5 Tips For Shopping Online


Plan Your Purchase

Check with your boss to see if gifts can be shipped to your office to keep family members' prying eyes off them.
Check with your boss to see if gifts can be shipped to your office to keep family members' prying eyes off them.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If there's one big drawback to online shopping, it's the agony of waiting for your order to be shipped. The earlier you make your purchases, the greater chance they'll ­arrive on time. Under federal law, retailers must ship items within the dates specified (for example, three to five days for standard shipping), or within 30 days if no shipping date is specified in the transaction.

To cut down on shipping fees, try to order many items at once from a single retailer. Your purchases should be lumped together into one large package with one shipping fee attached. By registering with an online retail site, the cookies uploaded to your computer will retain any items in your online shopping cart until you either delete or purchase them, allowing you to ship everything at once -- and at one price. Many online retailers offer free shipping on purchases over a certain dollar amount, and online coupon sites regularly offer free shipping coupon codes.

If you can't catch a break on shipping, ordering early enough will allow you to opt for standard shipping. It's almost always the slowest, but if you order early, you've got time on your side. Give yourself a little more time if you're ordering from a third-party vendor through a big online retailer. The retail site's delivery date is an estimate, one the vendor doesn't always meet.

To learn more about the ins and outs of online shopping, take a look at the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • Anderson, Tania. "Tips for making Black Friday not so scary." Washington Post. November 20, 2007.http://voices.washingtonpost.com/shoptoit/2007/11/post_1.html
  • Karp, Gregory. "Refurbished electronics can save you money." Allentown Morning Call. November 9, 2008.http://www.newsday.com/business/yourmoney/ny-bzcovstory095917170nov09,0,809636.story
  • Kavilanz, Parija B. "Holiday gift returns: still nothing easy about it." CNN. December 26, 2006.http://money.cnn.com/2006/12/06/news/companies/gift_returnpolicies/index.htm
  • "Debit cards." Bankrate. May 1, 2006.http://www.bankrate.com/brm/green/chk/basics2-4a.asp?caret=12
  • "Gift returns; new rules require new tactics." Consumer Reports. January 2008.http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/shopping/shopping-tips/gift-returns-1-08/overview/gift-returns-ov.htm
  • "Make a deal! 5 surprising bargain-hunting tips." MSNBC. November 29, 2007.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22010552/
  • "Online secure shopping." Federal Trade Commission. February 2008.http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/online-shopping.aspx
  • "Welcome to IE-Vista." Microsoft Valuable Professional. October 11, 2008.http://www.ie-vista.com/secure.html
  • "6 tips for shopping safely online." National Consumers League. Accessed November 18, 2008.http://www.nclnet.org/shoppingonline/shoppingtips.htm
  • "7 online blunders." Consumer Reports. September 2008.http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/computers-internet/internet-and-other-services/7-online-blunders/overview/7-online-blunders-ov.htm


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