Buying Goods From Abroad – Is It Worth It?

Posted by Allison on 5 April 2009, 11:08

That might seem like a strange question – after all, if you want to buy something you buy it in your own country.  Don't you?

The answer to that is 'not necessarily.'  It does depend on what kind of goods you are buying; you wouldn't buy fresh produce from another country for obvious reasons, but you might buy a gift or other product which would survive the journey, and indeed some people are now tuning into the possibilities of doing just that.

So how does this idea work?

It starts as normal with your usual browse around the internet to find a particular item you would like to buy.  Let's say it's a gadget for someone's birthday.  You find it on a website based in the United Kingdom, and of course it is priced in your own currency – pounds sterling.  You add on the postage and packaging and you think you've got a reasonable deal.

But before you buy it you figure you might as well do a price comparison to see if anywhere else is selling it cheaper.  You find a few other websites – again based in the UK – that are selling it slightly cheaper but once you add on the P&P it works out to the same amount.

But just as you are about to buy it from the original site, you remember about a friend of yours that came up against a similar situation and decided to see if they could get the item anywhere cheaper in America.  Not only did they succeed, but thanks to the favourable exchange rate at the moment, they saved even more money – even once the shipping charge had been added on.

So in answer to the question posed in the title, it does seem to be worth buying goods from abroad if you are prepared to shop around and do your homework first.

The main thing to remember is that it's generally easier sticking to America for your foreign purchases, because the exchange rate is better with the pound than it is for many other currencies.  There are also a lot of businesses in America which will stock the same kind of items that you will find over here; in fact if anything they tend to be ahead of us on a lot of things.

That brings up another point worth remembering; if you are looking for something a little bit different then you might want to start looking at American websites for gifts right from the start.  You might be able to get hold of something that isn't available over here at all.

There are a couple of caveats to remember though.  Firstly, before you start browsing round any foreign site, make sure you look for the delivery details, shipping charges and terms and conditions.  There is nothing worse than finding the perfect item and then discovering you can't actually buy it after all.

You should also find out what you would have to do should you need to return the item for any reason.  It could work out to be very expensive to ship something back to them – especially if they won't refund you the postage to do so.

Another point to bear in mind is the amount of time it is likely to take for something to arrive at your home from the time that you order it.  If the occasion you are buying the gift for is in the very near future you may not want to risk ordering it from another country – even if it says it will be here in plenty of time.  The further something has to travel to get to you and the more services it has to go through on that journey, the more chances there are for something to go wrong.

Finally there is the issue of compatibility.  Now obviously this won't apply in all situations but if you are considering buying a DVD that has only been released in America for example, you should make sure that it is a region zero DVD – in other words it is region free and it will play on any DVD player in any country.  This information can sometimes be hard to find – it's not always clearly marked and you have to search for it but it should be there.  If in doubt email the website first, before you place your order.

With all these warnings you might be thinking it's not worth buying goods from another country, but you can in fact save a lot of money by doing so.  You just need to exercise a little more caution before you part with your cash.

When you are shopping on a foreign website, you will sometimes find that they give you the option to select your own currency when viewing the items.  This will easily allow you to see how much each item will cost.

If this option isn't available, then it's a good idea to have a separate internet page open with one of the internet's top exchange rate sites open.  You'll have to switch back and forth between the pages but it's a quick and easy way to figure out the prices of the items you like.  After a while, once you get to know the current exchange rate, you will be able to look at an amount in a different currency and get a rough idea of what it will be in your own currency.

So long as you are careful and pay attention to what you are doing, you can find some great bargains by shopping abroad on the internet.  It might take a little longer to receive your goods but it's worth the wait if it saves you a considerable amount of money.

So don't stick to the same old websites next time you go online.  Spread your wings and go on a virtual shopping trip to America, without having to worry about taking a long flight first to get there.