About three years ago, I became addicted to the benefits of online shopping—there aren't any lines or store hours, it's easy to see what's in stock and you can "carry" 30 things at once without your arms hurting. I've put my years of experience to use in this exhaustive outline of the do's and don'ts of online shopping, illustrated with numerous Parks and Rec gifs (sometimes at the expense of applicability). Read at your own risk!
1. Trusting your site. As often as humanly possible, you should limit yourself to buying only from online vendors that represent physical storefronts. This both guarantees their reliability and makes returns easier. However, if you do buy from a company that does all of its business online, you should first check for positive reviews from customers in order to avoid problems and scams. PcMag recommends that you "Look for the Lock," a small padlock icon appearing in the address bar of your site's shopping cart which signifies SSL encryption for safe transactions. Safe sites will also have "https://" as opposed to just "http://" in their URL addresses. Follow these guidelines and your shopping is secured!
2. Using a credit card. For online purchases, stick to using a credit card. Debit cards offer direct lines to the money in your bank account, while the credit system better protects your finances in the case that your card information is stolen. Many credit cards also have a spending limit, which can help curb financial damages from theft. Lastly, it is easier to deal with returns in the form of credit since you don't suffer any real monetary losses while your return is pending.
3. Card numbers and convenience. Although many sites have the option of saving your credit card information for faster checkout, it is not advisable. It's just so convenient!
1. My favorite sales. My favorite sales of the year are Lilly Pulitzer's After Party Sales (twice a year) and Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale, both of which have pretty things at even prettier prices. Check them out and...
2. Looking for promo codes. It's always worth doing a quick Google search for promo codes before check out, just in case. RetailMeNot is a good place to go, but if you don't get lucky there you can search for the store's name in your inbox to check for discount codes in emails that likely got filed into your bottomless "Promotions" folder. Some stores offer discounts via email at a certain time of the month, so do your research and you may be able to save regularly!
3. Free stuff. Buying from Sephora online is always fun because you can choose free samples that you don't really want or need. Then when you open your box, it's like you're getting a bunch of extra tiny presents and not just packing paper.
4. Pro tip. A fourth and final approach to getting a good deal is to wait patiently for the items you want to go on sale. By adding articles to the "Saved for Later" tab in the site's shopping cart (Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters have this feature, among other vendors), you can keep them on your radar rather than settling to pay full retail price. Although it's a good way to slow down your spending and hold out for better prices, constantly checking back can be anxiety-inducing for fear of your size and/or color selling out before they cut the price.
1. Take a close look. Try to get as much information as you can about a piece of clothing by looking at its fit on the model. Also, take note of measurements and sizing tips offered by the retailor to help you make your decision and hopefully save you from dealing with a return.
2. Always read reviews. Product reviews have some of the best information about fabric quality, sizing, fit and any potential problems with the design. Do your best sleuthing there to get all the details down.
3. Playing it safe. If you're stuck between two sizes, you can always order both and return whichever doesn't fit. It's instant gratification and keeps you from yelling at your computer.
1. Free shipping. Free shipping is the greatest thing ever and Nordstrom offers free shipping on all orders, all the time. This is approximately how I feel about that:
2. Getting free shipping. I will always find a way around paying for shipping if I'm buying from somewhere other than Nordstrom, which happens only sometimes. Most other retailors have a minimum dollar amount that you have to reach in order to receive free shipping. However, if you buy more than you actually want/ need to reach the minimum amount, you can ditch the freight costs and just return the extra items later.
1. In-store. Most of my binge shopping occurs when I know that I can return the items in-store. It's way easier than having to repackage your order for shipping, plus you get your money back faster, which means more shopping!
2. Mailing your returns. For web-only vendors, you'll have to return your items by mail. Look for stores that offer free return shipping, like Lulu's, from which you can request a shipping label free of charge. Then just drop the package off at a UPS store or post office and you're good to go!
Your Resident Online Shopaholic