We all have “friends” online who we’ve never met in real life. Sometimes they’re Facebook friends, or people we’ve had lengthy back-and-forth discussions with on forums or in comment sections. These virtual friendships are a nice way to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, and I’ve found they can be mutually rewarding in other ways as well.
Here are six ways you can save money with your online friends:
- Join local buy/sell/trade groups,
Buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook are increasingly popular and an excellent way to save. They’re like an online garage sale where you can list items you have for sale, or buy goods that other people post.
These groups area nice alternative to eBay because you know the savings are staying in your local community. There’s also the extra sense of security that comes from being able to see someone’s Facebook profile before meeting with them in person.
I’ve found groups by searching my city’s name plus “buy” or “sell.” Sometimes there are also groups with a particular focus, like baby items or furniture, so it might take a little digging to find which one is a good fit for you. If you don’t find one, consider starting your own!
- Take advantage of group rates.
This tip works best if you’re part of an online community with a local focus, such as one of the Facebook groups I mentioned above. Many large events, such as concerts, fairs, or amusement parks, have discounted tickets if you buy as a group. Organize an outing with your online friends and everyone wins. Sometimes groups even get extras, like special meal deals, or have their name shown on a big screen at sports games.
- Buy with friends.
Some online sites give discounts when you and your friends make a purchase. After you make a purchase, Groupon sends you a special link that you can share with friends. If three friends also buy it, you all get a discount. Living Social has a similar program, but instead of everyone saving you get the deal for free if three friends buy it (I sometimes split the savings with my friends, so everyone wins). TicketMaster also has a Me+3 program that offers discounted rates when you purchase four tickets at once.
- Connect with an accountability partner.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone in their life that they can share financial goals and fears with. Finding an accountability partner online can help you set and stick to a budget. Groups are great, but I’ve found one-on-one relationships are more powerful.
Reach out to people that already have a similar interest. Maybe they’re fellow readers of frugal-livingblogs or members of a forum or other online group that’s focused on finding deals and saving money. You almost certainly won’t be the only person looking for accountability. Once you find someone you click with, schedule monthly or biweekly meeting times when the two of you can check in with each other and make sure you’re both on track with your money goals.
- Start a referral train.
Have you ever been to a website that offered you store credit, or even cash, for referring a friend? Referral programs are fairly common and a nice way to make some extra money. But, I always feel like I’m spamming my friends when I send them links. Instead, I suggest starting a referral train.
Post your link in an online forum, telling everyone that it’s a referral link, and you’ll get compensated if someone uses it. Then, ask that whoever uses the link first leaves a comment and shares their referral link. As the train gets rolling, each person gets the referral bonus once, and the wealth is spread around.
- Befriend your favorite companies.
They may not be friends in the traditional sense, but companies and brands connect like friends on social media networks. Sometimes these connections can help you save money, as many brands release coupon codes, announce flash deals, or even host contests and giveaways for their followers.
Keep in mind you’re reading this alongside a group of like-minded friends right now. There may be an accountability partner or fellow deal-buyer in the comments section just waiting to hear from you.
Louis DeNicola is a writer for Saveful, a social savings community where users share product-specific discounts, store sales, and advice for saving money. He’s an expert deal hunter and frequently travels for free by using credit card points and miles.