A Canadian Beginner’s Guide to Better Online Shopping
I love online shopping. I order as much as I can — jewellery and clothes, books and music, even dinner. Shipping costs, if there are any, are often the same as paying transportation costs to get to the store, I can do it when I think of it and usually in under 10 minutes, and it gives me more variety. Here are eight tips to make your online shopping a little easier.
- Never buy anything online without first searching for a coupon. Check out BargainMoose, RetailMeNot, or Red Flag Deals for discounts or free shipping offers. You can also check out the company’s Facebook page. If that doesn’t get you what you want, simply google “Company name coupon.” You won’t always find a deal, but when you do it will be worth the 2 minutes it took to search.
- Do your research. When shopping internationally, check the shipping costs (and whether they ship to your destination) and return options before you fall in love with the beautiful things the site offers. Unless the company ships your item as a “gift,” or the marked value is under $20, you’re going to be responsible for duties and taxes. Look for sites that include the duties and taxes as part of your order – it lets you know what to expect and keeps you from having to search for your purse when the mailman is waiting at the door.
- Shop around — either for a better price or a better shipping deal. Unless you’re buying from the manufacturer, many items online can be found on multiple sites, including Canadian ones (or your destination of choice), so it’s worth a quick search to see if it’s offered somewhere that suits your needs better.
- Memorize your credit card number and that pesky three-digit code on the back. Ok, this might not be the best idea for your budget, but it makes online shopping so much easier.
- Sign up for the emails. I know, we all get way too many emails, so limit it to the shops you really love or the ones that offer the best discounts. Many sites offer a large coupon ($20-$50) for subscribing to their mailing list – you can always unsubscribe later. Or, set up a filter in your email account so all the shopping emails go to one place; it keeps things organized for when you’re ready to buy.
- Buddy up. Sites like Amazon or Chapters/Indigo offer free shipping with a minimum order. But if you’re like me, you constantly find yourself just below the threshold. Checking in with your spouse, friend or co-worker usually solves the problem – they always have something they’ve been meaning to get too.
- Bargain shop. If you don’t have a buddy, check out the bargain section. You can sort by availability and price and usually find something that will get you where you need to be – saving you at least a few dollars on shipping. Plus, you might actually find something useful for a gift or stocking stuffer. (American shoppers can use sites like FillerItem which will search Amazon.com on your behalf to find items that meet your spending needs without going [much] over).
- Join the loyalty programs. Chapters’ Plum offers discounts for ordering online, Shop.ca gives you rewards dollars that can be used for future purchases, and sites like Air Miles and Aeroplan allow you to collect points and receive discounts from partners. Use whatever program suits you best, just be sure to keep your membership numbers near the computer.