by Kevin Sun
Out of both convenience and necessity, online shopping – which may or may not save money – exploded over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In their 2020 Internet Use Survey, Statistics Canada reports that 9% more Canadians bought products digitally in 2020 compared to 2018 (82% vs. 73%). 9% more virtual shoppers might not sound like much, but that’s also followed by a 47% increase in total spending ($84.4 billion vs. $57.4 billion). So not only are more Canadians making purchases through sites and apps, but they’re spending a lot more as well.
Count yourself among the online shopping crowd? Clicking cart icons instead of wheeling real ones around has its perks. The internet also gives us more ways to hunt down deals in our eternal search for maximum discounts. You can definitely save money while online shopping, even if those savings just come from not driving to the store. However, scrolling for items on your favourite digital marketplace carries its own risks as well. Here are 3 tips to help you really save money when shopping online:
Tip 1: Prioritize the Safety & Security of Your Personal Info
Chances are you’ve already read more than enough essays on how to keep your online shopping accounts and credit cards safe. But when it comes to the security of your personal info, scams and fraud are not the only thing to worry about. Unlike going to a physical store, where the shelves are laid out generally for all customers coming in, shopping online allows companies to tailor the experience to each individual. That can mean unique recommendations, offers, and orders for the products you see. Unfortunately, it can also mean price changes. Airlines are especially notorious for using dynamic pricing, which can see you getting charged more for the product based on factors like your browsing history and the devices you use. This can happen to food, clothes, electronics, plane tickets, and anything else you might want to buy.
To help save money and not get overcharged, stay as anonymous as possible while shopping online. Ways to do this include not allowing sites to access your location, refusing any offers to personalize ads, regularly clearing browser cookies, and shopping in incognito mode. Of course, when you’re buying through your account with your credit card on file, it’s impossible to keep your personal info completely off the grid. What you can do is check if you’re being targeted by dynamic pricing. Here’s a bit of a hack: use a VPN that masks your IP address, or ask someone who doesn’t live with you to check their prices and compare that to what you see. This might not be practical for common purchases like groceries, but could save you a lot of money for bigger ticket items.
Tip 2: Limit Your Online Shopping Time to What You’d Spend Doing In-Person Shopping
Shopping online from the comfort of home can be an addicting activity. When you can browse the latest deals by just turning on your phone, it’s tempting to keep looking more than you should. However, the more people think about shopping, the more likely it is they’ll spend money. It also becomes easier to get frustrated when they don’t find the offer they want; rather than feel like they wasted all that time searching, they might settle for worse deals. Even if they do find great discounts and save some cash, that comes at the always expensive cost of time.
Help out your wallet and sanity by limiting your online shopping time to the time you’d spend otherwise shopping in person. This will help this activity be a money-saving replacement rather than a cash-draining obsession; it’s even better if you can stick to only shopping online on a certain day or two of the week or month. Also remember that even top online shopping tips and tricks will backfire if you exhaust yourself trying to use all of them. Pick and choose what works best for you and focus on being consistent with good savings habits.
Tip 3: Save Money by Letting Your Budget Guide Your Electronic Shopping Cart
When we’re constantly being bombarded by online shopping ads, “unique” discount offers, time-limited sales, and other marketing tactics that hit a high for Black Friday, it’s easy to get distracted from our spending plans. Keep yours on track by using a budget to guide your spending. Whether you shop monthly, weekly, or even daily, all you really have to do is keep your spending within the limits you yourself decided in your budget. This ensures that you have enough money to cover all of your important living expenses. It also saves you money because you won’t have to go into debt to cover any shortfalls.
Budgeting Help for Online Shopping to Save Money & Avoid Debt
If you want help with making or improving your budget so that you can shop online stress-free, contact a non-profit credit counselling agency that serves your area. Non-profit credit counsellors are personal finance experts who can review your budget and offer suggestions for free. Browse the web at ease knowing that you have a strong budget keeping you out of debt and protecting your financial wellbeing.