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.