It was bound to happen sooner or later. Living in a city with limited resources and having a penchant for shopping, it was just a matter of time before I succumbed. And now I’m hooked. Alright maybe I’m a teensy bit addicted.

Oh sure, it started innocently enough – a few books here, a couple of toys for the kids there. Of course if I look back now, I could see the signs: the umpteenth pair of black yoga pants (did you know that Lululemon ships for free), the cute little tennis skirt (no I don’t play, but I do plan on taking lessons), the bright pink heels from Zappos (I mean, who doesn’t need 4” high bright pink stilettos). Well, let’s just say that lately I’ve become much more conscious of my little “habit”.

Yet as a result of all my shopping experiences I have managed to learn a great deal about the whole process of online shopping. For those of you who are new to the concept or have been afraid to try it, here are a few tips to consider when getting started:

Figure out all of your shipping costs, duties and taxes before you purchase. Know if the website will be acting as your customs broker or if you will be responsible for paying duty costs once the items arrive in Canada. If duty and taxes are not included in your final price you can always estimate the costs with the use of online duty and tax estimators.

Read all the policies, Frequently Asked Questions and fine print. Reading the Return/Exchange Policy is an absolute must. Know what you can return/exchange and how long you have to do it. Some websites will not allow returns or exchanges on sale items and most will not refund shipping charges nor will they pay for your shipping costs to return the product to them. Make sure to factor in these costs to see if the item is worth purchasing.

Keep in mind that when you are returning an item in which you paid for duty costs upon the item’s arrival, you will need to contact the Canada Border Services Agency to request a refund for all taxes and duties incurred. Remember to keep all your purchase and duty receipts for your refund request. It is a relatively simple process however it may take a few months to receive your funds.

If you are purchasing clothing or shoes and are unfamiliar with the particular manufacturer or designer, be sure to check their sizing charts. If you’re not interested in having to deal with returns, purchase from manufacturers or designers whose items you already own and whose sizing you are comfortable with.

When placing your first order with a website that is new to you, contact customer service to see if there are any first time buyer discounts or special offers. These aren’t always posted on the site. If you find a website that you like, sign up for their mailing list to receive discounts, special offers or advance notice of sales.

And finally, stick with known, reputable websites that have the most trusted security requirements in place. With a little research, planning and preparation, online shopping can be an easy and enjoyable experience. Maybe even a little too enjoyable!