6 tips to shop smart online

Shopping online can save time and money – and more Canadians are doing it. According to the latest surveys, more than half of all Canadians plan to do some of their holiday shopping online again this year — a 5-10 per cent increase over last year, according to some experts.

Even more shoppers will use mobile apps to compare prices or make purchases too. (And up to 70 per cent of us will “pre-shop” online before we head to the stores.)

If you plan to avoid the crowds and shop from the comfort of your armchair this holiday season, here are six tips to stay safe and shop smart.

Avoid e-tail regret

Security first. Be sure you are buying from a reputable source. Don’t make any purchase from a website that does not have a secure payment system. Look for a padlock logo on the checkout page indicating a secure site before typing in your credit card number.

Get out the measuring tape . If you are buying items in UK or Continental sites, make sure you understand the sizes and the North American equivalent.

Mind the details. Make sure you understand shipping costs, whether duties are included and what your rights are with regards to returns. Print and save all records of your online orders, including your online receipt, order number and customer service number.

Know your designer. Sizes vary from designer to designer, so bear this in mind when shopping online. If you’re splurging on a new designer, do your homework to ascertain what size you’ll be. It will save you time, hassles and money in the long run.

Keep it convenient. Have your parcels shipped to work (especially if there are no duties), so you don’t have to waste time running to the post office.

Consider using an intermediary service. If you fall in love with a U.S. site that does not serve Canada, check out www.internationalcheckout.com. For a fee, based on order value and other variables, they will act as an intermediary service, allowing goods to be sent to them and on to you. As always, take the time to read the full terms and conditions before engaging this service.

Ways to save

Shopping online can be fast and easy – sometimes too much so, if you’re looking to avoid budget-busting spontaneous purchases. Before you log-on and let your fingers do the shopping, you might want to consider the following:

–  Consider using only one credit card, with a low credit limit, for all your online shopping. This not only helps to keep you on budget, but if there’s a problem, you’ll know exactly for what and where the card was used.

–  Take the time to read and research product reviews to find out what other customers think and whether the product is worth the money.

–  Check out comparison websites such as Google Shopping and Bizrate. Canadian sites include RedFlagDeals.com, PriceGrabber.ca and CanBuy.ca.

–  Before ordering, go to Google or MSN Search and enter the merchant’s web site with the word “coupon” or “promotional code.” You may be able to get a discount on your purchase or shipping costs or both.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Sean Locke

Do you plan to shop online this holiday season? Post comments below.