The Hidden Costs of Online Shopping and How to Avoid Them This Holiday Season

white and brown chocolate cake on white ceramic tray

With the winter holidays just around the corner, many people are starting to think about the gifts they want to give their loved ones. In recent years, more and more people have turned to online shopping to find everything on their holiday lists. Unfortunately, online shopping has some unique challenges and hidden fees that can burden holiday shoppers. Let’s take a look at why online shopping is popular during the holiday season before discussing some typical hidden costs of online shopping and how to avoid them. 

Why is Online Shopping Popular During the Holiday Season?


One of the major reasons online shopping is popular all year long is because of the convenience it offers. During the winter holidays, this added convenience becomes even more important. This is because physical storefronts are generally more crowded around this time of year. Shopping for presents online can save you the hassle of spending hours in line at the store. As an added bonus, many online stores even allow you to mark a purchase as a present when checking out. Marking an order as a present will ensure that the product is sent in discreet packaging so the surprise is never ruined. 

Long Distance Gifts

Holiday shopping can be difficult for people who live far away from their loved ones. Not only do they have to deal with busy stores, but they also have to ship the package during one of the busiest times of the year. Shipping services receive much more business during the holiday season than at any other time of the year, meaning it can take hours to ship a package in person. Fortunately, with online shopping, you can avoid these annoyances. When you buy a gift online, you can have it delivered directly to your loved one with ease. 

Holiday Sales

The holiday season is known for huge, in-person sales like Black Friday, but there are online sales as well. For example, Cyber Monday is an online sale that happens on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Many major brands participate in Cyber Monday, so be on the lookout for deals you couldn’t find in the store on Black Friday. Many businesses also run seasonal discounts that they notify their previous customers about. Keep an eye on your email, and maybe even the spam folder, for special discounts or coupon codes to use during the holiday season. 

Common Hidden Costs of Online Holiday Shopping

Photo by Ylanite Koppens


A markup is an increase in a product’s price to offset the cost of selling the product. One of the most common cases you’ll come across a markup while shopping online is when a product is being sold on a third-party site. This is the same reason a product might cost more on Amazon than on the company’s own site. Amazon charges its online retailers a fee for using their platform. This cost is usually passed on to the consumer via a markup. However, there are several reasons markups might occur. Scarcity, inflation, and demand can all result in a product’s price increasing. 

Photo by Pixabay

Peak Season Surcharges

Peak season surcharges are additional fees added to the delivery cost of a package. These surcharges are common around the winter holidays because of the increased volume of packages that delivery services must handle. Expedited shipping options may have even higher peak season surcharges than the cheapest shipping services. Different carriers will have different peak season surcharges, so take some time to find the cheapest option for you. 

“Free” Shipping

Everybody loves free shipping, and online retailers are aware of this. One of the sneakier ways companies attract online shoppers is with “free” shipping. This is a practice where the price of a product is increased to offset the cost of shipping. The consumer still pays the price of shipping but feels like they’re getting a good deal. Pay close attention to the price of a product especially when “free” shipping is advertised. 

How to Avoid These Hidden Costs

Always Compare Prices

As previously mentioned, the convenience that online shopping offers is one of its greatest strengths. When doing your holiday shopping this year, use this strength to your advantage. Visit a few different websites to compare prices and make sure you’re finding the best deal. There are even free browser extensions that can find you discount codes on the products you’re shopping for in real-time. The winter holidays are a fantastic time to find incredible deals, so be diligent!

Avoid Expedited Shipping Options

Expedited shipping options are always expensive, but this is especially true during the winter holidays. The peak season surcharges that are tacked onto shipping costs might make overnight shipping unreasonably expensive. Ship your loved ones’ presents early to ensure they get there on time and to avoid extra costs. 

Make the Most of Holiday Sales and Coupons

It’s common for companies to celebrate the new year by offering discounts on their products and services. Take some time to plan your holiday shopping experience this year. Make a list of all the gifts you want to buy and then start searching for holiday discounts on those products. Some companies even offer holiday incentives for first-time customers. 

Article by Uma Campbell

Scroll To Top