So you've searched and you've searched and you've finally found it: gleaming at you from a browser window is your perfect (rug, sofa, lamp, wall hanging). It's exactly what you've been looking for and you're ready to pull the trigger and bring it home. But wait! Before you buy, first do these five things.
1. Check the measurements.
That sofa or chair may seem like it's just the right size, but pictures can be deceiving. Check the measurements, and then check them against the measurements of your home, to make sure you don't wind up with doll-sized furniture or a giant lamp (or just a sofa that won't fit in the door).
2. Check the return policy.
This is especially important for larger items like furniture, because often retailers, even large, well-established ones, won't take returns on oversized items, or will charge a significant restocking fee. Even if a retailer has a generous return policy, you'll almost always wind up on the hook for return shipping, so factor this into your decision to buy.
3. Check the shipping policy.
When you're buying oversized items, it's worth taking a few minutes to determine exactly how, and where, they'll be shipped. Will your new furniture be delivered in a box to your front door? Or will the delivery people carry your furniture inside your house, set it up, and take away the packaging? Is there a policy for stairs? I live on the fifth floor, and I've learned the hard way that most companies charge extra for each flight. Still, it beats dragging a mattress up the stairs.
4. Look for coupons.
I never buy anything online without searching for coupons first — I just type "name of retailer + coupons" (e.g., "West Elm coupons") into Google and see what comes up. Sometimes you won't find anything, but sometimes you'll wind up saving lots of money on something you were planning to buy anyway. And that's good news.