Shop like a pro with our online shopping tips

Shopping online more than usual this year? Try our tips to help local businesses, save money, and always stay secure.

6 min read

This year, people are turning to the internet in record numbers for COVID-safe ways to buy the things they need. The benefits of online shopping during the pandemic are clear—you can avoid crowds, help keep essential workers safe, and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.

Yet online shopping has its pitfalls, too. The internet can be a bit of a black hole, making countless hours vanish into thin air. It’s easy to meander aimlessly from website to website buying things you don’t really need, or accidentally pay too much for essential items. Luckily, it’s just as easy to shop like a pro, once you know a few handy tricks.

Online shopping tips for making lists, staying safe online, seasonal shopping, buying local and getting the best deals

Our top tips will help you to:

  • Create shopping lists and stick to your budget

  • Keep your money and data secure while you shop 

  • Save money with seasonal shopping

  • Buy from local shops even when you’re online

  • Find the lowest price every time

1. Keep things clear with an online shopping list

Getting organized before you head online can make shopping less stressful and help you save time and money. Whether you’re planning your weekly groceries, deciding what gifts to buy for Christmas, or buying stuff for your new apartment, list-making is a great way to clarify what you actually need, make sure you don’t forget anything, and avoid overspending on non-essential items.

We recommend using a shopping list app—particularly when it comes to food shopping. There are lots to choose from, such as AnyList, Our Groceries, and Yummly. Some apps also have meal planning features that let you upload recipes from websites and add the ingredients straight to your weekly shopping list.

There are even specialized apps for gift lists that can help you plan and budget. For example, Christmas Gift List (Android) and Santa’s Bag (iOS) let you create a list of all your gift recipients and set budgets for each person. You can mark gifts as purchased and view useful stats such as how much you’ve spent so far. For more tips on how to write different kinds of shopping lists and align them with your monthly budget, take a look at our shopping list ideas.

2. Online shopping security—things to look out for 

Many of us are shopping online more than we used to, so it’s all the more important to double check that our money and our data is safe at all times. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to ensure your transactions are secure and that you can make returns or get a refund if necessary.

  • Don’t make purchases when you are on a public wifi network, as it might not be secure and your payment details could be stolen. Instead, use a VPN or your mobile data.

  • Make sure the website is secure. The URL should start with “https” and there should be a closed padlock icon next to it.

  • Regularly install updates for your computer and your phone.

  • Check the return/refund policy and keep records. Save your purchase order, invoice, and any other confirmation details in case you need to send anything back. 

  • Check your passwords—make sure they are strong enough and change them regularly.

  • Pay with a credit card wherever possible. This method of payment gives you the highest level of legal protection if you need to dispute any charges. Alternatively, use trusted payment methods like PayPal or Klarna.

  • Regularly check your bank statements for unusual transactions.

For more detailed security advice, check out our article about how to stay safe while online shopping.

3. Make the most of holiday shopping seasons

Holiday sales always bring the chance to grab some great bargains. Obviously, this approach won’t necessarily work for last-minute or urgent items, but you can save big if you are able to plan ahead and wait for the discounts.

The trick here is to buy out of season, when demand for particular products is low and retailers are keen to clear out their existing stock before the next season rolls around. So for example, shop for a new coat at the end of winter and invest in an air conditioning unit when the mercury starts dropping in fall. 

You can also cash in on annual sales such as Black Friday, just after Thanksgiving. In the lead up to Father’s Day, hardware and tools will likely be discounted, and the month of May often has deals on jewelry, soft furnishings, and other typical Mother’s Day gifts. And the big post-Christmas clearance sales are a great time to buy wrapping paper, cards, and decorations! Speaking of Christmas, our ultimate guide to online Christmas shopping explains how to create an awesome gift list, stick to your budget and score last-minute deals. 

4. Local online shopping: support your community and the environment

Shopping online and buying local are not mutually exclusive—far from it. With a little extra effort, you can bypass the retail giants and support local businesses online during this difficult time. Keeping local stores afloat helps to preserve retail diversity and employment opportunities in your town or city, which also has knock-on effects for the local economy.

Many smaller and independent retailers have set up online stores this year. You can find them on Google Maps, in your country’s leading online business directory, on review websites like Yelp and Foursquare, and by searching for local stores on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

When you buy local, you’re also helping to protect the environment—shorter shipping distances mean fewer transport emissions. Or you can forgo shipping altogether with options like in-store or curbside pick-up. 

5. Online shopping savings madness: deals, rewards and coupons!

The first way to save money while shopping online is to plan your purchases with a shopping list (see section 1). This gives you a clear idea about what you actually need, so you can shelve any “nice to have” items for a future date when your budget is a bit more flexible.

Once you head online, there are several ways to find discounts and deals:

  • Search for your desired products on price comparison and deals websites, such as PriceRunner or RetailMeNot. There are even browser extensions like Honey and PriceBlink that will automatically find lower prices on other websites while you shop.

  • Find and apply online coupons to your shopping cart. You can get coupons by subscribing to a store’s newsletter, searching on trusted coupon websites or by using coupon browser plugins. When you add items to a shopping cart, these plugins automatically search for and apply any relevant coupon codes.

  • Sign up to reward programs and earn loyalty points that can be transformed into discounts at the check-out.

Here are some more great tips on how to save money while shopping online.

Shopping online with N26

N26 makes it easier to manage your online shopping list, stick to your budget, and stay safe online.

Spaces sub-accounts let you put money aside for your online shopping, so you don’t accidentally run out of funds and can easily check what’s left in your budget. Each time you buy something online, simply move the required amount into your main account with just a few taps.

You can add a personalized tag to your purchases (e.g., #clothing, #electronics, #books) and view statistics about your tag categories to gain an overview of your spending.

N26 also helps you make secure online payments on your favorite local online stores. When you shop online with your N26 card, your purchases are protected by Mastercard’s 3D Secure technology. This extra authentication step helps to prevent fraud, so you can click “buy now” with added peace of mind.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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