First off I have to say I am very lucky to live in Stockholm, Sweden where internet access is fast and good and the access to gorgeous things in the shops is free. I come from a tiny town in South Africa where the reverse is true!
One disadvantage though is that things are enormously expensive here, even for goods that come from the rest of the EU. That is strange to me because within the EU common market there are no taxes or customs added when you import an item. One reason could be that Sweden has good wages and a strict wage-setting system in place via the trade unions and the collective agreements they negotiate.
Two examples of this are Topshop and The Body Shop. Body Shop products in Sweden cost twice what they do in the UK. And the same item is much cheaper if you buy it on Topshop.com than it would be if you buy it in the store – even if you factor in postage costs. At one stage I could fly to London on Ryanair, buy my Doc Martens in Covent Garden and fly back to Stockholm for a total cost cheaper than just the Doc Martens in a Swedish store.
So, what I do is find things I like and buy them cheap online. My tips for good service are
Lookfantastic.com and HQHair – for beauty products. Lookfantastic has free shipping anywhere in the world. If you sign up to their newletter you will have access to fantastic discounts (usually over weekends).
Amazon.com – for just about everything from books to toothbrush refills.
Ebay.com – for anything and everything on auction or buy it now. If you do choose the auction route then use an auction sniper to get the best prices. I usually use Bidnapper. Also, set up searches for items you would like and you will get an email every time one pops up. Things to watch out for – shill bidding (when fake bids are placed to drive up prices) and extortionate shipping prices – sometimes people sell the item cheaply but then charge whopping amounts for postage.
Etsy.com – for anything handmade. Dawanda is another version.
ASOS is good for clothes and beauty products.
Filofaxes you can purchase online on Amazon and Ebay but especially nice is if you take a meander to other countries’ Filofax sites, you can find sales, unusual Filofaxes, Filofaxes which may be out of stock or discontinued in your country. Run the site through Google translate if necessary. Have a look at Filofax.de, Filofax.se, Filofax.fr, Filofax.dk, Filofax.be, Filofax.nl, Filofax.no
For planners I would recommend Daycraft – they have only just started with worldwide sales and they are fantastic.
For purchasing I like to use Paypal as it is quick and easy. It also covers you if anything goes wrong. Avoid anything that requires you to buy with Western Union!
Hope this helps!