I have never shopped online as I thought it was just too complicated, and even if there was some savings to be had, it wouldn’t be significant to warrant all that hassle. However, my sister-in-law (SIL) is an avid online shopper and she kept showing me her buys. I was surprised to find that even after shipping costs are factored in, some things are much cheaper than buying from the malls. And we haven’t even factored in ERP, car park charges and petrol or cab fare. And of course, the time spent travelling there and back.
|There is some further discount off these original prices|
Let me give you an example. My SIL just received her latest shipment of clothes for her 18-month old daughter. She bought 6 items from Ralph Lauren, and they cost her about S$165, inclusive of shipping charges (she bought several other items as well to ship back together, as shipping charges is a tiered system – more about that in tips later). That works out to be about $27 per item. It would have easily cost her a few hundred dollars at the mall. Kate can look forward to new hand-me-downs 🙂
Ok, that sounded pretty good. But I wasn’t intending to buy Ralph Lauren anytime soon. Besides RL, she also shops from Carter’s, Gap and Oshkosh as you can get the latest collection at reduced prices, and even more savings during their seasonal sales. She also looks out for promo codes to get further discounts. Other than clothes, what else did she buy? She showed me this item from Munchkin which she felt is her best buy so far. It is the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System.
When her daughter refuses to lie down in her crib, she turns the projector on and her daughter will lie quietly and watch the images on the ceiling. Besides the projections, this machine also emits sounds including lullabies, Mozart music, white noise, heartbeat sound etc. You can set it on timer for 15, 30 or 60 minutes.
|The images can either be projected on the ceiling or walls|
It also has a voice activation option whereby it will turn itself on when the baby cries! It also has a night light if you need to change your baby’s diaper. This oh-so-practical little machine costs just US$25! Amazing. (You do need an adaptor for this). I was hunting high and low for a white noise machine for Kate as her room is right next to the stairs and she gets woken up easily with all the noise. The only thing I managed to find was a bear toy that emitted white noise and lullaby sounds (which was much too soft to mask the outside noise especially when we have friends over) and it cost more than $50, so I didn’t buy it. This multi-tasker is such a bargain!
|This is the top view of the projector cum sound machine|
I was sold on the idea of online shopping and this is going to be my first buy. My SIL instructed me to set up an account with comGateway which she uses. It is a local freight company which will help you ship your shopping back here. When you sign up with them, you will get a US address (much like a locker in their US warehouse).
Why do we need to use a freight company?
- This allows you to buy from sites which only allow shipping within the US.
- Even with sites which does international shipping, using a freight company is usually much cheaper than their in-house shipping charges (except on occasions where they have a promotion like ‘50% off international shipping’).
- If you were going to buy from a few different shops, you can consolidate your buys and ship them all together via comGataway, which would be cheaper than shipping them back individually. They offer free storage of your packages up to 30 days while you wait for the other packages to arrive.
- If your items arrive in very big boxes, they will even help you repack your shopping. Or if you want to pack multiple items together into a single box, they will do it too, for a nominal charge. Just drop them an email.
So I got started. I created an account with comGateway, and was pleasantly surprised that they have a ‘Welcome pack’ whereby I will get 10% off my 1st shipping. They guide you through the steps, and I found it easy to follow.
I went into Amazon (which is like a huge mall carrying all sorts of brands) and typed in Munchkin projector under ‘Search’. They will list all the ‘shops’ which carry that item. There will be a slight price variation. Some will be more expensive but includes Free shipping within the U.S. I chose the one at $25 with Free shipping. I keyed in the U.S. address for the Shipping address and for the Billing address I put my Singapore home address. During payment, you will have an option of which currency to pay in. Your credit card will probably give you a better rate than the merchant, so I chose to shop in USD. That’s it! Done! It will be shipped to my comGateway address in about a week.
Now that I had made my first purchase from a U.S. store, I was getting quite excited. I love this website called See Jane Work where I go to check out their products and admire their stylish workspaces. Their stuff is more high end and I never browsed with the intention of buying as I thought it couldn’t be shipped here. Now, I can shop there! I bought myself a ‘Pack This’ pad at $7 (those who read my Family Command Centre post will know how much I love such pads). I also allowed myself to indulge in a set of 10 beautiful ocean blue pencils for $7. Well, my consolation was that I managed to restrain myself from buying many of the more expensive items. I will show you the other items I bought when they arrive 🙂
My SIL always buys up to a maximum of S$400 at one go as there is no GST below that amount, and it would be the most cost effective for shipping. She suggested I buy some toiletries as they are much cheaper online. She uses Aveda products and literally buys them by the litre. I have also just started to use Aveda as I have finally realised that my hair is in need of some tender loving care. For the past 15 years, it was a quick shampoo (of the cheap supermarket kind) and that was it. I didn’t even have time for conditioner or any other products. I’m going to give Aveda a go and see if it’s going to make a difference.
|My SIL buys Aveda products by the litre|
I went back into Amazon.com and searched under Aveda. The conditioner that I use costs me $46 here for a 200ml tube. In Amazon, it costs US$18 (S$24)! Even with shipping costs, it was a good 35% discount! The 1L bottle was an even better deal. It costs $150 here and in amazon it’s about 45% cheaper, inclusive of shipping. I ended up buying both the shampoo and conditioner.
|This tiny 200ml tube costs $46 here!|
A friend shared that she likes Martha Stewart’s organisational diaries and she intends to buy them on her trip to the U.S. I took a look at her website and was amazed that she does have a huge array of products to help moms keep everything in order. And they are much more affordable than See Jane Work. When I clicked on an item to start buying, they asked for my zip code. I keyed it in, and it said Free Shipping for orders above $19.99. I’m beginning to love this!!
Tips for online shopping:
- Set your country to U.S when you are in the store’s website
- Shop in U.S. Dollars as your credit card usually offers you a better exchange rate than the merchant
- Check for the “https” or the padlock as these indicate that your details are secure
- Keep your credit card details secret in all email correspondence
- GST is payable when your total purchase + shipping exceeds S$400
- Shipping charges (standard): First 0.5kg US$11. Every additional 0.5kg US$2.85. It makes sense to consolidate all your packages up to S$400 before asking comGateway to ship it back together.
Sane tip: If we don’t get carried away, I think online shopping is just wonderful. It really cuts down my time going down to town and searching for a particular item I need. Especially if Takashimaya doesn’t have what I want, I have to run around to Motherswork, Robinsons or Isetan. In the websites, I can easily narrow down my search to – Kids: clothes 1-2 years girls, or Toys: toddlers. I can also get many products exclusive to the U.S.
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Do share with us any other websites which you love! I will try to consolidate a list in Armchair shopping – part 2 for everyone to enjoy 🙂