I've ordered more than a few things online.
Though I make it a point to support local small businesses when possible, the lure of internet shopping is sometimes too much to resist...
There are plenty of reasons why online shopping is popular, like:
- better prices,
- being able to check product reviews,
- and the 24/7 availability of the sites and products.
If you still have safety concerns about online shopping – don’t worry. I shop online so much I'm basically a pro now. I can help reassure you and even offer suggestions for the best places to buy certain products online.
We'll look at how buying online can help you save on:
Is it safe?
For those who are still nervous about the potential hazards of shopping online, I’d like to help you relax a little.
Even though it can be scary to enter your personal information and have it swallowed up by the black hole that is the internet, online shopping can be a genuinely enjoyable and safe activity.
As long as you’re vigilant and take precautions when necessary, online shopping can be a breeze.
Use familiar websites
Amazon.ca is obviously a well-known, well-trusted site. And it’s safe to say that most of your favourite brick-and-mortar stores (Walmart, Staples, Chapters/Indigo) will have reliable sites too.
A word of warning, though – don’t mess with misspellings.
Make sure the URL isn't a one-off spelling like "walmrt.ca" or “bestbuys.ca” and that it ends in .com or .ca instead of something random like .net.
Never use a site without SSL (secure socket layer)
If the URL starts with "https" instead of just “http,” then it uses SSL. Most browsers will also have a small padlock symbol in the address bar, like so:
This type of security ensures that your credit card numbers and personal information will be transmitted securely.
Think smart here and don't be too trustful.
There’s no need to give your SIN, your birthday, or your mother’s maiden name to a shopping page. That information is simply not necessary for processing an order.
So if you’re on a page that asks for it, don’t buy from them.
Regularly run and update your antivirus
This is pretty self explanatory.
If you run and update your antivirus frequently, there’s little chance for any nasty bugs or malware to do any damage to your computer. Easy peasy.
Create strong passwords
Yes, you really do need to use one number, one capital letter, one symbol, an eye of newt, and the blood of a flawless unicorn to create your password.
The more unique (and difficult) your password is, the less likely your accounts are to be hacked, and this means that your personal information is safe.
Just use a password manager, like the one that comes with Google Chrome, to keep things easier on your head.
Avoid shopping on hotspots
You probably shouldn’t do any online shopping while using free public wifi or hotspots. Yes, even at trusted locations like Starbucks. It’s just too easy to log in to an unsecured public wifi and get hacked.
Make sure you know what you're getting
Another aspect of safe online shopping involves checking the actual items you’re purchasing. Check the size charts to make sure you’re buying the correct size you need, check reviews to ensure you’re choosing the best quality product, and choose trustworthy brands with reliable return policies.
All of these tips can help to make your online shopping experience safer, easier, and much more fun.
Buy cheap books online
One of my favourite things to buy is a new book – well, at least one that's new to me. I particularly love perusing cute used bookstores to find the perfect book at the perfect price.
Well, it turns out you can do this online too.
|Site||Why you'll like it|
|Book Outlet||15% student discount|
|Better World Books||Free shipping, charity focused|
|Abe Books||Great for rare and out-of-print books|
|Thrift Books||Great for used books|
Although Book Outlet isn’t a used book site, they do have great prices on popular books. They even offer a 15% student discount.
Shipping is free on orders over $45 and a flat $5 for anything less.
Better World Books
Looking for textbooks? Better World Books has all genres of books, including textbooks, and offers free international shipping. Plus they have both used and new options, in case you have a preference.
They also give a free book to an individual or non-profit charity every time a book is purchased from their site.
Buy used books online
If you prefer used books, these sites will work great for you too.
My father-in-law recently told me Abe Books is his favourite site for "rare, used, and out of print books," as the website says. I did a quick search and found one of my favourite self-help books for less than $4!
The shipping rates are also very reasonable.
Thrift Books is another great site for used books. I found 10 listings for The Happiness Project that were under $5.
Related: Money lessons From 7 Books
Cheap glasses online for Canada
Have you noticed how expensive glasses are? Sheesh...
As much as I like to support independent local businesses, when eyewear offered online is this much cheaper, I’ll go with it. Easy choice.
|Site||Why you'll love it|
|Clearly.ca||Great sales and free shipping|
|Zenni Optical||Ability to shop by face shape|
|I Look Glasses||Canadian|
You might think that Clearly only sells contact lenses, but you’d be wrong. They have tons of stylish frame choices for as low as $50.
They also often have amazing sales on top of their low prices, and their return policy is fantastic.
I hadn’t heard of Zenni Optical until now, but when I checked it out I saw women’s frames for only $6.95...That's pretty amazing.
They also have information on how to choose the right style frames for your face shape, and offer videos about measuring pupillary distance and how to choose a tint for your lenses. Very helpful.
I Look Glasses
I Look Glasses is a Canadian company that offers great prices for their products and free shipping for orders over $60.
You can even upload a photo of yourself and "try on" different frames to see which suit you best.
Buy clothes online
Shopping for clothes online is so much fun. No need to spend hours in a dressing room or worry about who's going to see you going into which shops. Just make sure you know your measurements to cut down on your returns.
Your favourite outfit of all time is just a click away.
|Store||Why you'll love it|
|Zara||Very fashionable selection|
|Old Navy||Great prices|
|Thredup||Huge thrift and consignment store|
Zara is one of Canada’s most fashionable clothing stores with the most reasonable prices. Whether you’re looking for classy or trendy, Zara has what you want and they’ll ship it to you for only $4.95, or for free if you spend $50 or more.
Whether you prefer Old Navy, Gap, or Banana Republic (all the same company), you’re guaranteed cool finds and great prices.
I’ve ordered from Old Navy many times without disappointment. I’ve also returned items purchased from the Old Navy website and it’s quite easy.
Buy second-hand clothes online
If you're a big fan of the thrift store, but not so big a fan of going outside, there's a growing number of online thrift stores available for Canada.
Recently made available for Canadians, Thredup claims to be the largest online consignment and thrift store.
They let you shop through second-hand clothing bins in a more categorized fashion and from the comfort of your own home.
GoodTwice offers a similar service to Thredup, but with $0.99 shipping to boot. Not bad at all.
Save on food online
I admit that I’ve never ordered groceries online, but I'm intrigued by the idea. All of the grocery stores in my area now offer online ordering, and I plan to try it soon.
But ordering online and picking up in store is a different ballgame than the services listed below.
|Site||Why you'll like it|
|Hello Fresh||Sends you weekly ingredients and recipes|
Amazon’s grocery selection is pretty impressive. Naturally, you can’t order fresh veggies, meat, or frozen or refrigerated items, but pantry goods are plentiful.
I checked my local Superstore flyer and the price of Campbell’s canned chicken and vegetable soup is the same as Amazon’s: $1.99.
Well.ca offers a lot of organic and alternative food options, including alternative cooking flours, organic spices, and raw honey.
Well.ca sells Kettle brand potato chips for sale at $3.59, but they’re also on sale this week at my local No Frills for $2.47. This shows that while Well.ca (and all online retailers) may have a lot of options, price checking is important.
Hello Fresh send you amazingly fresh food for delicious recipes every week. If you subscribe to their email list you can get $20 off your first food subscription box.
Also, it’s worth checking coupon sites like Groupon for a deal on the price.
Save on printer ink
I hate buying ink in store...It’s always so expensive, and the last thing I want to do is drag myself into an electronics store and search through rows of ink cartridges.
Luckily, the internet has saved me once more.
|Site||Why you'll like it|
|Inkjet Superstore||Great selection|
|Amazon||Reliable, one-stop shopping|
123Ink is my favourite site for ordering ink. They carry ink for just about every brand of printer you can think of, plus the cost of what I need is at least $20 cheaper here than at Best Buy.
InkJet isn't quite as cheap as 123ink, but it's still good.
The price of my Canon ink is the same here as it is at Walmart, but at least I don't need to wonder where I parked my car.
Yes, Amazon is even reliable for ink cartridge purchases.
The last time I ordered ink here it was roughly $10 cheaper than what I saw at Staples.
Let me tell you…shopping online is where it’s at. The end. Its convenience is often enough to make it worth your money, no matter what items you’re purchasing.
Don’t let the possible dangers of online shopping deter you. If you’re smart and careful, internet shopping can be just as safe as in store.
The internet also makes it easy to compare products and reviews, so doing your homework before making a big purchase takes much less of your time than if you had to go from store to store to check their inventory.
There are many Canadian businesses with websites you can buy from, so you’re still able to support our economy when you shop via the internet instead of in-store.
How about you? Have you found any great deals online?
What are your favourite products to buy online?
Do you prefer brick and mortar shops instead? Share your experiences with us!