How NOT to be Amazon's online shopping victim

Australians spend around $30 billion a year on online shopping a number that has been rising annually and is expected to grow even faster with Amazon, the world’s largest online marketplace, now setting up on our shores. So, will you be a victor or victim of the online retail giant?

Tammy Barton, the entrepreneur behind Australia’s leading personal budgeting and money management service MyBudget says that she supports online shopping, not only as a matter of convenience, but also a budgeting measure that allows people to research and compare prices and products before making buying decisions.

Ms Barton advises people to use online shopping to their advantage. “Especially when it comes to big ticket items, make sure that you’ve got the lowest price possible by shopping around,” says Ms Barton. ”Before the internet, you needed to visit multiple stores or phone around—now you can quickly compare prices and reviews in a matter of minutes.”

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However, Ms Barton acknowledges that online shopping has dangers when it comes to impulse buying and overspending. The mother of three has the following recommendations for people who might be tempted to overspend online.

Ms Barton’s first golden rule number is to make a shopping list. ”For example, now is the time of year that people start looking at refreshing their wardrobe,” begins Ms Barton. “Instead of randomly browsing online, go through your wardrobe and make a list of items you want or need to replace. If you’ve got a list, you can set a budget and make sure that your online purchases are well-considered and guilt-free.”

Ms Barton’s other rule is to never spend money that you don’t have. “If you’re budgeting and living within your means, you don’t need a credit card, not even for online shopping. I use PayPal or my Visa debit card that uses cash I have in my account,” says Ms Barton.

Services, such as AfterPay, that allow buyers to make delayed payments on their online purchases are another pitfall for unwary buyers. “Buy-now-pay-later deals can be handy if you use them right, but too many people miss payments and face huge penalties. Make sure you read the fine print and work out that you can afford to pay the instalments on time before you sign the contract,” says Ms Barton.

She also warns consumers to stick to online sites that are trusted. “I always try to use well-known shopping sites or brand sites I know” says Ms Barton. “One of my friends ordered a bottle of Chanel perfume from an online site and it turned out to be fake. Her $60 ended up being poured down the drain—literally!”

“If you regularly shop online, you should also check your bank records for any incorrect charges”, says Ms Barton. “Banks are good at recognizing fraudulent activity but, if you do a lot of online shopping, unauthorized charges might possibly slip through. Online shopping can be a cash drain or, when handled smartly, an integral part of your budgeting strategy,” Ms Barton concludes.

Other online shopping traps can include expensive shipping, policies against refunds and exchanges, return shipping at the buyer’s expense, costly foreign currency exchange rates and fraudulent charges, features that Amazon is renowned for being flexible and consumer-friendly for.

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