December 14th, 2012
Managing Your Online Holiday Spending
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**Today’s guest post is contributed by Andrea Woroch.**
With online shopping up 13 percent over last year, cyber space will be crowded with last-minute shoppers over the next several days. The convenience of shopping online is matched only by the great deals to be found. There is a strategy to getting the best price and staying safe, however, so consider these tips before clicking “purchase.”
Get a Game Plan
Shopping online without a game plan will result in a major time sink. Review your gift list and determine what you want to find first. Then, think of all the retailers who might sell your desired item and start comparing prices. Once you narrow down the candidates, look for coupon codes for extra savings.
“Spaving,” or spending more to save, is especially prevalent online thanks to minimum order requirements for shipping. Happily, Free Shipping Day is coming up, eliminating the need to spend more in order to qualify for free delivery. Scheduled for Monday, Dec. 17, the event features over 1,300 stores offering free shipping and other discounts with delivery by Christmas Eve.
Review Return Policies
Ordering online is so convenient — until you have to return something. Ideally, all stores would offer free return shipping but unfortunately, that’s not yet a reality. Before you click “submit,” carefully review the store’s return policy to determine time frame and other important information. You can usually exchange items for free and you might be able to return an item to the store.
Search for Promo Codes
Every major store has a “coupon code” or “promo code” box at checkout, so make sure you’re taking advantage of savings. Peruse your favorite deal site for codes and remember some retailers (like Kohl’s) allow you to use more than one code. Talk about savings!
Know the Shipping Deadlines
Be sure you know the cutoff dates for getting your items in time for the holidays. Consult this handy list of holiday shipping deadlines and get your orders placed as early as possible to avoid expedited shipping fees. Stores like Walmart and Best Buy offer free site-to-store shipping with some items being available within hours of you placing the order.
Though you’d like to trust your inner bargain hunter, there’s no way of truly predicting when or if an item will be marked down even more. Since time of the essence, you can’t keep waiting for a sale or you may show up to the holiday gathering empty handed. Luckily, many retailers like Best Buy and Target are offering generous price adjustment policies this season. Meaning, you can ask for price matching even after purchase. The trick is to track prices across the Web with sites like Hukkster, which will alert you to price drops and sales.
A surefire way to a very un-Merry Christmas is to get your financial information compromised. Protect yourself against online fraud by using your credit card (which offers more protection than debit cards). And never, EVER conduct financial transactions over a public Wifi connection. Consider these other cyber safety tips from PCWorld.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer- and money-saving expert who is passionate about helping people learn how to live on less without drastically changing their lifestyle. She travels across the country sharing smart shopping tips and personal finance advise with media and has worked with top news outlets such as NBC’s Today, New York Times, Dr. Oz, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNN and many more.
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