7 Rules for Smart Buying Online

Ahhh, the enjoyable experience of spreading out on the couch and browsing through pages of items you might purchase. Online shopping is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to shop, and often it even proves to be the cheapest too. But do you know how to shop like a master? As with any skill, there are rules and techniques you can learn to hone your online shopping virtuoso. What are they? We’re glad you asked.

Of course, security is a major online purchasing prerequisite (and we’ll cover that one in a minute), but there are plenty of other ways to be a smart shopper over the web. Want to shop smart, pay less, and get the best the internet has to offer? Then grab a glass of Tropicana, and learn from the pros.

Smart Online Buying Tip #1: Ensure you’re shopping securely

Obviously, this is a big one with all of the online security threats that keep popping up all the time. Before you make a single purchase or put in any of your credit card details, make sure you are shopping securely. This includes several steps:
  • Check that the website you’re visiting begins with https and not just http.
  • Make sure your connection is secure. If you don’t have a secure router, a VPN is a good idea and avoid public WiFi networks.
  • Update any antivirus software you have on your computer or mobile device (and get one if you don’t have one already).
  • Browse incognito whenever possible to avoid annoying marketers from tracking your shopping experience.
  • Only share the personal information necessary for the purchase.
  • Never enter your personal information into a form that is not secure.
  • Never, ever click on a link unless you know where it's going to take you.
  • Keep tabs on your credit by checking your credit report (for free) periodically. It’s recommended by the experts to check it at least once a year.
  • Choose credit over debit when making online payments. This way if a hacker does hijack your transaction, your bank account won’t get drained.

Smart Online Buying Tip #2: Take your measurements

One of the most frustrating aspects of shopping online is getting the wrong size or fit for your body. Since you can't try things on over the web, it's usually a hit or miss, especially since every brand's sizing runs a little differently than the next. An easy way to ensure that you really get what you want from online shopping is to go in with the right measurements on hand. This only takes a minute and saves you from a whole heap of frustration, not to mention wasted money on purchases that don't fit, and you won't get around to returning.

Take a soft measuring tape and proceed to measure your hips, waist, and chest. Then, use these digits to find the right size when shopping online. Most online retail stores will have a sizing chart of some sort, and many will have the exact measurements of the clothing item as well.

Smart Online Buying Tip #3: Read reviews

Gone are the days when we had to take the word of a brand that their products were good/durable/what they claimed to be. Today, consumers have the power to really research a product before they buy, and savvy shoppers always turn to online reviews. Whether they’re scouting out photo printing services, antivirus for their computers, or the right diet program for them, consumers are armed with the power to learn the truth about products and services they’re interested in. There are even services like this site that test brands out and give you honest reviews, so you can really get an idea of what a product or brand is all about.

A word of caution, though. Not all online reviews are legit. There are plenty of shoddy companies that write their own reviews and try to pawn them off as real users’ testimonies. You can generally sniff these out due to poor grammar/spelling, duplicate content, or nonsensical reviews, but just be aware that these exist. Also, know that you can’t please all the people all the time, so there will always be negative reviews even for the best products. Read through several reviews and take the majority opinion as true.

Smart Online Buying Tip #4: Read the fine print

Undecided about that Eddie Bauer sweater you’re looking at online? You’re really in between sizes, so you’re not sure it’ll fit. You buy it anyway and figure you’ll just return it if it doesn’t work out. The problem is the online shop you purchased that sweater from has a strict return policy of only accepting returns for 48 hours after the order is received and only on the third Monday of every other month. These and similar restrictions are usually sneakily hidden in the fine print, so make sure you read through the return, exchange, and shipping policies thoroughly before you enter your digits.

Smart Online Buying Tip #5: Pay attention to delivery schedules, fees, and rules

This is particularly true if you are buying something with a specific use date in mind. For example, if you’re buying an excellent set of speakers for a birthday bash you’re throwing for your college roommate, make sure the package will arrive with enough time to get things set up before the party.

Another common online shipping faux pas is paying too much. Often, we'll see a deal online that looks amazing, so we quickly add to cart and press pay before we realize what we've done. Meanwhile, the shipping costs end up totaling far more than the item was originally priced for, more than canceling out any savings the discounted price might have offered. Some sites have free shipping, while others will make you pay per item, total amount, or distance. Check the shipping terms to see if they ship to your area, how long it will take, and how much it’ll cost you.

Smart Online Buying Tip#6: Comparison shop, baby

One of the most beautiful things about shopping online is the abundance of options available to you. There is a seemingly endless array of shoes, clothes, gadgets, services, and more paraded across the screen, and they’re all available to you at the tap of a finger. Now, this might sound overwhelming to you, but we say, don’t get swarmed, get smart! If you have ten sites that are selling the same item, use this to your advantage by comparison shopping across the web. Look to see which store has the cheapest prices, the biggest deals, and the best benefits. This way you gain the most with every purchase. The power of comparison shopping is unbelievable, so unleash this secret weapon.

Smart Online Buying Tip #7: Learn coupon clipping for the 21st century

Clipping coupons used to be a way for penny-pinchers to save a few cents, but not anymore. Today, coupons have gone viral, and there's been an explosion of these money-saving scraps floating everywhere around the web. In fact, there are full sites (and niches) dedicated solely to finding you the best deals, discounts, and yes, coupons to be used in-store and online. You can even Google an item plus the word coupon to get instant savings from online stores across the web.

Don’t believe it? According to statistics, roughly $3.6 billion are saved each year using coupons! Frugal purchasing is the new cool way to buy as saving money becomes more in and wasting quickly fades out of style. So, don’t be ashamed to whip out a snazzy coupon you snatched from Coupons.com, RetailMeNot, or SlickDeals (to name a few).

Smart Online Buying in the Bag

It doesn’t take a diploma, bags of cash, or tons of research to be a savvy online shopper. It just takes some know-how. And now that you know how, you can put these online buying tips to work for you so that you can get the most bang for your buck everytime you shop on the web.
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