Springboard Evaluates the Pros and Cons of Online Shopping Sites

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Should You Skip the Mall this Holiday Season?

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Regardless of whether you decide to go to the mall, use online shopping sites, or both, it’s important to remember to only spend what you can afford.

Whether trying to save time, money, or simply to avoid the crowds at the mall, many consumers are frequenting online shopping sites for their holiday purchases. This is especially true this time of year when a number of retailers offer deep discounts to online shoppers - particularly on what is popularly known as Cyber Monday - the Monday following Thanksgiving Day.

For 38 years, Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc. ("Springboard") has been committed to educating consumers about budgeting, personal finance, and money management skills. As families are gearing up for holiday shopping, Springboard encourages consumers to consider the potential advantages and disadvantages of using online shopping sites.

Advantages of online shopping:

  • Convenience: The most obvious benefit of online shopping is that consumers don’t need to leave the house. If shoppers usually travel a fair distance to make their holiday purchases, online shopping could translate into dollars saved on gas.
  • Speed and efficiency: With the click of a mouse, shoppers can compare different products without having to walk or drive to multiple stores. The more products that consumers can compare online, the more likely they are to find a good price.
  • Variety: Some online retailers offer products that cannot be found in stores.
  • Discounts: Before checking out, shoppers can search for online coupon codes to apply to their purchase.
  • Fewer distractions: If consumers do their shopping online, and come prepared with a list of items to purchase, they can avoid the distractions at the mall. Once inside a store, a consumer is surrounded by merchandise, and may walk away with a purchase they’ll later regret.
  • Customer reviews: A number of online shopping sites provide customer reviews so shoppers can get an idea of how satisfied previous customers were with a product before they decide to buy.

Disadvantages of online shopping:

  • Shoppers won’t see the product until it arrives: With online shopping, consumers take the risk of buying a product they haven’t seen with their own eyes. They could be disappointed once they receive it. If shopping for clothes, consumers could run into trouble with sizing. Shoppers should check the online retailer’s return policy before making a purchase.
  • Shipping costs: While a consumer may think they are getting a great deal, when they check-out online they may be surprised by the high cost for shipping. Sometimes the price for shipping can be greater than the cost of the item being purchased, especially if the consumer is shopping last minute and needs the product delivered within a few days. Shipping costs can skyrocket. Consumers can try searching for online coupon codes for free or discounted shipping. If unsuccessful, they can check to see if an equivalent product is sold in a nearby store, and go to the store to make the purchase.
  • Identity theft: One negative aspect of online shopping is the threat of identity theft. Springboard provides credit counseling to educate consumers about personal finance and cautions against excessive credit card use. One instance where it’s wise to use a credit card versus a debit credit is while shopping online. A credit card can provide more protections if a consumer’s information is compromised. If paying with a debit card, funds are automatically deducted from the consumer’s bank account, which puts them at greater risk if they become a victim of identity theft.If choosing to shop online this year, before entering personal banking information, consumers should make sure the merchant’s website is operated by a secure network, usually indicated by HTTPS in the web address, the acronym for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Shoppers could also consider paying through a PayPal account, which allows them to keep their credit card information private, meaning they can shop without worrying about a hacker downloading their data from an online merchant. Consumers just need to remember, if they plan to use a credit card for online shopping, to make sure they can pay off the balance in full by their due date. Otherwise, they will have to pay finance charges, and could wind up with stubborn credit card debt. Consumers can learn more about Identity Theft by checking out Springboard’s guide on Identity Theft Prevention.

"Regardless of whether consumers decide to go to the mall, use online shopping sites, or both, it’s important they remember to only spend what they can afford," said Melinda Opperman, Springboard’s senior vice president. "It can be challenging to stick to a budget during the holiday season, but staying focused on future goals will help to keep consumers in great financial shape when the New Year arrives."

About Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc.
SPRINGBOARD® Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc. ("Springboard") is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit personal financial education and counseling organization founded in 1974. Springboard is an approved housing counseling regional intermediary by the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation signifying the highest standards in the industry for agency governance, fiscal integrity, counselor certification and service delivery policies. In addition, Springboard is a member of both national industry associations; the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Credit Counseling Agencies. Springboard offers personal financial education and confidential counseling in foreclosure prevention, rent, reverse mortgage, pre-bankruptcy and debtor education, and debt and money management. Springboard provides telephone counseling services nationwide, and maintains offices in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina and Massachusetts for in-person sessions. Not all types of counseling are available at all locations. For more information on Springboard, please visit their web site at http://www.springboard.org.

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