THE BLOG
08/27/2015 01:58 pm ET Updated Aug 27, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Online Shopping

The Internet has completely changed the way we find and purchase items, and there are tons of benefits to online shopping. For one, you can compare prices side-by-side so you know you're getting the best deal.

You can also go through an entire catalog online in a matter of minutes in your pajamas (personally, this is one of my favorite things to do on a lazy Saturday morning). And, online shoppers have these items shipped to their doors without having to spend hours in the mall tracking down one particular thing -- not to mention a parking space before they even set foot inside.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while you're online shopping:

Keep an Eye on Spending

Seeing that online shopping cart fill up is great (especially if you are going on a personal shopping spree!). However, doing all of your shopping online can cause you to feel disconnected from your bank account. After all, you aren't physically taking out your wallet and paying for these things in person, and it's sometimes tougher to keep track of online receipts if you aren't organized with your purchases from the get-go.

If you haven't already, make sure to set up an online access to your banking account and download your bank's app to keep track of purchases you make online. If you shop online frequently, it can be tough to keep up with receipts, so seeing all of your purchases laid out in a clear manner helps you make sense of your purchases. Additionally, it might be wise to print or download your receipts just in case you run into issues with your order or shipping.

Don't Go Overboard

Walking into the mall without a game plan is a recipe for overspending. The same goes for whenever you head online to make a purchase. If you are in the market for a specific item and know what amount of money you have to spend, then search away. However, wandering into an online shopping portal without knowing exactly what you're looking for can be very dangerous.

I've been there before, and there's a good chance you have too. I was shopping for cute summer clothes, the cart started to fill up, and then I headed to the online checkout. However, once I got there, I realized that after taxes and shipping, the purchase easily wiped out half of my monthly earnings. Whoops. As fabulous as those beautiful heeled sandals were, they were simply out of my budget and had to go back on the (virtual) shelf.

Shopping is always fun, but you need to stay focused during an online trip in the retail world just as you would in a brick-and-mortar store. Once you begin clicking away, have a rough idea of how much you can spend -- this removes the sticker shock once you're ready to check out.

Read the Fine Print

Taxes and shipping costs can definitely add up, so look at your itemized checkout list to gauge whether it's worth it to order online. In some cases, you might be better off financially by heading to the store and picking the items up on your own.

Look Into Rewards Programs

Some major online retailers have been signing frequent shoppers up for rewards programs, which can save you up to 5% on your overall purchase. While this might not seem like much in theory, it could go a long way during a heavy shopping season (such as during the holidays).

Look for Off-Season Online Sales

If you're in the market for a winter coat -- start your hunt in the summer. A nice coat could be marked down during the summer because it's not in season. You could also start looking for swimsuits and shorts in the winter and find tons of great deals.

Check for Authenticity

Most online shopping portals are secure, but the Internet is not immune to scams. Before you purchase, make sure that the company has a privacy statement, secure online checkout, a physical address, and customer service information like a phone number in case your order is incorrect or gets lost.

Shopping online has a lot of perks, but you'll want to make sure you shop online in a smart and reasonable manner. Abiding by these rules can ensure that you have a safe and secure online shopping experience.