13 Things You Didn’t Know Were Cheaper in the U.S.
Whether you’re cross-border shopping or buying online from a dot-com site, it pays to know which things are cheaper in the U.S. From budget-friendly toiletries to electronics, here’s a Canadian’s shopper’s guide to what to buy in the USA.
What to Buy in the USA: A Canadian Shopper’s Guide
Moaning about price differences between Canada and the United States might be our second national sport, but the truth is, you really can get a bargain if you know what to buy in the USA. Blame it on the low Canadian dollar, import taxes or higher labour costs in Canada; regardless, there really are significant price differences. And with $800 worth of goods allowed back in duty-free on a visit longer than 48 hours, you’ve got some room for spending. These days, you don’t even need a passport to take advantage of those amazing deals. So long as you’ve got a credit card handy, you can still save a bundle by shopping from dot-com websites. According to a recent study by UPS Canada, 83 per cent of Canadian shoppers made an online purchase from an international retailer in 2017, and 76 per cent of those transactions were from U.S. retailers.
So, what types of items are the biggest bargains across the border? Here’s a list of what to buy in the USA.
1. Toiletries and Cosmetics
The amount you’ll save on a single tube of mascara or a bottle of shampoo might not be huge, but it does add up—and cosmetics and toiletries are often significantly cheaper in the USA. The draw in this category for many cross-border shoppers, however, isn’t merely the bargains, but the fact that American retailers regularly stock brands and products not yet available in Canada.
Keep in mind, these are the beauty products dermatologists wish you’d stop wasting money on.
How frustrating is it to see the U.S. price listed alongside the Canadian price whenever you check the tag at a global fashion brand like Zara or H&M? That constant “comparison shopping” might be driving the Canadian market for dot-com purchases: according to a UPS Canada study, as much as 60 per cent of international online purchases made by Canadians are in fact clothes.
The big bonus if you’re cross-border shopping is that some states don’t have taxes on some types of clothing (Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New York and Vermont, for example), while others don’t charge sales tax at all (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon).
3. Diapers & Wipes
If you’re travelling across the border with little ones, don’t pack too many diapers and wipes for the journey. You can save big by buying these items once you’re in the USA. Not only will they be cheaper, but you’ll save tons of room in your luggage!
Here are 11 things to always have in your carry-on.
4. Bedding & Towels
Luxury home brands are often more expensive in Canada than they are in the U.S. If you’re looking to invest in new bedding and towels, it often pays to look for end-of-season sales at the likes of Kate Spade and Ralph Lauren Home.
Have you ever visited the Ralph Lauren shop on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile? Believe it or not, it’s one of the best things to do in Chicago on a two-day layover.
Looking to make a big purchase for your wee ones? You can save a bundle by putting toys on your list of things to buy in the USA. Whether your kids are into American Girl, Hot Wheels, Little Tikes or Barbie, you can’t beat the prices from U.S. retailers.
Don’t miss these tricks frugal shoppers use to save big on groceries.
We may call the doubling-up of a denim shirt and jeans the “Canadian Tuxedo,” but there’s no better place to buy denim than the USA. Of course, you’ll find plenty of discount denim at big box retailers like Target and Walmart, but is you’re going to cross-border shop, it’s the perfect opportunity to invest in luxury jeans without blowing the bank. Look for American-made brands like Rag & Bone and Paige, which, although available in Canada, are cheaper to buy in the U.S.
Need proof that books are cheaper in the U.S.? Simply check the prices listed on the back of any novel or coffee table book. If you’re looking to stock up on the collected works of your new favourite author, you might want to add it to your list of things to buy in the USA. While you’re at it, pick up these must-read classic books!
8. Vitamins and Supplements
Vitamins and nutritional supplements are often cheaper to buy in the USA. Before cross-border shopping, comparison shop with Canadian brands to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Looking for a place to start? Here are the 13 essential vitamins your body needs to stay healthy.
9. Music and Movies
Whether you’re jumping on the vinyl bandwagon, or looking to upgrade your favourite film collection to Blu-Ray, it might be worth waiting for a cross-border shopping trip. Chances are, the music and movies on your wish list are cheaper to buy in the USA.
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If you’ve ever ordered shoes from an international website, you may have been broadsided by unexpectedly high duties—duties that can as much as double the price of the shoes themselves. The reason? The shoes may have been sourced from a country that doesn’t currently have a free trade agreement with Canada. (Here’s the Government of Canada’s handy guide to tariff information by country.) One of the easiest ways around this is to restrict your international online shopping to American brands like Bass, Frye, Keen, L.L. Bean, New Balance and Red Wing.
When in doubt, consult the Canada Border Services Agency’s Duty and Taxes estimator.
On the market for a gorgeous new mixing bowl, or perhaps a chic set of wine stems? Brands like Pottery Barn aren’t only more common in the USA—they’re also much more affordable when it comes to kitchenware essentials.
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12. Pet food and accessories
As any proud parent of a fur baby can attest, pets can be expensive. But pop into a PetCo or Pet Supplies Plus—large U.S. retailers with big buying power—and you’ll be amazed at how much you can save on food, treats and accessories.
Psst—this city is the new pet-pampering capital of Canada!
There’s usually not a huge difference between what Canadians and Americans pay for large-scale home electronics (who wants to squeeze a 54-inch screen in their carry-on, anyway?). Where the biggest savings are to be had are in smaller electronics and accessories (GPS devices, memory cards, flash drives), video games and wearable tech.
Tempted by the deals on that dot-com site? Always follow these tips for safe online shopping.