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9 Tips for Shopping Online

{ Posted on Nov 30 2010 by Marcus Alston }

Internet shopping is becoming more and more popular these days.  Retailers are promoting it more than ever as they realize larger profit margins compared to their brick and mortar stores.  Fortunately, they are passing some of this savings on to consumers.  Below are some tips on how to shop online without overspending or getting ripped off.

1.  Stay within Budget.  Before shopping online make sure you have a budget and stick to it.  Following your budget will help you save money and keep from overspending and getting into debt.

2.  Make a List.  Even after you set a budget, further refine your shopping by creating a list of things you need and things you want.  Estimate the costs for these items and rank them in order of priority.  Check to see if they fit within your budget.  If not, narrow the list by crossing off wants first beginning with the lowest rank.

3.  Use 1 credit card and do not use a debit card.  When shopping online, a credit card is one of the most convenient ways to shop.  Shopping online means you are providing your personal information, including your credit card information.  Make sure the website you give your information to encrypts your information and has a privacy policy that promises to treat your information as confidential and protect it. Also, make sure you have antivirus software as some sites contain viruses.

If your credit card number is stolen and used, consumer laws protect you from unauthorized use of your card which means you will reimbursed promptly.  Notify  the credit card company as soon as possible as there are time restrictions on the protections.  Therefore, you should check your credit card bill every month to make sure the purchases on the card are yours.  Using 1 credit makes tracking purchases and expenses easier.  Don’t use your debit card because if your card gets stolen your account is out of the money and you may not have the same consumer protections as a credit card.  Using your credit card is not an excuse to spend more, go over budget, or get into debtMake sure you manage your credit card debt wisely and pay off the amount in full every month.

4.  Keep you receipts.  Even though you are buying online, print out your online receipt or proof of purchase in case you want to return the item.  Note:  If there is a brick and mortar location for your store, consider returning the item to the store if this is allowed so you save on shipping and handling.  Check to see if returns by mail include free shipping?

5.  Check out reviews.  Before you buy the product, read some reviews to see if the product is a good one.  You can learn a lot from comments from other consumers.  Also, learn about dealing with the store itself to understand the quality of customer service and overall satisfaction.

6.  Investigate the store or deal with reputable companies.  Again, you are providing personal information about where you live.  How secure is your transaction?  How trust worthy is the company you are providing information to?  This is especially true with large purchases and or when dealing with obscure or new stores with little or no track record.  Do you want to buy a 50-inch flat screen television from just anyone, even if the price is great?  Also, if the price is too good to be true and it’s from a no-name store, it may be a scam.  To check out the seller, use the Better Business Bureau (for tips on shopping online from BBB click here), Google, references from friends, and reviews.  What do you know about the seller?

7.  Comparison Shop.  I found a garage door opener online for $24.45 at Wal-Mart while Sears was charging over $35 dollars.  More about this in a future post.  Also, make sure you know what you are buying/getting and when comparing, make sure you are comparing apples to apples or make a price adjustment if you are comparing different brands, models, features, etc.

8.  Look for Discounts and Deals.  A survey showed that 9 out of 10 online stores were providing some sort of discount on Cyber Monday.  More discounts are expected throughout the holiday season.  Look for them (and look hard) before you buy.  I suggest going to at least 3 store sites before determining which store to buy from.

9.  Look for hidden costs.  Is shipping included or extra?   What are the delivery costs and timing?  What does the product come with?  How long will it take to ship?  Is tax included or extra?

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