Adventures in Home Shopping: Five Tips for Online Shopping Success

Shopping from home—these days, most everyone has at least dabbled. But the fact is, there are some basic rules you should follow to maximize your shopping-from-home experience. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Know what you want. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a department store, so shopping online with an endless supply of stores to visit? Same problem, times 100. Make a list of what you’re looking for and stick to it—don’t get click happy.

2. Compare prices. One of the benefits of shopping online is you can easily compare prices (especially with sites like pricegrabber.com), so take advantage. The one thing better than finding exactly what you want is finding what you want for the very best price.

3. Keep security in mind. I only shop at sites I trust—Old Navy, Target, Amazon.com—big enough to have proper security measures in place. That quirky little retailer in Timbuktu might have a great price, but do you really trust them with protecting your credit info?

4. Don’t forget shipping. Sometimes a great deal isn’t so great once you figure in shipping. Watch for flat rates, free shipping offers, and go for regular ground shipping for the cheapest rate whenever possible.

5. Check return policies. Since you know there’s a chance it won’t fit or look quite like you thought once it arrives, be sure that the company has a return policy you can live with. Some offer free return shipping and/or include pre-printed return labels, but others aren’t quite as accommodating. It’s worth a few minutes of clicking around and reading the fine print to save yourself a whole lot of grief later on.