Tag Archives: Online shopping

Is having a Present Box insane?

presents

Over the weekend I replenished my ‘Present Box’. I remember hearing about Present Boxes before I became a mum and thinking such people were completely bonkers.

And now I’m one of them.

I like to think of myself as a thoughtful shopper. I love the idea of spending hours thinking about presents for the special people in my life; their habits and personal style or something they might really need at the moment.

Given that consumer goods are so cheap these days, many more people simply buy what they want when they recognise a need, hence the popularity of ‘experience presents’ and vouchers for services like a massage. (I always think such vouchers need to come in pairs; here’s a voucher and here’s some time in your diary to have it!).

Over the last year, I have come a convert to online shopping . And now I have a Present Box.

Friends will be pleased to hear that it’s not as thoughtless as it sounds. Rather than (as I had imagined) a set of generic ‘adult female’ type presents, if I see something you might like now, I buy it immediately and have it ready for your birthday. Last Christmas was my easiest Christmas ever.

There are some more generic style presents in my Present Box, like things for newborns and new mamas, as as well as presents for Four Year Old Girls. Simply because those invitations to parties from day care can sometimes stay in the bottom of the bag until the day before!

I also really hate trying to rush in shopping malls. In fact I hate entering a shopping mall and the Present Box has helped.

Here’s my system for how it has simplified my online shopping.

1. Create a ‘shopping’ folder on your favourites on your browser. Then if you find a good site you can start browsing on sites you’ve already enjoyed previously.

2. Once you’ve found a few sites and browsed them a little, set yourself up for a session with credit card and calendar handy.  While most Australian sites I’ve used deliver within a week, I like to prepare a couple of months ahead.

3. Working through birthdays and other celebrations I simply shop online as I would in a mall, working through my priorities, leaving a tab open if I am unsure about something and moving onto my next choice.  This is a good thing to do if you’re considering several purchases from the same store.  It not only saves on delivery costs but makes receipt of packages a lot easier too.

4. I also keep all of those annoying emails that you get when you join any kind of loyalty program in one email folder.  I then scan it for ideas when I am looking for something in particular; reminded of brands and stores I have frequented in real life.

5. Once I’m finished, I then check my stocks of wrapping paper and cards to check that they cover the same time period I’ve just shopped for. Nothing like realizing you’ve left out something important at the last minute.  You could do the fancy personalized photo card if you’re really keen, but I find most people are happy with something drawn by the kids or one of those cheaper ones from places like Big W.

6. For my recent Present Box replenishment, I used My Favourite.  I’ve found on previous occasions that their delivery is very quick and the products are made of high quality materials. (Not sponsored, I just like them)

7. I’ve also started to keep a Christmas List around this time of year, mostly to keep track of what I have bought and who is left.  Last year I was pleasantly surprised to discover most people had been covered off through ‘incidental shopping’ through the year.

Do you have a Present Box?  Do you think people who keep them are thoughtless – or a little bit mad?

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Christmas shortcuts for working mums – five tips for managing December diaries

It’s a manic time.  Some of it is fun.  Lots of it is high pressure.  And sometimes you just creep through to Christmas completely exhausted and in need of drying out and a meal at home.

I once realised on December 19 that I’d attended so many Christmas functions that I hadn’t eaten a meal with a knife and fork for about three weeks.  I’d survived entirely on meals consisting of hors d’ouevres and champagne.

Those were the days.

Today, planning during December is a precision event.  When’s your work do?  And the larger team function?  Oh yes and the one you’ve been invited to at your old work?  And then there’s the mothers group Christmas, a family function or two, and December is gone.  Without even mentioning your kid’s social commitments and school graduation ceremonies.

For working mums, you can feel particularly stretched because the Christmas function may not be held on your work day, and you want to do the things stay at home mums do too.  If Santa visits your day care centre, is it on a day your child usually attends?  It’s a lot to organise.

Here are some tips to help you survive the silly season.

1. Book some babysitting now.  If you haven’t already, stop reading and call your babysitter.  And your back up babysitter.  The last Friday in December is in high demand.  Call today.  You will use that free night for something,  I promise.

2. Work out between you and your partner/hubby/babysitter which events are REALLY important.  Do you mind if you miss your Christmas function?  Some people don’t, and getting sleep and proper meals is more important.  It’s ok to admit this but if you do love a night out with your colleagues, schedule it in.

3.  Schedule in all the other crazy stuff too.  Like a night at home online to complete your gift purchases.  That time doesn’t happen automatically.  If you send Christmas cards, or a Christmas email, schedule it in too.  Do you need your eyebrows waxed?  Make an appointment now.  If it’s booked up with Christmas parties for you and your kids, it won’t happen – or it will happen at midnight on some evening in mid-December.  Stressful for everyone.

4.  Remember all the stuff that makes your life work every other month of the year.  Exercise.  Meal planning.  Catching up on Glee. It’s all still a good idea.

5.  Notwithstanding point 4, give yourself a break.  Sometimes doing everything just isn’t possible. Can’t prepare something from scratch for the mother’s group Christmas party?  Stop in at your local bakery instead.  Shortcuts are ok  and an essential way of protecting your mental health – as important this month as ever.

Your December calendar might look a bit crazy.  My husband and I send appointment requests to each other’s work diaries when we need to book a night out.  Clashes get discussed in the evenings to sort our priorities.  Apologies for the nights we just can’t get babysitting are made as early as we can admit we just won’t make it.

It’s never a perfect system, but it helps us manage the insanity just a little bit!

How do you manage your time commitments during December?

Christmas shortcuts for working mums (Part One – gifts)

If you’re a working mum, there is every chance you scanned over this headline thinking, “Surely I don’t have to panic about Christmas yet?”

If you made it this far, congratulations, because today we start our series on shortcuts that will save you time, hassle and stress.

Some mums live for Christmas.  They carefully wrap their decorations in tissue paper in early January and store it carefully in a regular place.  Others of us chuck the tree in a box mid-January and drag it out to the shed, and then wonder how it got so dusty eleven months later.

Fortunately in 2012, the Internet is our friend.  We’ve moved beyond having to race out to Toys R Us at midnight on December 23, and can leisurely peruse presents from home if we wish.

The challenge with Internet shopping can be quality assurance and leaving a little time for postage.  Most good websites will tell you their last shipments before D-Day, but as a general rule for this year, aim to have everything done this year by Friday December 7th (when the good tellie has finished for the year anyway so if you spend this evening on the Internet you won’t miss anything good).

Ok, so where to go?  You could check out our Guide to Online Shopping published earlier this year which has some useful tips and lots of suggestions but our finalists for Christmas 2012 are:

1. www.myfavourite.com.au  has a wide range of options so you can shop for nearly everyone in the family.  You won’t end up buying golf balls or book vouchers. Next day delivery, an optional gift wrapping service as well as clever and thoughtful ideas. And no need to drag a three year old through a shopping centre 🙂   I’ve done one bulk purchase this year and found that everything arrived on time with the quality of each product as high as it appeared online.

2. Etsy.com is for those who like presents that look as though they picked them up in a local market where they became friendly with the artist. Who said shopping online had to be different? Etsy is billed as “unique handmade and vintage items directly from independent sellers around the world”.  I haven’t made my purchases this year but have had very strong recommendations on delivery and quality and there are some beautiful items.  There is also an App so you could do your thoughtful and personal shopping on the bus to work if your technology allows…  Convenient!

3. Your favourite supplier.  Who said everything had to change from last year?  Which shop gave you the best bang for your buck, range and service last year?  Check out their online presence.  You may be surprised to see that many Australian retailers are finally getting their act together with decent websites and online ordering. Companies like Napoleon Perdis offer an excellent range and good online systems despite having a significant retail presence.  They’ve finally worked out how we like to shop!  And one of these days ClickFrenzy will work.

If your favourite Australian retailer fails you, we can recommend stores like Disneystore for quality children’s products, easy to navigate websites and reliable, affordable delivery.

4. Finally, remember the best  advice working mums can give to each other  – forget the guilt and take a few more short cuts.

Teenagers love Itunes vouchers, most kids love plastic junk that breaks within a few weeks and adults love wine and chocolate.

It might be a cliche – but if you’d be happy to receive it, don’t be ashamed to give it!

Next in our series on Christmas, shortcuts for hosting Christmas Day.

Working Mums Australia’s guide to online shopping

My friend Serena is one of those friends who gives excellent presents.  Special occasions are important to her, and she thinks very carefully about gifts for many people.

When I ask her how she manages to get such great gifts, her response usually starts with ‘www’.

Like the rest of us, she’s very busy and knows that online shopping saves time on transport and parking, as well as being able to be done at odd hours.

And today, she shares some of her secrets with us.   Lucky us 🙂 .

So when is online shopping actually useful?  What can be purchased online these days?

Everything!  I use it for groceries, alcohol, presents, books, clothes, shoes, baby items, bulk nappies, toys, jewellery, computer supplies, electrical items, costumes for birthday parties, party supplies and furniture.

I will always try and buy something online before I go to a shop to find it.  And I always try and buy from an Australian website/Australian company.  Pretty much the only exception to the online rule is jeans – you need to actually SEE how bad your ar*e looks in a pair of jeans.

With supermarkets, do you go for Woolies or Coles?  Why?

I always used Woolies but they have recently changed their website which has resulted in a few functions that I am not happy with, so I have switched to Coles.

For online shopping, I have no brand loyalty to either company or even particularly pay attention to which items are on ‘extra-extra-extra special sale’ this week.  It is all about functionality of the website and ability to be able to search for items easily and place an order very quickly.

Do you use an app?

Woolies has only just started to allow online shopping via an app.  It is difficult to navigate but as it is only the first version, I am hoping that it will get better.  I suspect Coles will be following shortly.

Do you ‘trust’ it with fruit and veg? 

No, unfortunately not.  I have had a couple of bad experiences.  However, to combat this I have organised (online) for an organic fruit and veg box to be delivered from a farmers co-op, usually at the same time I organise for my shopping to be delivered so I only have to arrange for one period of time where I need to be home.

Nor do I trust it for any meat other than packaged organic chicken breasts or mince meat.  But that just means the only shop I have to actually go to regularly is the butchers.  I have found one in the back streets of a nearby suburb that always has parking out the front and often that is the only traditional shopping I do, generally on my way home from somewhere else.

Have you experienced any delivery/reliability problems?

No, never.  If anything, I am the unreliable one because I can sometimes arrive home a bit late!  I am lucky to live in an area with a high-level of regular deliveries but I have never once found the delivery times to be a problem.

Is it much more expensive than a ‘regular’ shop?

Absolutely not.  It costs the same.  Although I think it costs a lot less when I take into account the value of my time and lack of stress in trying to manage an uncooperative toddler in an uncooperative trolley.  It also takes so much less time because you don’t miss items and have to go back through aisles you’ve already gone down trying to find the item.  Just type in the word and the item appears!

How long does ‘your shop’ take each week?

It took a bit of time initially, but now that I menu plan and have all my lists of favourite items set up, I can do the entire shop, including payment, in 10 to 15 minutes every fortnight.

What do you look for in online shopping?

Free delivery is a big factor.  I know all retailers have their overhead costs but given most of the places I shop with online don’t have an actual shopfront, I think that free delivery should be standard.  Additionally, I like people to get back to me quickly when I ask a question about a product.  Customer service is incredibly important, even on the internet.

Here’s the question we all need the answer to, what are your top sites for internet shopping?

Thanks Serena!   Mums start your clicking!

Shopping for babies and children

The following six have impressive websites, fair delivery costs, lots of cool clothes and gifts and excellent customer service.

http://www.babysgotstyle.com.au

http://www.urbanbaby.com.au

http://www.kidostore.com

http://www.buttonbaby.com.au

http://www.thehipinfant.com.au

http://ittybittygreenie.com.au

This company’s website is ugly and user-unfriendly but they have some great products I haven’t been able to find elsewhere: http://www.minimee.com.au

Adult clothes

This website is changing online shopping in Australia.  They have a great range of Australian designers, lots of products on sale, and they offer free overnight delivery in metro areas.  Amazingly, they also offer three-hour delivery in Sydney for only $4.95: http://www.theiconic.com.au/

This shoe website offers free delivery: http://www.styletread.com.au/

Gifts

http://www.hampersonly.com.au/

http://www.top3.com.au/

http://www.edibleblooms.com.au

http://www.myfavourite.com.au/

Other sites

For anyone who shops for products on sale, these sites are amazing: www.brandsexclusive.com.au and www.ladybub.com.au

It goes without saying that www.ebay.com.au has changed the way we shop forever.  If you’re a Mum and you’re not shopping on ebay already, you are wasting valuable time and effort.  Once you spend some time on ebay you will become a convert to second-hand goods too.

The best reason to shop on the internet is for those little products that you can’t find in shops but change your life.  These are the sorts of products we should be sharing – the things that were never available to us previously because the big shops didn’t want to stock them.  Some of these products (particularly baby-related) are:

http://prambles.com/ These have allowed me to keep using my umbrella stroller even when my toddler continually gets in and out.  I was getting so annoyed with it falling over I didn’t want to use it anymore.

http://www.kozzzee.com.au/porta-snug.html I love the porta-snug.  It has reduced my travel-cot related packing for trips by half and I was able to have it made in the colours and patterns of my choosing.

http://www.dashbaby.com.au has really cool baby wipes cases.

www.motherknowsbest.com.au/tvstrapsgifts.html are the best gadget I’ve found to keep your plasma TV strapped to your TV cabinet

http://www.jellystonedesigns.com fantastic baby-friendly jewellery

Big retailers

I do purchase from these websites and I really want to support big Australian retailers (if for no other reason than I can stop listening to Gerry Harvey’s constant whinging) but until they spend some serious time and money on their websites, they are fighting a losing battle.  Every single one of the websites is limited in product range and is unnecessarily clunky.

http://www.bigw.com.au

http://shop.target.com.au/

http://www.myer.com.au/

http://www.kmart.com.au/

http://www.davidjones.com.au/

http://www.westfield.com.au/

Get clicking and save time!

What are your favourite shopping websites?  Do you have any favourites you like to share?

Online shopping tips for working mums from Natalie

As a single working mum of Madison (6) and Angus (4), I find online grocery shopping a lifesaver.

Wrangling a trolley around the supermarket isn’t my idea of fun at the best of times, but add tired, hungry kids at the end the day and frankly, I’d rather poke my eye out with a sharp stick.

I’ve been buying my groceries online  for about 6 years now. My provider of choice is Woolies Homeshop, because they were operating in my area when I started and a few friends had recommended them. I’ve never had any major problems and no reason to change.

COST

Online shopping is more expensive. But for me, the sheer convenience makes it a no brainer. It’s totally worth the extra money. Having said that, I don’t think it’s very much more expensive  – and in some ways online shopping saves me time and money too.

A lot of the specials you will find in-store are now available online and are often easier to find than in a regular shop. There’s a Specials section and Homeshop currently has a ‘Half Price’ and a Buy More, Save More page with multi-buy deals. You can also save money by buying things in bulk like toilet paper and washing powder without having to think twice about the logistics of lugging them home, because they will be delivered to your door.

I also think I sometimes spend more during a ‘regular’ shop because of impulse buys, whereas with an online shop, I’m much more likely to stick to a list.

TIME

Then there’s the time saved. I keep a shopping list on the fridge and add to it as we run out of things. Before going online, I have a quick think about meals and lunches for the coming week and add the things I need to the list.

When you log on, you can go to your saved lists and select all the items that you regularly buy. They keep a list of your ‘favourites’ which keeps everything you have ordered on it, or you can make and save your own lists. This is super convenient and means that you then only need to use the search or browse functions to look for new things or specials.

There’s a nifty new Reminder that suggests a few items that you regularly purchase that you may have forgotten just before you check out and whilst I would usually frown on this sort of suggestive selling, it actually has helped me to remember something that I had left off my list on more than one occasion.

The beauty of online shopping is that you can place your order anytime, anywhere. I regularly place my orders using the iPad now. I often do it in front of the tv after the kids are in bed. Once I placed an order whilst having a pedicure (that’s multi-tasking for you!).

An online shop takes me 15-20 minutes if I’m fully concentrating or half an hour if I’m multi-tasking!

DELIVERY 

Obviously one of the costs of online shopping is delivery. Homeshop has a sliding scale from $13.00 for a small shop (less than $100 value) through to free if you spend more than $300.00. For me, delivery usually costs $5-$7 but for the convenience of having the groceries delivered to my kitchen – that’s money I’m prepared to pay.Woolies has recently changed their delivery windows though to 3 hour windows which I find less flexible than the old delivery options. In the old system you could pay a slightly higher delivery fee for a shorter delivery window.  This was very convenient because the hardest thing can be trying to coordinate your availability to be home.

If I want an after work delivery window, it now means booking in a 6pm-9pm delivery window to make sure I can be home in time. Usually this works out but I have had one delivery after 8.30pm which isn’t ideal. It can also be hard to commit to be home for a 3 hour window on a Saturday with sport and parties and all the things busy families have to do on weekends.

I always include fruit and veg in my order and have generally been pretty happy with the quality. Only once was the fruit quality poor and in that case (it was mangoes which were very ripe), they didn’t charge me for them and sent me double the quantity I had ordered, so I blitzed the pulp up and froze it in portions – mango smoothie anyone?

TIPS AND WARNINGS 

One thing you do need to watch is how you set up your substitution options. As a general rule, I select no substitutes. I order the brand, size, flavour of a product I want because that’s the one I want and if it’s out of stock, it’s out of stock. My sister recently received a men’s moisturiser as a substitute for the out of stock men’s deodorant they had ordered?!? Sometimes, I will allow substitution for essentials like bread or milk, especially if it’s a night delivery and I know I need the product the next day.

My kids always eagerly await the arrival of ‘the Woolies man’ and they help me pack away the groceries and check the items off the list as we go. For me, online grocery shopping is a time and sanity saver that takes some pressure off and gives me more quality time with the kids and as such, I highly recommend it.