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7 Things to Check Before Buying Something Online

Saturday, March 5, 2016


While I definitely love going to the mall and being able to get my hands on whatever I want right away, I think I love online shopping even more. After all, you can shop at home in your pajamas when the stores are closed and there aren't any sales associates pressuring you into buying a Naked palette or convincing you that a certain shade of foundation really is a match for you, even if you have cool undertones. However, when you can't hold and look at the items before you add them to your cart, it can be easier to buy more than you need (especially if you're trying to hit the free shipping benchmark...how many times is it going to take for me to realize that the $25 of makeup I was originally going to buy + $5 shipping is less than $50?) Here are some questions (based a bit on this Reddit thread) I recommend you ask yourself before you buy clothing or makeup online:

Can you dupe it?

There is definitely something so satisfying about occasionally buying a high-end product (maybe it’s getting to step into a Sephora for once or to the non-drugstore side of Ulta) but being able to say “I spent $___ less because I got a comparable product instead” is also pretty satisfying. You don’t need to dupe something every single time (sometimes that Tarte blush, Too Faced palette or whatever it is is going to call to you), but I really recommend doing some Googling and comparison shopping before you shell out $20 for mascara or $50 for an eyeshadow palette. If you’re wondering what’s best to splurge on, I have some guidelines here.

If you’re clothes-shopping, you’re probably not going to be able to find a “dupe” for whatever you’re buying, but it is important to ask yourself if you’re buying just for the brand-name. Does having a tag that says “Calvin Klein” really make your v-neck better than one from Old Navy? (This applies to makeup as well: are you buying that lipstick just because it’s from Mac or because you think the packaging is cute? You should probably think again.)

What are the ingredients? 

I mentioned in my recent skincare post that it’s important to check ingredients of your skincare products, but it’s just as important to check them in your makeup as well. I personally like to stay on top of which ingredients can be toxic to my health or harmful to the environment, but at the very least, try to figure out what does or doesn’t work with your skin. I know mineral oil always breaks me out, so I always make sure to avoid it in primers and foundations. For other people, talc and silicone are common culprits, so make sure to give that ingredients list a quick read before you click “add to cart.”

Obviously, clothes don’t have “ingredients” lists, but it’s a good idea to see what the materials are if you can. If you know you like your jeans with a bit of stretch, look for Lycra; if you’re allergic to nickel, don’t buy a cheap watch etc.

Are the reviews good? 

I always take reviews with a grain of salt (I’ve found I usually fall somewhere in between the most glowing of reviews and the most scathing) but it’s vital to read them anyway. A lot of reviewers will mention what kind of skin/hair/lashes they have, which gives you major hints on whether or not something will work for you. In addition to the reviews on the website itself, I always like to Google the product’s name and read some beauty blog reviews (Temptalia has reviews on just about every product and there’s usually tons of content on YouTube.) These are especially helpful because they usually include swatches, which can vary a lot from the picture on the website (ever ordered a pink shirt online only to have it come in the mail purple? That’s what we’re trying to avoid here…except with makeup.) And, of course, tons of beauty gurus have tutorials for certain products as well, which helps you get an idea of how you will be able to use a palette or lipstick.

Obviously, there won’t be beauty blog reviews for a pair of jeans, but reviews are helpful nonetheless because they’ll usually mention how true-to-color and true-to-size something is, as well as any issues with the fabric, seams etc.

Do I already own enough of these? 

There are some products that are hard to get enough of (eyeshadow and lipstick, I’m looking at you!) but there are other products that are so basic, you really don’t need to have a ton (black liquid eyeliner, translucent powder etc.) Luckily, the products you can’t get enough of are usually more fun to shop for anyway, but there’s an important caveat: you also shouldn’t be buying a product that will practically be a duplicate of something else in your collection. I’ve been cleaning out my beauty collection lately and one of the biggest reasons I will get rid of something is because I already own something too similar. Moral of the story: if you don’t want to waste precious makeup, if you already have a mauve lipstick or a gold eyeshadow, use it up before you buy another one.

This is true for clothes as well, but sometimes it’s okay to buy duplicates. I like to think of which clothing items I am most sad to see in the dirty clothes before I buy duplicates. For example, I do laundry pretty much every time my grey v-neck is dirty, because I am so desperate to wear it again! So, of course, I bought myself another v-neck (although in a different color this time so people think I have more than one shirt.)

Am I going for quality or quantity? 

I know you’re probably thinking “of course I’m going for quality!” but let me explain myself first: are you really going to be happy with just one YSL lipstick or are you going to go to CVS next week and buy all the Rimmel Kate Moss lipsticks to get some more variety in your collection? I’m all for treating yourself every once in a while, but I really believe in getting a true investment item, something with so much bang for your buck, you’re not only going to be okay with using it everyday, but you’re also not going to want to use anything else. (Often, these are the more basic makeup items. For me, and many women, it’s foundation, but for you it could be a primer, Beauty Blender or mascara.)

This applies just the same for clothes as it does for makeup. Don’t buy that trendy shirt at Nordstroms if you’re just going to go to Forever 21 next week and buy 4 similar ones. (It’s generally best to scrimp on trends anyway…)

Do I actually want this or is it just a good deal? 

Whether The Body Shop is having one of their killer sales or you found a perfect dupe for the Naked 3 palette, do you actually want and plan to use this item, or are you just getting it because it’s a good price? If you weren’t planning on buying the product before, you’re not actually saving money by buying it on sale, you’re just spending a few less dollars than it would be at its normal price (after all, not buying something costs $0, which is a price you won’t even find on Black Friday.)

It’s also important to be careful around BOGO types of sales. While they can be great for stocking up or replenishing your collection, a lot of times they can get you spending more money than you would be otherwise, even if you are getting more bang for your buck. Even if buying 3 pairs of jeans is a better deal than buying 2, if you only needed one, what are you doing? (Besides, where are you going to fit all those jeans in your closet?)

Have I checked for better deals, rebates and/or coupon codes?

If you're buying something that's available on more than one online retailer, you should definitely check to see if you can get a better deal on it somewhere else (or cheaper shipping.) I've found that prices can vary by about 50% between retailers sometimes, and there is no one retailer that is always cheaper, especially with drugstore makeup. Here are some places to check:

For high-end makeup:

Ulta
Sephora
Amazon (they have a surprising amount of high-end brands: check their Luxury Beauty section!)
Hautelook (it's a long shot, but it's always possible they're doing an event soon for a brand you love or an item you need. I've gotten some great deals here.)
Kohl's (they don't have as many brands as Ulta and Sephora, but they do have quite a few, including TheBalm and Lorac)
JC Penney (there will be less of a selection than a normal Sephora, but for any order of $25 or more, you could ship it to a JC Penney for free)
QVC (I haven't tried this yet, but emilynoel83 on YouTube swears by it and when it comes to scoring a good deal, I trust her)
The brand's own website (a lot of brands like Too Faced and Tarte will give you a coupon code for signing up for their email list. Some will even give you birthday gifts!)

For drugstore makeup

Ulta
CVS (Make sure to sign up for their beauty rewards program if you shop there a lot!)
Walgreens
Rite Aid
Target
Walmart
Amazon
The brand's own website (the best prices are usually available here, although shipping might be steep.)

It's also worth checking if you can get a rebate for your purchase, either from the store itself or an app or website. CVS and Rite Aid usually have a lot of rebates that you can find on their websites or ads, and there are a ton of apps available too (just read the reviews to make sure it's legit first!) As far as websites go, my two favorites are StudentRate (you do have to be a student, as you can probably tell from the name) and Swagbucks (referral code.) Both sites can score you rebates or discounts to stores like Walmart, Ulta and Forever 21. If you are a student, I recommend signing up for both and comparing the two each time to shop to see which one can get you the better deal.

Finally, I always do a quick search for a retailer's name and "promo code" before I make an order just to see if I can save anymore money while I'm at it.

What do you check for before you click "add to cart?"


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