4 Tips for Hassle-Free Online Shopping

Avoid stress, scams, and buyer's remorse with this advice

If you're like me, your inbox is chock full of e-mails screaming things like, “Sale!” “Last Day of Clearance!” “Only Three More Hours to Save!” and so on. You know the ones. You make a purchase once, and suddenly you're inundated with offers and codes and last-minute deals, each more anxiety-inducing than the next — especially this time of year. I love a good bargain and hate to feel that I'm missing out on a good one.

One the one hand, the whole concept is convenient; on the other, shopping online can lead to debt, inbox overload, buyer's remorse, or even buyer burnout. Sound like a hassle? Here are some tips that stress-free online shoppers know.

Sort your inbox: Use your e-mail providers filtering functions to sort (perhaps by a keyword like “sale”) emails from retailers into folders, so you don't feel like you're drowning in junk mail — and if you're really keeping an eye on your money, so that you only see the sale e-mails when you choose to look through them, not every time you open your e-mail.

Get an alias: Along the same lines as filtering, consider opening up a new (free) separate e-mail account to use for shopping and retail sites. You'll avoid the barrage entirely.

Order two sizes: My old roommate, a shopping expert and fashion industry professional, gave me this tip: if you're unsure of your size, or whether the items run big or small, order two sizes and send the other back. Especially with all the great sites offering free shipping and returns (like Zappos.com), you'll eliminate wait time in the long run and feel better about your purchase if you can try both items on at home to pick the one that fits best.

Shop only with a credit card: Why not a debit card? You'll be better protected from fraudulent charges, and be able to contest the charges more easily if your order is returned or arrives damaged (or doesn't arrive at all). To keep a better eye on your spending, it's also wise to use only one credit card for all online shopping.

What are your biggest pet peeves about Internet shopping, and how do you avoid them? Chime in!

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