portal, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the total purchase price to your choice of its listed charities. If you're the forgetful sort, this Chrome extension makes sure you always start on Amazon Smile.