Getting Started

08/08/2014 08:23

It seems as if everybody else is doing it - shopping online, that is. There's the co-worker who bought all their Christmas gifts online without ever setting foot in the crowded local mall. Or the friend who won a bundle of like-new, brand-name baby clothes on eBay. Or your son's college roommate, who paid hundreds of dollars less than your son did for his college textbooks, simply because he ordered them online rather than from the University bookstore.

If you've been meaning to learn to shop online - whether at an online retailer like Amazon or an auction site such as eBay - it's time to quit procrastinating, conquer your fear and dive into the waters of cyberspace. You're not only missing out on good deals, convenience, and worldwide product selection, you're actually losing money.

1) Good deals:

With the growing popularity of price-comparison websites, it's easier than ever to find a low price on a product you want. Type "iPod Nano 8GB MP3 player" into one of these specialized search engines, and got 33 results with prices ranging from $229.99 to $292.75 - that's a $62.76 price difference. The search engine also listed available rebates and factored in shipping costs.

2) Convenience:

Not much explanation needed here - you can shop from home at 3 in the morning while wearing your pajamas. You can shop from work during your lunch break. You can shop from the hotel room when you're stuck overnight in the middle of nowhere. And you don't have to fight crowds, prowl the parking for an empty space or drag screaming kids around.

3) Product Selection:

When you shop online, you're not limited to the stores within driving distance or even the stores you're familiar with. You can shop just as easily from a home-based artisan as from an exclusive upscale department store like Saks Fifth Avenue.But you already know about deals, and convenience, and selection. So why haven't you started shopping? Here are two additional factors that may encourage you to start.

4) Shopping Online is Safer than Shopping Offline

A survey from Paypal UK published in November 2006 found that you're much more likely to be a victim of physical theft in your home town than to suffer fraud in the digital world.More than a third of respondents (35%) had been victims of property theft, but only 15% of UK adults surveyed had been victims of online fraud. Similarly, around 71% of Brits know someone who has had their wallet or purse stolen but only 29% know a victim of online fraud.And despite rumors to the contrary, paying with a credit card at a reputable website is virtually risk-free if you follow commonsense safety precautions. Online merchants know the importance of secure payment systems, and US shoppers are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.

(You can dispute charges under this law, and even if your credit card is used fraudulently, you generally would be held liable only for the first $50 in charges.) Other payment processors such as Paypal offer their own fraud protection.It's at least as safe to buy online as it is to hand your credit
card to the waiter at the restaurant, who whisks it out of your sight for several minutes!

5) NOT Shopping Online Can Cost You Money:

Besides the savings to be gained by comparing prices, savvy online shoppers have discovered ways to actually get paid to shop. There's an entire industry devoted to educating online shoppers how to get cash back for purchases, how to earn money or points for shopping and how to get offers for free and sometimes very valuable products online. Most of these cash-earning, money-making shopping strategies are cumulative - small rebates or points earned add up over time to hefty bonus checks or free gift cards. (I have a $50 gift card in my purse from Pier One Imports that I got absolutely free, and I'll send for another $100 gift card as soon as I decide whether to get it from Target or Home Depot.) There's no better time than today to educate yourself about shopping online - when you're not in a hurry, can start small, and don't need to buy ten gazillion presents by next Sunday. If everybody else can do it, so can you!