Be a Smart Online Shopper This Season

Black Friday, holiday gifts and outfits for holiday parties – like we need another excuse to shop right now. Luckily, the Internet has made this a lot easier than it has been in the past and, especially with these inhumanely frigid temperatures that will not warm up anytime soon, it means you don’t have to leave the comfort of your sweats and warm house. And we Canadians like to shop online. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians spent $18.5 billion over the Internet in 2012. Especially with the growing abundance of ever-so-tempting and sale-filled ecommerce sites that make it simple to score discount designer fashions (like the,, and, shopping online this holiday has never looked so appealing.

Just don’t be stupid about it; there are a few things you need to keep in mind…

Play Safe
First and foremost, ensure that all online shopping is carried out only on secure sites. Not that you tech-savvy young professionals didn’t already know this, but to confirm that the page you’re on is secure, look for a tiny padlock icon usually found in the top right corner of your browser’s URL bar. You can also tell if the site is secure by looking for an “s” in the URL address, meaning while non-secure sites and pages begin with http://, secure sites begin with https://. Use your credit card instead of debit. Since debit cards draw directly from your bank account (as opposed to an extension of credit), potential hackers can do more damage to your finances when they have your banking information than your credit card number. If you can, try to use only one credit card for online shopping.

Don’t Drink and Shop
Although it may be tempting to settle in with a beer or glass of wine before you browse your favourite sites, make sure it’s not an entire case of beer or bottle of wine. Think back; you’ve probably made some stupid online decisions after drinking, whether an email to an ex, commenting out of character on social media posts, or even posting pictures that you promptly remove the next morning. In similar vain, drinking and shopping could prove pretty foolish once something completely ridiculous and the wrong size shows up at your doorstep.

Do Your Research
The savviest online shoppers do their research to save themselves time and money. And doing your research couldn’t be easier. We’ve been comparison-shopping since the days of childhood, when we’d weigh out the options as how to best spend our birthday money. As opposed to a traditional store, comparison-shopping is simple online. Never purchase an item on a particular site before you browse online to see if a similar retailer has the same piece at a lower price, or better terms of sale. Some websites offer listings of online retailers for a particular item and produce comparison charts providing information about the cost of these items from each retailer. Alternatively, simply visit the websites of different online retailers and open a new web browser window for each retailer. Finally, if you’re purchasing an item from a US site and having it delivered to Canada, check the duty options and pay the duty up front. It’s so much easier that way.

Pay Attention to Promo Codes
Always look for promo codes, they are often there without having to sign up to a mailing list. There may be promos on certain items or brands for free shipping, and some retailers will offer a site-wide discount.

Read the fine print
Although one of the biggest lies humans may tell involves clicking the terms and conditions box without reading, actually read and understand the terms and conditions of the site before making an online purchase. This means everything from return policies and shipping times to restocking fees in the event you return your purchase (there is someone who has to repackage and replace the item, a cost not built in to the initial retailer’s cost). Some restocking fees are up to 25 per cent or more, and a fee of 15 per cent of the price you paid for the returned item has become customary for intensively packaged products. Read all the fine print including refund and complaints handling policies. Check the currency, postage and handling and other charges – there may be extra you aren’t aware of. Finally, always check the final cost before you pay.

Do you really need it?
Much like when you got your first seemingly magical credit card, online shopping seems to lend itself to more frivolous spending. With your trusted credit card in hand, some buyers may tend to go over budget because the effortless transaction only takes a click of a mouse or a swipe of the finger. Especially when you can score designer goods at prices you never thought imaginable, you have to seriously ask yourself whether you can afford it and if you really need it… or if it will be another impulsive purchase. Sales may actually do more damage than good, inspiring purchases purely for the sake of the sale. Be smart.  

Happy shopping!

Cover Image from: Simplelize

Want more updates on the most Notable things happening so you know before your colleagues do? Get our exclusive newsletter here.