Online Shopping Tips

Friday, November 29 at 02:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

While the holiday season may be a time of practicing long-standing traditions, the way we shop for the holidays has evolved over the past decade with the advent of internet shopping. While the adventure of standing in line during the pre-dawn hours for Black Friday sales is appealing to some, may we offer some tips for a more civilized (if less exciting) approach to holiday shopping from the comfort of your warm home?

Black Friday was long known as the official first day of the holiday shopping season as people waited for Thanksgiving to pass before moving on to Christmas. With the proliferation of online retailers growing every year for the past decade, Cyber Monday became another icon of the holiday shopping experience. Cyber Monday, the first workday after Thanksgiving, found people using their high speed internet connections to make online purchases to begin their holiday shopping. However, with this technology readily available at home and on mobile devices, online shopping and its accompanying deals (and scams) have made their debut on Black Friday. Before you start your online shopping this season, follow these suggestions and tips for a safe and fulfilling shopping experience.

Window shopping with new meaning
Spend some time "window shopping" at different "stores" online. Look for gift ideas, deals and shipping deadlines. Search for coupon codes and online specials. Use your browser's search engine to type the name of a specific product or "online price comparison" for a list of websites to help you compare prices. Then check prices at the traditional brick and mortar stores in your area. Remember to consider the cost of shipping for online purchases and the cost of gas (and your time!) for traditional store purchases.

Online safety

Joining mall crowds and driving on weather-compromised roads may pose some safety risks, but shopping online isn't without its own set of concerns.

  • If you're not using a large, reputable retailer, confirm the seller’s credibility before giving out your card number.  If something still doesn't feel right,  search online for more than a few positive reviews and opinions about the seller. Do your homework, but trust your instinct as well.
  • Check out the seller’s privacy policy and terms of the sale, like refund policies and delivery dates.
  • Be sure the website is secure. Look at the URL to be sure it starts with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP:// (remember "S" for secure). Secure sites will also have a small padlock icon in the right corner of the screen.

Shipping and returns
Once you've found the deal you can't refuse, be sure to do a little more checking before hitting that "buy now" button. You want to be sure you'll get your merchandise in time and that you can return or replace it if necessary.

  • Know your deadlines. The closer you get to Christmas, the less inventory may be available and the longer it may take for your merchandise to make it through your selected shipping channel. Be sure to consider the cost of shipping in the purchase price, especially if you will need express service. If you are traveling or need to make a trip to the post office to ship the item, calculate that time into your equation as well.
  • Check the return policy. Understand how to return merchandise, who pays for it, how long you have to return it, and whether you will have your credit card refunded or just get a credit at that online retailer.

Email address
You will usually have to provide an email address for an online purchase. This enables the seller to send you a confirmation message, but it also enables them to send promotions and other communications to you. You may want to receive these special deals and promotions via email, or you may not. While you can always opt-out of these messages, you may want to keep your primary email inbox clutter-free by creating an email account you use just for online shopping.

The internet has certainly offered some variation on tradition when it comes to holiday shopping. If you choose to avoid the crowded malls and accompanying traffic, then be sure to do it safely. After all, holiday shopping is part of the holiday tradition, regardless of how it is practiced.

Tags: Budgeting, Consumer Protection, Financial Education
Naina on 7/25/2014 at 6:49 AM

Really Great tips.. Thanks a lot for sharing. And I liked the concept of using a different email for online shopping. Really my inbox is messed up by each and every kind of mails.

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