Tips and Tricks for Online Shopping (in Canada)

People seem to be pretty polarized on online shopping. Sure, everyone has bought something off Amazon at some point, but that’s not real online shopping (unless you are an Amazon Prime member – then props to ya).

I’m talking about the people who order clothes, shoes, electronics, makeup, housewares – even those ‘monthly box/bag’ clubs (hello ipsy, please offer free shipping to Canada!) Last year, I was one of those people. Why? Because I lived in Minneapolis, and there was free shipping galore. Best thing since sliced bread? Free shipping.

I love Canada. I want to live here forever, but we need to get on board with this free shipping thing.

I’ve bought a lot of things online (see my buys through my superb iPad photo skills below), but being back in Winnipeg means way less online shopping (this may be a blessing in disguise, but I will still complain about it). I still purchase a few things online, but it’s become a whole lot more difficult.

Before you purchase, check these things first:

1. Shipping Rates: Some sites charge more as you spend more; some charge less as you spend less. Most will give you free shipping when you hit a certain limit, which may be cheaper than buying the one item and paying shipping. Also watch out for that international shipping.

2. Return Policy: Often sites offer free returns to store or by mail, but a few will charge you return shipping, and some don’t allow you to return online items to the store (particularly when shipping from the U.S. to Canada).

3. Country: Check which site you are using, often sites will have different products for different countries and change the currency.

4. Exchange Rate: Not all sites will change the currency. Check the exchange rate before you purchase, it can really kill ya. It might not be as good as a deal as you thought.

5. Duties: Even if you are using a Canadian site, sometimes items do not ship from within Canada and they’ll charge you duty when it crosses the border. Some companies will also mark the package as much cheaper than it actually is so you won’t have to pay a lot of duty (that’s probably not legal – but saves you money – I’ll let you decide the ethics of that).

Some tricks:

  • Send it to a shipping place just across the border. They usually charge a small fee, but it will save on duty, and could be cheaper on shipping.
  • Live chat: I used it for the first time yesterday! Sometimes sites are unclear about their policies or sales, so use the option to get quick answers about where the products ship from, and when sales end.
  • Send it to a friend/relative: If it’s not time-sensitive, ship it to a friend across the border and pick it up on a trip down.
  • Find some Canadian sites: Instead of buying from big American companies, find some Canadian ones. Instead of Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, try Chapters (free shipping over $25 always). For clothes, buy from Dynamite or Zara.
  • Order in-store: Some stores will offer free ship-to-store when you order an item online when you are in the store. It seems very weird, but some stores offer this, so check next time you’re in. (I know American Eagle offers it in their U.S. stores).
  • Emails: always sign up for emails before purchasing, you could get a coupon or offer.

And as my friend, Tedi would tell you – shop local. (Read her suggestions here.)

My favourite agenda so far from Kate Spade (ordered from the Kate Spade site and shipped within the States).
My favourite agenda so far from Kate Spade (ordered from the Kate Spade site and shipped within the States).
Lots o' deals (all shipped within the States)
Lots o’ deals (all shipped within the States)
Dolce Vita via AEO sandals (shipped within the States)
Dolce Vita via AEO sandals (shipped within the States)
The donut feat. Janelle.
The donut feat. Janelle.
The greatest things ever - inflatable donuts feat. Jenn and Julie.
The greatest things ever – inflatable donuts feat. Jenn and Julie. (ordered on Amazon and shipped within the States)
My Everlane backpack (shipped to Canada - it was worth it to pay duties for this one)
My Everlane backpack (shipped to Canada – it was worth it to pay duties for this one)
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