How to spend smartly online

How to spend smartly online
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In years gone by, you'd head to the supermarket or fashion retailer in person and fumble in your wallet for cash or your credit card at the checkout. Nowadays, you can get almost anything – from groceries and clothing to power tools – delivered to your door.

Recent figures show online shopping is growing at a speedy pace, with online retail spending now valued at around $15.6 billion for the year to July, according to NAB's Online Retail Sales Index: In depth report — July 2014.

Thanks to the pace of technological change, browsing online retailer’s sites on your mobile phone from the comfort of your couch or bed is perfectly possible. But are you spending smartly online?

Is this a spending revolution?

NAB's report documented an 8.6 percent annual growth in online retail spending, with 35 to 44-year-olds dominating the online spending space.

Furthermore, a recent report from Nielsen questioned what's happening in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, in relation to e-commerce. The Global Survey of E-commerce, which surveyed over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries worldwide, revealed "online purchase intention rates have doubled in three years for 12 of 22 measured categories", Nielsen explained.

According to the report, Australia has 89 percent internet penetration — the highest of all Asia-Pacific countries surveyed, ahead of New Zealand (88 percent) and South Korea (83 percent). With more and more Australians turning to the cyber world, it's no wonder e-commerce is picking up speed.

"Savvy savers are always on the hunt to find the lowest prices. These global shoppers believe they get the best prices online (60 percent), and they find deals that are better than those offered in the store (54 percent)," Nielsen stated.

Checking out at customs

If you're purchasing items from overseas retailers, you need to carefully consider how much your purchase is really setting you back.

You're obliged to pay duties, charges and taxes on goods worth over $1000, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service explained. If you engage in an e-commerce spending spree beyond this figure, you'll need to complete an Import Declaration form. The specific duties, charges and taxes depend on how much the items are worth. 

You might think you're safer purchasing items online directly from Australian retailers — but beware! If these items are shipped directly from overseas to your home address, you may incur the aforementioned charges. If you're unsure where your goods are coming from — and accordingly, which taxes apply — contact the retailer directly.

Band together to beat shipping costs

Of course, you can still make the most of online shopping — and protect your savings account in turn.

Provided you purchase items below the $1000 limit, it pays to bulk order clothing and other items with friends and relatives. Often, online retailers will have set shipping costs for purchases up to a certain amount. Alternatively, they may offer free shipping if you spend a minimum amount.

In such cases, it's a good idea to buy a number of items in a single purchase and spread the shipping cost amongst the buyers.

Secure sign-up deals

Many e-commerce retailers offer a discount on your first purchase when you sign up to their e-newsletter or join an online loyalty club.

Plus, there are numerous online comparison sites that can help you get a great deal. Such sites are well worth using when you've got your sights set on purchasing a particular item, such as a mobile phone or laptop.

Shop around for these kind of deals in order to maximise your savings!

Protect your privacy

While online shopping is the ultimate convenience, it's important to still remain vigilant to protect your privacy and avoid nasty online scams. There are a few key points to be aware of when shopping online;

  • Check the websites credentials
  • Don't post personal information onto social media
  • Be careful how much of your private information you share
  • Lock your smartphones, desktops and laptops
  • Always use official banking apps – if you are unsure, go to the site directly and follow the links to download their app there
  • Make sure you have all the latest anti-virus software installed on all your applicable devices
  • Always use a secured wireless network
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