Be A Smart Online Shopper
Online shopping has been popular for many years now. It is fast and convenient with lots of choices. On top of that leading online retailers have been trying to make it as convenient as possible to deliver everything from daily necessities to luxury goods. And, it would be fair to say in this digital age many of us have resorted to using online shopping as the de facto mode of shopping for most needs if not all. Having said that, online shoppers can benefit from applying some simple tweaks to the way they shop. And, if you are already doing these, well, you are already smart then!
Buying What You Need When You Need
Before we touch upon how to be a smart online shopper, let’s just understand a fairly common online shopping behavior. You wake up one day and realize you need to buy an item or perhaps a bunch of items. It could be the birthday gift for someone special, an item that you needed, but did not have time to research and it’s needed now, or just a situation that the holidays are about to start and you have not gotten any gifts for your loved ones. I am sure many of us can relate to such situations without thinking hard. And, there is nothing wrong about it. You have a need and you rush to your favorite online shopping site(s), perhaps look for some price comparisons, shipping costs, etc and make your best possible purchase. Sometimes you may not even have time for that. After all, the routine takes over and you have to make some hasty decisions. With online shopping, this behavior is easier to get into as you do not have to go anywhere. You know all you need to do is just go online and place an order. So, things could get procrastinated easily. Although, not always intentionally.
Cut To Smart Shopping
Smart shopping is also about what you need. But, not necessarily doing it when you need it. IMHO smart shopping involves the following.
- Plan for what you need a bit ahead of time: While you may not be able to predict every single need, chances are high that you can predict several of your upcoming needs, at least, for the near future. Think of things like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals, those home improvements you want to do, things that can improve your lifestyle, health, and so on. There are many advantages to planning a bit ahead.
- You can plan your budget better. For example, instead of having all the gifts bought in the same month, maybe you could spread the purchase costs over a couple of months to reduce your credit card bill.
- I believe an important aspect of shopping gifts is buying things that the recipients will really like and not just something that you want to give. By planning ahead, you are giving yourself some lead time to find the most appropriate gifts that they would like. Again, you do not have to do all the research at once. Spread it over time so that you can do a good job while not impacting your other commitments.
- Look for the best deals: Who does not love deals? Online shopping offers many venues to save money from coupons to limited time deals. The challenge is how to find good deals? There are some well-known practices followed by many smart shoppers.
- Use price comparison sites like pricegrabber.com, bizrate.com, etc.
- For coupons, use sites like retailmenot.com, groupon.com, and so on.
- Prices of several items vary over the year. This is due to the obvious nature of supply-and-demand. For example, a summer item is likely to be somewhat cheaper when bought in winter because of the low demand. So, if you could plan your purchases such that you make these during the low-demand period, you may be able to save yourself some money.
- Buy when the price drops: The key difference between this and the earlier point of looking for best deals is in this case you buy only when the price drops. The advantage is instead of you spending time finding coupons and comparing prices, you simply get notified when the price drops and then you make your purchase saving yourself both time and money. There are sites like camelcamelcamel.com that can track prices and notify you when the price drops.
Often, a combination of these strategies can help achieve a more satisfying shopping experience in terms of time, savings and the value you get of your purchases.
Taking Smart Shopping One Step Further
You may be wondering what more can be done? Being a DIY (do-it-yourself) homeowner and an online shopper, I firmly believe that the value of shopping is not just in getting the best deal, but in getting the best value out of a purchase. Hence, I like to think of purchases as projects. This makes my purchases goal-driven and the value realization is often much better than if I were to buy the items individually. What could be a project? Say, you want to set up a home theater, you could treat it like a project and organize the items you want to buy as part of that project. Over time, I’ve seen the following benefits of this project-based approach.
- Firstly, you can have a better overall estimate of how much you will need to spend, which helps in budgeting and identifying how these purchases will be funded.
- You do not have to buy everything at once. Buy when the prices drop or at a point that is more comfortable for you.
- You can track which items have already been bought and which are remaining. That way, you can plan for the pending item purchases.
- Last, but not the least, since these purchases are with a goal in mind, the sense of accomplishment is higher than buying the items individually.
If it sounds too much, it is not in reality, especially given the value. You just need a way to ensure you can manage purchases like a project. And, this is precisely one of the main reasons why I came up with the idea of the FREE Shopping Guru app, which helps in planning, saving and buying with Amazon. In fact, an important point for many online shoppers is what all should you buy for a given goal? If it is something that you are well-versed with, that’s good. But, that may not be the case always. So, how do you get a jump start? Again, this is where the Shopping Guru app takes a novel approach of providing out-of-the-box project templates that can give you a starting point for what all you should buy for some common goals. Of course, the actual items bought can differ from person to person based on price point, aesthetics, etc. But, the template gives you a reasonable starting point. And, if you do not find a template that matches your needs, you can start from the “Blank Project” template. You will still get the benefits of organizing the items under a project, overall budget estimate, manage which purchases have been completed, and so on. On top of this, the app also provides managing ad hoc item purchases for those one-off needs, price watch, and price drop alert along with a convenient Savings Dashboard to track your savings over time.
“As a DIY homeowner I have done several projects over the years and I do the majority of my shopping on Amazon because of the number of choices and their fast delivery. However, the challenge was I just did not know what all I should buy and I wished there was something that gave me a jump start. Over the years as I helped other members in the community, I sensed this is a common problem and that’s when I thought to have an app that provides a template-based approach will be helpful to many people. The template can guide on what all you should look for. Of course, the actual items bought may be different from person to person based on prices, aesthetics and other criteria. But, at least it will give a good starting point. Secondly, because Amazon’s site has frequent price changes, it would be nice if there were a way to track price drops and save money. I put these ideas together and Shopping Guru was born.”
The app does a best effort to make the most out of your purchases. However, you can use any other means of your choice. Interestingly, at times I like to take savings from my earlier projects to fund some future projects, which in turn may also save some money. And, the shopping journey continues!
Note that the project-based approach does not completely eliminate the need for ad hoc purchases. For example, those batteries that you always need around the home and other daily necessities. But, it can certainly be helpful in managing other purchases where you are trying to achieve some target. I like to call it value-driven shopping, which helps in achieving goals small or big and over time these values combined result in much higher satisfaction from the online shopping.
Happy smart shopping!
Also published on Medium.