In recent years, American’s Red Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have entered the domain of Canadian vocabulary. With more and more purchases being made online, Americans and Canadians are enjoying holiday shopping deals. The challenge is, just because it seems like a really good deal, if you’re buying online you really need to know exactly what it is that you’re buying. Some retailers offer free shipping, but if you have to return a product and it involves shipping it across the border, it may be expensive to return, not to mention the challenges of dealing with duties and taxes.
Before you begin your holiday shopping (or even if you’ve already started!) here are some helpful hings.
- Set your budget before you go shopping. And remember to add whatever provincial or state taxes you have to pay into your budgeting dollars.
- Many retailers offer credit card deals at the check-out counter. Know what the interest rates are and if there are any additional (yearly fees for example) costs you may incur. And don’t let easy credit influence how much money you’re going to spend.
- Consider how you’re going to deliver your gift. If you have to mail it, sending a gift card might make more sense than mailing a heavy item. And allow enough time for the gift to arrive by standard postage rates; couriering gifts add to their cost, but not their value.
- Know the return policy, and understand that it might vary depending on the product. Electronics may have a different return policy than clothing, for example. Keep all the tags and receipts. Without a receipt, you may only receive the lowest price the item was offered that year and receive a gift card instead of a cash refund. Some retailers also will only credit back to the debit card or credit card that was used to make the purchase.
- Service plans and extended warranties are routinely sold at checkout. Many sales associates are reimbursed for upselling the client. Do your research on the product that you are purchasing before agreeing to any additional plans. Sometimes they’re excellent value. We regularly buy warranties on batteries for our car and security fobs; we get two replacements free for each one we purchase.
- When shopping on line, make sure you’re not on a ‘knock-off’ site that just looks like the retailers website. Check the domain name in the browser and make sure that the checkout page is secure (domain name will start with https://). Unsolicited emails with great deals may actually direct you to a scam site. If you’re shopping online for the first time with a company, make sure they have a physical address, and call the phone number to make sure it’s the business it says it is. You can all use search engines to find out more information about them and if they have a good reputation.
- Only use a credit card for online payments. Credit card companies are good at helping you resolve issues with payments, such as cancelling a payment if you never received the goods that you ordered. Never use a wire transfer or money order as you have no tracking or audit trail. And it’s much more difficult to get your money back. Many online companies are geared to only refund to a credit card or issue a gift card.
- Check the terms of any gift cards you purchase. Some have declining balances if not used by a certain date (although some provinces and states have legislation regulating gift card terms).
- If you’re buying for a group (fellow employees, recreational sports team, Book Club, etc.), consider making a donation to a charity instead of buying them individual gifts. Consider a charity that complements your groups’ focus, such as donating to a foundation that helps kids play sports instead of buying your football buddies gag gifts.
And stick to your budget! Think about what presents you got last year, let alone five years ago. Chances are you can’t remember many, if any, at all. So when you think you should spend a little more this year to impress someone, think again. They probably won’t remember it come next year. And if they do, you’ve just raised the bar on how much you’ll have to spend next time!
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