For years, I’ve done 98% of my shopping online. I usually pop into the store only to check the sale rack or kill time. And why not shop online? They (almost) always have my size. They sometimes have exclusive items and colors. Plus, I can use coupon codes, hunt for the best price, and earn cash back via Ebates.
But online shopping has a downside. The ease of it can lead to hasty purchases, overspending, and keeping items that you would likely have left in the store because returns are a hassle. So after the jump are the eight tips that make online shopping more responsible, more successful, and even more enjoyable.
Tip #1: Start Window Shopping Online. When you shop in person, the act of buying the item is much more real. Shopping online mutes the impact of paying your hard-earned money for a piece of clothing. And this dampening effect can lead to hasty purchases and poor financial decisions.
To combat the problem, I created a bookmarks folder called “Window Shopping.” If I see something I like, I save the link in the folder. Then, I come back later to look through what I’ve saved. On second look, most of those must-haves seem less attractive. I delete the pieces I no longer want, and hold on to the pieces that still capture my fancy.
Tip #2: Schedule Online Shopping Trips. The weekend is the best time to shop at most online retailers. The discounts and sales are usually better, and you have more time to spend hunting for the best deals. So instead of buying items when I see them, I search through my Window Shopping folder on Saturdays to see if there’s anything I really want to buy. Scheduling time to make purchases has drastically curtailed my purchases.
Tip #3: Make an Online Shopping Budget. It is so easy just to add things to your virtual shopping cart and keep adding them until your cart and your credit card balance runneth over. You can either set the budget beforehand, whittling down your shopping cart until you reach your limit. Or you can reverse the process and order bunches, only to return anything that exceeds your budget. But since it’s tough to return a now-loved item once it’s in your home, the first option works best for most people.
Tip #4: Don’t Save Your Credit Card Info Online. Deleting your saved credit card info from your Apple Keychain or retailer accounts can help you make more thoughtful decisions and save money. I cannot tell you how many times the mere act of having to type in my credit card number has made me think twice about a purchase.
Tip #5: Maximize Your Online Savings. Before I buy something from a department store, I use Shopstyle to see if my size is available for less at another store. To maximize coupon codes, I use Honey, which automatically applies available codes to my order. And I always use Ebates to earn cash back on the vast majority of purchases. Online shopping offers such great money-saving tools, you would be a fool not to utilize them.
Tip #6: Sleuth Out Your Sizes. Visiting the store is still the best way to learn what size you take in a particular brand. But what if that’s not an option?
Some retailers (like Shopbop) are kind enough to tell you what size the model is wearing and what her measurements are. Compare this info to the size chart. If the model with 34/26/35 measurement takes an extra-small, but the size guide says those are the measurements for a small, that’s a good indicator this item runs big.
If you don’t want to use the generic size guide, a Google search for something like “Rebecca Taylor size chart” can provide something more specific. When in doubt, read the customer reviews for helpful tips.
Tip #7: Recreate the Dressing Room Experience. I schedule all of my purchases to arrive around the same time. Then, I corral them on a shelf outside my bedroom. Once they’ve all arrived, I send my boyfriend out of the house and try on everything at the same time.
I discard anything I don’t want into a return pile. A maybe pile holds onto things I need to think more about. And a yes pile holds the pieces I really want to keep. But I’m not done yet.
Once everything is separated, I take a second pass through the piles. What will I wear this top with? Do I really like the feel of this fabric? I think about every potential purchase just like I would in the dressing room. This critical approach helps me feel confident about what I’m keeping and make use of the best of what I already own.
Tip #8: Know the Return Policies. Once upon a time, nearly every store had a 30, 60, or 90 day return policy. Now, Shopbop gives you 15 days for free shipping, and after 30 they only give you credit. Nordstrom will still take anything back. And smaller retailers might only give you 10-14 days after your order (not arrival), so try things on when you receive them and check the return policy. Otherwise, you might get stuck paying for something you didn’t want.
Do you have any tips to improve the online shopping experience or save more money? Leave them in the comments.
*original image found here, graphics added.
With your Tip #1, I created a private Pinterest board to pin all the items I spot and like. I like having the visual and being able to compare items and decide where I’d rather spend my money. Every so often, I’ll go through the board and delete anything that doesn’t make the cut, and items that have been there the longest eventually get purchased. This saves me (usually) from impulse buys and I recommend it to everyone who’ll listen!
Oh, I do this too! I call it my Impulse Buy Reduction List, and it has worked pretty darn well! I used it to corral a bunch of options (“a new flannel plaid shirt”) and then pare it down once I made an “informed” decision.
This is a great idea!
Love all the tips! I’ve started using Shoptagr, where I can save items I’m interested in and get alerts when they go on sale. It’s helped me resist impulse buying with the same trick as your window shopping suggestion. It’s not compatible with all shopping sites, but most of my go-to stores like Nordstrom and JCrew have it. I also use Unrollme for emails from retailers so the sale emails don’t even hit my inbox to tempt me unless I go looking for them. Before that, I was on JCrew’s site every.single.morning.
Would be interested to see how you apply this to beauty products. I prefer shopping online as well, but it’s harder with expensive beauty products that I don’t know if I’ll actually like long term.
I would recommend testing in store and buying online. It’s hard to beat a knowledgeable salesperson (ie brand specialist) to give the best recommendations, but it is hard to wade in the sea of options online without direction. Also keep your eye out for when stores have different gifts with purchase — something you want to try might be in the gift, so use that time to get your normal products AND try something new.
Lindsay Jill says:
As someone who travels a lot and loves to accumulate miles for special trips, I check to see what promotions United’s shopping portal is offering. Often times, I can earn additional miles by accessing my favorite retailers through the shopping portal. I earned 15 miles/$ last week at Sephora.
The thing that’s made the biggest difference for me, budget wise, in both online and IRL shopping is eliminating the maybe pile. If it’s not a solid yes then it’s a no.
That’s how I shop for everything (shoes, home decor, etc.) now. If it doesn’t immediately pull me and inspire me then I don’t need it.
For years, I’ve used my Amazon Wish List the way you use your bookmarks folder. It’s an easy way to save the things I’m interested in (often from this blog, ha) without making a hasty purchase, and go back for the things I can’t stop thinking about. And – bonus – you can easily share that list with family members who would otherwise have no idea what to get you for Christmas.
I also do almost all of my shopping online, but before I start, I consultmy running “next” list, which is composed of staples I need to add/replace, as well as select non-staple fun items I’m excited about. Then, when window shopping, things only make the cut if they fill an existing “next” item, or if they are a reasonable substitute (e.g. a gray pencil skirt instead of a black one, or a light trench instead of an anorak).
Sometimes window shopping informs my “next” list, but more often than not the list forces me to compare things I really want/need with things that I just want in the moment. I’ve drastically cut down on cheap impulse buys that don’t get mileage in my closet, and now have a more cohesive, higher quality wardrobe that I’m consistently happy with.
+1 on not saving your credit card info – it has saved me from not just regrettable clothing purchases, but also poor drunken food delivery choices. It’s better for data privacy and protecting against identify theft, too.
Also, an editorial note: the title and text of this post say “Eight Tips” but there are only seven listed here – might want to fix that.
Highly recommend Shoptagr which allows you to save things you’re eying and then be alerted via email when they get marked down!
Shoptagr has been a really helpful tool for me lately. Save the link to the item you want to buy on the shoptagr website and they will notify you when there is a price drop, or your size becomes available again (if the item is sold out). Here is a helpful signup link! https://shopt.me/ksPGM
What happened to tip #8?
Oh my gosh, don’t scare me like that! It loaded an old draft, phew. Fixed now.