Do you feel that? There’s a familiar chill in the air.
Do you see that? Probably not since the sun is now tucked away at 5 o’clock allowing the glow of twinkle lights to illuminate our path.
Do you smell that? It’s a mixture of evergreen, eggnog and homemade cookies.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of carolers melodically wishing a happy holiday to all within earshot.
It’s that time of year again. When the holiday lights sparkle against falling snow but their glint hardly matches the innocent sparkle in the eyes of children and all is right and bright in the……..screeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaach.
Do you feel that? It’s panic as you realize your shopping list is larger than your bank account.
Do you see that? It’s a stampede of gift-eating zombies devouring the lesser shopper at the mall.
Do you smell that? It’s your credit card smoking from overuse.
Do you hear that? It’s your Aunt Sue and Uncle Jim and Cousin Randy all demanding gift receipts.
Given the choice, we all would rather live in the first scenario. The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Filled with love and family and cheer. However, once we leave the kiddie table and enter adulthood the holidays turn into a race against time as we desperately try to pick the perfect present with hopes of not having to eat leftover fruitcake for the next two months to recover financially.
Luckily we have a secret weapon. Some might call it “Santa Claus” but I call it the Internet.
Online shopping is not only convenient and safe, it can save you more money than you ever thought possible. Say so long to fruitcake and hello to filet mignon!
Here are my top 5 tips and tricks to shop like a pro via the world wide web this holiday season.
Yes, that’s right. I said CASH BACK. Both Ebates and Shop At Home partner with hundreds of your favorite online retailers to offer you cash back when you shop through them. Etailers from QVC to Kohl’s to Holiday Inn and Groupon are listed.
All you do is search for your favorite shop, click on its link and you’ll be directed to their site, per usual, the only difference is you’ve opened a tracking ticket through the cash back site. With Shop At Home you will see a pop-up window of which you will shop through, Groupon will simply send you straight to the site. It couldn’t be easier or more fruitful.
It’s always worth checking both Ebates and Shop At Home to see which will yield the better rebate as their percentages change daily. Once you begin accumulating rebates, they will send you the cash in whichever format you choose, from a paper check to PayPal. Right now I have $118 in my Shop At Home account and $86 in my Ebates account which will soon be sent my way. I’ve built up that lil’ booty by shopping periodically online, everything from appliances to Groupons to office supplies. What’s more is you can still use online coupon codes on top of earning cash back.
2. Coupon codes are your frugal friends.
I prefer to shop online for most things as there are so many coupon codes dancing across the web just waiting to be used and in some cases even stacked. My favorite sites to find coupon codes for just about any etailer are Retail Me Not and BradsDeals.com, which I prefer because of their interactive format. Users can not only submit codes, but vote and comment on them allowing other online shoppers insight as to if they did or did not yield a discount. It saves time and money. Some online retailers will also let you stack multiple coupon codes. For example on Crocs.com you can stack two codes. One could be for free shipping, another for a percentage off your total.
3. Comparison shop for the best deal.
If you’re shopping in a mall, comparing prices from one shop to another is not only difficult, it’s exhausting. Online you can see dozens of prices on the item you’re pining for in a matter of seconds all without leaving your desk chair … or couch … or bed.
My favorite comparison shopping site is Price Grabber. I like its easy-to-read format and I’ve found the results are cleaner than other sites. Another way I comparison shop is to simply Google the item I’m looking for and click the “Shopping” tab. You can organize your results by price to see the lowest. Just make sure you research the online shop to assure they aren’t skeevy scam artists. If you’re not sure, pass it up. Most times the cheapest price you’ll find online is insanely cheap for a reason.
And ALWAYS make sure the address bar in your browser reads “https://” while you are entering sensitive information such as your credit card number. The “s” stands for “secure” so you know your information is safe.
4. Use daily deal sites to save big on inventive gifts.
There are two types of people on everyone’s gift giving list. Those you could shop 'til you drop for and still have a slew of thoughtful present ideas and those you couldn’t conjure up a single unique gift idea if your life depended on it. And let’s be honest. Sometimes it does.
Luckily for us there are a bajillion sites that allow you to give not objects of desire but rather experiences they’ve always desired. Sites such as Groupon and Living Social bring local businesses we may have normally overlooked to the forefront. I look to these sites when I’m in need of gifts that will create memories.
For example right now on Groupon you could gift cheese making lessons or a yoga class. Living Social has a one night stay at a historic Cedarburg inn complete with wine tasting and movie tickets. The deals on these sites are generally discounted around half off the retail price and they change daily. When you choose a deal you will purchase a “voucher” which is a coupon of sorts that you print out or email to the lucky recipient. For my mom’s recent birthday I purchased a manicure voucher for her and one for myself. I can’t wait to spend an afternoon with her while pampered, an experience we both will remember forever.
5. Avoid credit card bills by utilizing payment programs and layaway.
One of my best-kept secrets is my love of shopping QVC.com and indulging in high ticket items by taking advantage of their Easy Pay program.
Easy Pay is when QVC breaks up a purchase into smaller chunks of change, making an otherwise unattainable purchase attainable. For example, right now I’m eyeing a $300 camera. Can I afford a $300 camera right now with the holidays approaching? Heck no. But I can afford paying $60 each month for the next five months because it’s offered on Easy Pay.
One of the nicest things about the Easy Pay program is there are no credit checks or financing charges. They simply deduct the amount owed each month from whichever card you used to pay the initial charge. In the past I have used Easy Pay for everything from boots to makeup to electronics. QVC also has a stellar return policy and their site is full of user reviews so you can shop confidently.
Another online retailer that offers a way to break up your payments over time is KMart. Yes, I did say “online.” Layawaying in your pj’s from the comfort of your home an option other stores do not offer. Simply head to KMart’s site, choose your items and then select the layaway option in checkout. You will have eight weeks to pay (you can pay it off sooner of course) four bi-weekly installments. Your downpayment will be $15 or 10% of your purchase, whichever is greater and will include a $5 service fee. Of course there are other fees and stipulations but overall, this is a great option to avoid drowning in last-minute debt this holiday season. For all the nitty and the gritty click here.