Most parents are pressed for time, money or both. Shopping is a big time-eater, especially if you need to arrange for a sitter. Online shopping almost eliminates the need for shopping trips. You can find deals that are as good as or better than those in stores, especially when you shop sales and look for coupon codes.
Is online shopping worth it?
If you live in a congested area, the time saved in traffic can make shopping online worthwhile. It’s a good idea to make a list of what you normally buy at a brick-and-mortar store and see what is available online. it only takes a few spare minutes. You will likely find that just about anything sold in a store is available on its website, Amazon, or another e-retailer.
Tip: Factor in any taxes and shipping costs, and know the threshold for free shipping.
Mail-order pharmacies have grown in recent years. We’re not talking about foreign sites and plain brown wrapper items. Drugstore.com, CVS, Walgreen’s and other major sites can mail you three-month supplies to save time and money. You can also order everything from diapers to medications.
Tip: Use an online pharmacy that is accredited by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program. Always check with your insurance company for in-network recommendations that can save you extra money.
Many areas are served by companies that will shop and deliver fresh foods and household items for you. Some even call you from the store to ask you if you want a substitution. Subscription boxes deliver ingredients for a week’s worth of dinners according to dietary needs and budget.
Tip: Save money by buying in bulk or on sale, then set aside a few hours to preparing a week’s worth of meals. Freeze them in storage containers or gallon-sized bags and then heat up in the slow cooker or microwave. Search “freezer meals” online for ideas.
Most of your favorite clothing stores, from high-end to bargain-basement, have websites. Often you can find the items you want without scouring racks at the stores. The downside is that something might not fit and you will have to return it. Stick to basics, or do an initial shop in stores and reorder similar styles on its website.
Tip: Find a big box store that stocks a variety of items, or shop through an online coupon site to get automatic discounts at multiple stores.
Shipping charges are the biggest deterrent to online shopping. With careful comparison, you can often waive these charges by placing a minimum order, or ordering through a savings site with a free shipping promotion. Some chain stores offer free shipping to their brick-and-mortar sites. You can pick up multiple purchases in one trip and be done.
Tip: Check availability policies, as some merchants will only allow you to pick up in-stock merchandise.
One new feature of online shopping is auto-shipping. Get toilet paper and roll towel on a set schedule, so you won’t have to make last-minute runs to the store. Get your vitamins and supplements delivered like clockwork. Services like plated.com send a week’s worth of dinner ingredients. While this costs more than bargain shopping in your usual supermarket, it might be a good deal if you add up the time you spend commuting and shuttling children to activities.
Safe Online Shopping Tips
Anytime you send personal information into the ether, you take a risk. However, you are also vulnerable inside the four walls of a store. If you choose to shop online, keep these safety tips in mind.
• Use hard-to-guess passwords and change them regularly. Use a password app manager to remember them.
• Order from merchants you already know and trust.
• Make sure the order page uses the secure prefix “https” and features a small icon of a padlock on the order page. Click on the icon; don’t assume it’s real.
• Be wary of unsolicited offers. Verify a site is real and not a lookalike by doing a search yourself.
• Make sure the merchant has a physical address, and shipping and return information.
• Check for customer complaints: a high level of unresolved problems should be a red flag.
• Read your credit card issuer’s fraud-protection guarantees.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an item that isn’t sold online these days. Internet shopping, done with care, can be a great time-saver and keep your budget in check, too.