An Ode to Gmarket

It took me a year after arriving in Seoul before I was confident enough to explore the world of online shopping in Korea. It really changed my life, for better and worse. In an instant, a world of useful items and delicious foodstuffs became accessible to me in just a click. But of course, with things being just a click away, it’s easy to spend a hell of a lot of money.

Luckily, I have now learned self-restraint, and now Gmarket has become one of my biggest tools in my newfound frugality.

As you can see from the homepage alone, Gmarket has a lot of things on offer, and as such it’s easy to get carried away buying things you don’t need, or things you convince yourself will change your life, but you never even end up looking at twice. However, if you are able to avoid the temptation, you can really save on highstreet prices.

Take this dish soap I recently bought, for example:

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I can’t remember how much this cost me exactly when I bought it in my local GS Supermarket, but it was around 5-6000 won for 532ml of dish soap. Not exactly breaking the bank, but like all of the other watery Korean dish soaps I’ve tried, it only ended up lasting around a month.

Now let’s take a look at this:

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What you see here is four refill bags containing 800ml of the same dish soap each, making a total of 3200ml of dish soap. This cost me 9,900 won and will probably last me six months, meaning that I have saved around 20,000 won in the long-term.

Another example of the money-saving power of Gmarket is in our food budget. I personally am not a big meat eater – I pretty much just like chicken. However, my boyfriend… He loves meat. He insists on having samgyeopsal or the like at virtually every meal. At first we were buying it at the mart, and it was costing about 15,000 won per 500g. Then we started buying it from the butchers, and got the cost down to about 11-12,000 won. But then finally, we realized that Gmarket was the way forward. Get a load of this:

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That’s samgyeopsal (pork belly), moksal (neck meat), ogyeopsal (five-layer pork belly) and a bunch of other things that I can’t translate on the fly for only 5,500-6000 won(ish) per 500g. Those are some huge savings!

Of course, at first we were worried that the meat would be terrible quality, or wouldn’t be fresh, but it actually turned out to be pretty good! It arrives frozen, so the freshness is there, and according to my boyfriend tastes very close to being as tasty as the stuff we used to buy at the butchers for double the price.

While many of the items on Gmarket have free shipping, many items also do not, so I do have to be considerate of this price as it can stack up despite being pretty cheap. The meat above, for example, has a shipping cost of 3,000 won (or free on orders about 50,000 won). So, we buy in bulk. We never actually buy enough to get the free shipping, but we buy enough so that the shipping cost is worth it.

Another thing I use to keep my costs down is using the coupons which are available on the website.

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There are a good range of coupons available to everybody, but there are also coupons available based on your membership tier. To be honest, most of them are not that generous, even at the highest tier. An even bigger problem is that foreigners in Korea get a kind of bum deal here, because the best coupons are only available for international orders. However, I noticed that often the Korean version of the website has coupons not available on the English version. If you are able to read any Korean, it is simple enough to head over to the Korean version, grab them, and then use them with no issues on the English website.

So, as you can see, Gmarket is a versatile site that can be used to find virtually anything you might need to find in Korea. While it is very easy to get carried away, with some planning and restraint, it can really be a great tool to a more frugal life in Korea.

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