About two years ago we bought our house. The man we purchased it from had lived there since the 1950s. He maintained the place, but the most-recent renovation was probably circa 1972. We needed to gut it. So my wife started shopping for things online: lights, locks and handles for the doors, bathroom fixtures, even the kitchen sink (literally!). Afterwards, for weeks on end it seemed like there was a daily – if not more – delivery of some sort or another.
Shopping the world online not only opened things up to some very competitive pricing (even with the shipping fees), but we were able to find things that just weren’t available close to home. But beyond rebuilding a house, there are countless advantages to shopping online, often in some surprising categories.
Vacation bookings have long been a popular use of online purchasing via sites like Expedia, but don’t just limit yourself to comparison shopping for airfare and hotel deals. Car rental agencies love to book their vehicles in advance – it helps them better manage their fleets so they have the right number of cars in the right locations – so they offer steep discounts for customers who order online rather than just walking up to the counter upon arrival.
The internet has also opened up the world of home exchanges to the masses. Where before you had to order a catalog, companies like HomeLink International have affiliates running sites in countries around the globe. And if you’d rather stay close to home for your vacation, there are dozens of cottage rental sites that give full details about the available amenities including pictures and, often, video tours of the building and property. One of my favourites is Cottage Link Rental Management.
Even provincial campgrounds have recognized what a valuable tool online booking can be. The Ontario Parks site includes detailed descriptions of each campsite available in the province, including multiple photos so you can check out the view long before you arrive.
While your inbox may be deluged with spam offers for cheap Viagra and fake pharmaceuticals, there are some legitimate healthcare options online. American shoppers have been taking advantage of our lower-priced medications for years. But Canucks with money to spare who’d rather jump the lines in our public healthcare system can search the web for healthcare options overseas (there’s even a term for the practice: medical tourism).
The services and facilities are often top-notch, with some even offering first-class accommodations for family members travelling with you. Of course, you’ll want to do your research on any overseas option before you sign up, and ensure that by jumping the line, you don’t impact your ability to receive follow-up treatment back at home.
Not ready to go under the knife abroad? Well you can still get some discount, top quality healthcare products online. ClearlyContacts.ca, for example, bills itself as “Canada’s largest optical store,” with name-brand glasses, sunglasses, contacts, and other accessories available 24/7.
Freebies and Other Deals
While most of us are likely familiar with the deals to be had on sites like Craig’s List and Kijiji, there are also sections of those sites where people offer up items that they’re looking to get rid of for free. The Freecycle network is another option, where people in towns and cities across the country offer up their trash in the hopes that someone will recycle it as a treasured item.
You can also find out about deep discounts at bricks and mortar stores through sites like Groupon, Red Flag Deals, and Smart Canucks.
Caveat Emptor: Duties and Taxes
If you purchase items from online retailers outside of Canada, you may be charged federal and/or provincial duties and taxes on the item. Brokerage fees that certain shipping companies apply can also eat away at your anticipated savings. So do the math first.