The retail frenzy that is Black Friday is here. Last year, bargain hunters favoured online shopping – a trend noticed globally and not just in South Africa.
Budget Insurance urges consumers to exercise caution in managing their money smartly and in protecting themselves against online criminals who are gearing up to do some “shopping” of their own.
“Great prices, avoiding queues, shopping from the comfort of your home, as well as getting goodies delivered to your door are just some of the benefits that come with shopping online, but there’s a catch,” says Susan Steward, spokesperson for Budget Insurance. “The amount of fly-by-night online stores that pop up and disappear with consumers’ money is astounding. Trying to get a good deal could end up costing you thousands.”
Budget Insurance offers the following tips to make sure that an online store is legit:
* Screen the URL – fake website addresses are usually off by a character or two, so make sure it’s the exact URL.
* Click on the padlock – in the address box. The drop-down menu will show you the security information of the website. Some fake sites have been able to replicate the padlock icon, so don’t stop here.
* Use a website checker – sites like Google Transparency Report are there to check the legitimacy of websites.
* Trust your browser – having antivirus software and an updated browser allows for it to warn you when you’ve entered an unsafe site and block you from going any further.
* Look for a trust stamp – it assures you that the site you are trying to buy from will protect your transaction. Scammers always find a way to cheat the system even with trust stamps, so always go the extra mile to ensure it’s a safe site.
* Read the reviews – read about other customer experiences to inform your final decision. Google the name of the online store to see what people are saying.
Whether you shop in-store or online, Budget also has some useful tips to make sure that you get the best bang for buck, without breaking the bank:
* Research, research, research. Don’t get taken in by the hype and don’t fall into the trap of believing that Black Friday itself is the only time to find a good deal. Do your research and compare where necessary to make sure you really are getting the best price. You can use sites such as pricecheck.co.za to do this.
* Set up online accounts in advance. Go to the sites of retailers you are likely to buy from and set up your online account in advance. This will include filling in your details, setting up your preferred delivery address and receiving a log-in and password. Doing this ahead of time means you will be able to buy quickly when deals go live.
* Set up a budget. Plan what you can afford to avoid being tempted into spending more than you have. The last thing you want is to go into December with debt and start off the new year on a poor financial footing.
* Focus on what you need first. Create a list of things that you need to get or replace soon and prioritise those. Things that you want – luxuries – need to be second in line.
* Hold on a second. Once you’ve added all the items you were looking for to your cart, hold off on checking those items out. Wait a day or two if you can, there might be a random sale or discount around the corner.
* Compare prices. Look for the item on other online stores that offer similar products and compare prices before committing. You may just find another bargain.
* The 24-hour rule. Unplanned, ill-considered purchases can throw you completely off budget. Leave items in your favourites list or cart for a full 24 hours before going through with the purchase. This will give you time to rationalise the purchase and work out whether it makes sense to go ahead with it. Be prepared to step away from a deal.
* Use those loyalty rewards. You may have some points, discounts or cash back offers due to you. Make sure to use these to your advantage.
* Sign up for newsletters. Keeping up to date with what is happening on your favourite shopping sites allows you to receive news on the latest deals and specials.
“While the squeeze on your wallet might push you to spend money, keep in mind that for most, there is a long gap between the December and January pay days,” Steward says. “Make sure that you have all the essentials to start off 2022 on a good foot first, that you’ve paid your bills – maybe even settled some debt – and ensure that you have a good reserve fund in place, before considering the ‘big spend’.”