Online Shopping Cheat Sheet

Tips for being a savvy online shopper

I brag a lot about my ability to track down virtually any product online. OK, brag might be a bit strong since I seldom talk about this subject aloud. But I’m quietly proud of this shopping skill, and thought I’d share some of my techniques to see if they’re universally employed or Sal-centric.

When I’m looking for something online, I always start with the Big Four:

  1. Google Shopping: ANYTIME you want to purchase something, check Google shopping first. If it’s a specific, named item – like a pair of Dolce Vita Pela sandals – this is especially wise, since related retailers may be offering different prices for the same item. If you’re looking for a category of item, like paperbag-waist pants, also search. The shopping tool is limited, but will still introduce a few vendors into the mix that you’d never have thought of on your own.
  2. eBay: This is a post unto itself, but here’s the short and sweet: If you missed out on an item when it was being sold retail, it is likely to be somewhere on eBay. If you’re looking for something super trendy or runway reminiscent – like gladiator sandals or leather track pants – eBay will sell you vintage and used versions for pennies on the dollar. Check vendor feedback and don’t go with anyone less than 100% if you’re super skittish (I go as low as 97% myself).
  3. Amazon: I remember when Amazon sold books, and books only. I’ve bought green tea, cosmetics, and cheese curds (for my gran) from them. And they often have amazing deals on clothing, shoes, and accessories. Check Amazon for any and everything.
  4. Etsy: I have nearly endless patience when I’m questing for something, and will pore over 65 pages of search results. Not everyone has that kind of stamina. But Etsy’s vintage offerings are amazing, handmade goods are often reasonably priced, and accessories are unbearably fun. If you don’t see what you want but think someone could make it, find a similar item and ask the vendor about customization.

For those who are skittish about shopping online, here are some general tips:

  • Know thy measurements: NEVER trust a photo for fit, and don’t buy from a site that doesn’t give you specific garment measurements unless you know the brand. Even comparing your personal dimensions to those listed online can fail, especially when vendors put one big chart up for ALL garments, but better to be as informed and accurate as you can be.
  • Check the return policy: If you can’t send it back, is it really worth the risk?
  • Check the shipping rates: If you have to spend $15 to get it and another $15 to send it back if it looks like ass, is it really worth the risk?
  • Look for coupon codes: Put the vendor’s name and the word “coupon” into Google. You’ll get about 70 trillion sites offering you free shipping, 15% off, and all manner of bargains. Always check for coupons before purchasing.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but these are some seriously helpful best practices for frequent online shoppers! Hope you found them helpful.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

Originally posted 2010-03-31 05:24:00.

Next Post
Previous Post

21 Responses to “Online Shopping Cheat Sheet”

  1. Sarah

    I could spend all day on eBay, but I haven't checked out Google Shopping – must take a look!

    I've used a little tip that has saved me money once or twice. If you see an item online from two vendors, and one vendor has free shipping but the item price is higher, bringing the two vendor costs comparable, go for the free shipping. That way, in case of return, you essentially get the shipping costs back.

  2. blackdog finds

    It's like wired into my DNA to search for coupons before buying anything & I always check the return policy. I also check the website beatmyprice{dot}com, you can find a coveted item online, copy the URL, and paste it into this search engine which will search the web to see if there's a lower price. (I am in no way affiliated with the aforementioned website- I didn't want this comment to look spammy, but I wanted to recommend the site because I find it very useful ^-^)

  3. Belinda

    I am a HUGE fan of online shopping. I live in the most remote capital city in the world (Perth, Western Australia) and the "live" shopping here is fairly limited. I started online shopping years ago to satisfy my need for unique clothing. I learnt early on that knowing your measurements is a MUST, not to trust sites that have one sizing chart for all clothing and vague return policies. I just wish more US online stores shipped to Australia…

  4. What Would a Nerd Wear

    it's amazing how much the internet can do, and it's also amazing how often i forget how much it can do! i always search for coupon codes before i buy things and can nearly always get free shipping or 10% off something.
    and i wish i better remembered how great amazon was–i have been wearing those tank dresses that i purchased thanks to your genius tip pretty much nonstop.

  5. Courtney

    You converted me a while back to Ebay for shoes. I'm a sucker for Clarks, especially their Indigo line, but we have an extremely tight budget that would only allow me to buy one pair of shoes a year at store prices! But I've snapped up several pair on Ebay for under $20 (including shipping!) and only had one dud. It's so addicting, because the variety on Ebay is much better than the variety in stores. I've never seen a Clarks store carrying gold, t-strap, 4 inch high embroidered heels, but I've found them on Ebay!

  6. SarahN

    I shop almost exclusively online and never buy anything without checking Bing Cashback or Ebates first. I've gotten hundreds of dollars back, so I can confidently recommend both of those sites.

  7. Mindy

    I'm with blackdog. I always use Beat My Price when I find an item I want.

  8. Faith J.

    Great post! I frequent Amazon (esp. for shoes) and eBay the most. The internet was a blessing for me when I left Chicago, but having had a few bad purchases (clothes or shoes that didn't fit, and one skirt I couldn't return), I am getting much more wary.

    Now I am trying to buy stuff only In Real Life!

  9. Anne

    Since it's sometimes hard to find sizes and styles that I want in stores, I do a majority of my shopping online these days. I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy online shopper. Thanks for confirming that with your post, since I use the same strategies when shopping online 🙂 I haven't heard of some of the sites that your readers are mentioning though, so that's really helpful!

  10. Karisa Tells All

    I totally agree about the coupon codes. I bought a $140 pair of sunglasses online last fall for only $80 because of coupon codes. And I saved $30 on my laptop for the same reason!

  11. Pamela

    Hello, I enjoy your blog immensely. I would have potential Amazon buyers also look at feedback and base purchases on overall vendor rating. I have had two majorly dissappointing expericences through Amazon and now use the 100% criteria for purchases made through Amazon.

  12. DailyDivaDish

    Great info! I'm a fan of virtually all of these. I also utilize Lucky Mag Rewards quite often. I signed up over a year ago and normally end up getting back about 150-250$ every 3 months in the form of a prepaid Visa…which always makes for a happy day.
    XO Piper

  13. K.Line

    I can attest, as a novice online shopper, that I have benefitted greatly from talking to you and taking your advice on this topic. Now I'm more like an intermediate beginner 🙂

  14. babs has the best prices on shoes anywhere on the web in my size and shoe desires (doesn't everyone have them???). i've done ebay, amazon and google searches, which don't even turn up the ones available at endless. then i'm back to e, clicking buy!

  15. Losing It- for real

    How are you at finding non clothes items? I am struggling with trying to find a product for my boyfriend! Williams Lectric Shave Ultra! Its a preshave gel. PLEASE HELP!

  16. Lesa

    I am kind of a shut-in (do people still say that?) I have bought so many beautiful little treasures and vintage items on Etsy, and I just love to "pounce" just to see. Also, when I am looking for something specific, ebay is the place to go! I even have a little ebay shop where I sell mainly clothes we have grownout of. Both places are wonderful for me and horrible for my bank account!

  17. Marlein

    I'm 100% into online shopping, I hardly go for "live" shopping at all actually! And I also don't say it out loud…but I'm also a bit proud that I can find almost everything I want, and with a discount, online 🙂

    I always check shipping first, mainly to see if they ship to my country because I live in The Netherlands. I hate finding fab stuff and then not being able to get it because they don't ship here.
    I have a few brands I'm pretty loyal to so I google them to find the best deals, the prices can be so VERY different between sellers!

    I'm crazy about the UK webshops…I buy almost everything from the UK (and sometimes USA)…I'm actually pretty crazy about the UK in general lol…last week I made a very fab discovery…they have certain foods that I like that they don't sell in the stores here. I always just brought some home with me after a vacation…I don't know why I did it but I put a search in for my favorite crips (salt&vinegar)…and my lord they can be ordered online! LOL! So I immediately did off course 😉 seriously…you can get everything off the internet, it's amazing!

  18. Eyeliah

    I also will pour over all those etsy pages lol, until the bitter end I go through it. Its fun and so much less stressful than ebay, just buy something instead of waiting for the final minutes of an auction. I used to have all these timers and reminder set and then go into a mad panic for the last 2 minutes of the auction trying to win the bid, heart pounding, palms sweating – yuck. I haven't been on ebay in months now (but when I was the feedback had to be 99.5% postive and higher!).

  19. Hazel


    I tried Google Shopping today and I found lotsa amazing stuff! But I was wondering…how do you know the authenticity of a branded product that's selling on the website?

    For eg, I found a website ( that sells branded goods at prices that are relatively cheaper than the ones on ebay! And they claim that their bags are authentic. But how would I know?

  20. Sal

    Hazel: The easiest way is to put the vendor name back into regular Google. Look past the company's website and see if any people have discussed the vendor on forums or blogs. See if authenticity problems are mentioned.