Shopping should be an enjoyable experience, whether you're looking for new furnishings to decorate your home or picking up a wedding or birthday present for a loved one. No one wants to spend their precious time circling the mall to find a parking space, battling shoppers, and standing in long lines. As more retailers allow consumers to make their purchases online, this method has become a popular alternative.

Online shopping has both perks and drawbacks, making it important that individuals take several components into consideration to enhance their experience.

First, shoppers should make sure they are getting the best deal. Many retailers offer online discounts, two-day sales, and special coupons that can be redeemed online. However, it's important to fully understand how rebates and discounts work before making a purchase. For example, some stores may require shoppers to purchase up to a certain dollar amount to get the discount. If this amount is more than you were initially looking to spend, it may be better to look elsewhere or purchase it in-store. It's also important to factor in shipping costs. Shoppers may think they are getting a good deal until they go to check out to find taxes, fees and shipping charges tacked on to their final balance.

It can be helpful to first peruse the website to look for potential shipping deals or upcoming sales events that will help cut down on costs.

In addition to looking for good deals, it's crucial that shoppers ensure the website is secure before inputting their payment information. There are a few signs that show a site is secure, the first of which is the URL. Most websites begin with "http." However, a secure website will begin with "https," with the "s" standing for secured. In addition, shoppers should look for a lock icon somewhere in the window of their browser. If they click on the icon, it will pull up details about the website's security. It's crucial to seek out these features before inputting credit card or bank account information online to protect your finances.

Lastly, consumers should be well aware of the retailer's warranty and return policy. This can be helpful if individuals are dissatisfied with the product or if it malfunctions in the future. Some of these policies have return or warranty deadlines, so knowing how they work beforehand can save shoppers a great deal of trouble.