Last week we alarmed you with the revelation that there were only a few more weeks left until Christmas, and provided some tips to stay safe and save money as you hurried out to the stores.
Now there are seven fewer days left until the 25th, and since you probably don’t have enough time to get to the stores, we’ll tell you how to shop smartly on the web.
1. Reach out to the retailers
The best way to be the first to know about upcoming sales, discounts, and promotions is to make an electronic connection with the sellers as soon as possible.
Visit the retailers’ websites to friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and sign up for any e-mail newsletters they offer.
Don’t worry, they won’t be offended if you unfriend or unfollow after the holidays are over (we make no such guarantees as to what the reaction will be from your family or in-laws if you do the same thing to them).
2. Buy low
Sure, you want to get the best price possible on your gift list, and are probably willing to wait to see if prices drop even more as Christmas nears.
But time is of the essence, especially if you plan on having the product shipped to you before the December 25th.
You can save money today and predict if and when prices on a particular item might drop by using an app or website like PriceGrabber.com, ShopAdvisor.com, and (for shopping on Amazon.com) CamelCamelCamel.com.
3. Log in, log out
Some online retailers offer different prices to different shoppers. If you’re trying to get the best possible price on a bigger-ticket purchase, first visit the site without logging in to your account.
Then, in a separate browser window, visit the same site and product page, and log in to see if there is a discrepancy in prices quoted. You can take this strategy one step further by simultaneously hitting the “control, alt, and delete” keys to clear any tracking programs on your computer.
4. Credit, not debit
Once you’re ready to pull the proverbial trigger on a purchase, you have to choose which method of payment you will use.
If you are self-aware and self-disciplined enough to limit your spending to only the money in your bank account, then by all means use your debit card to pay for your online purchases.
But if the payment information you’ve used at a site ever falls into the wrong hands, generally you will have less potential liability if it’s from a credit card, rather than if you used a debit card.
Using a credit card can also give you some potential leverage with the merchant if you’re dissatisfied with the transaction, as the card issuer may agree to “hold” the payment to the merchant until the problem is resolved.
Finally, when you certain credit cards to make a purchase, you will get protection or warranties that go beyond what’s offered by the manufacturer or retailer.
Just make sure to check your account statements online or in the mail to ensure that you are only billed for your purchases, and only in the amounts that you agreed to pay.
And if you do use your credit cards, try to get them paid off before the interest charges start accruing and the unpaid balances begin to affect your credit score.
5. Save on shipping
Of course, two of the biggest obstacles to holiday shopping online are the cost of getting your purchases to your intended destination, and making sure they arrive before the 25th.
There is a special promotional campaign that should alleviate your concerns. On December 18th nearly a thousand online retailers will offer free shipping on most purchases made that day, and guarantee that the items will arrive by Christmas Eve.
Visit freeshippingday.com to find out which stores are participating in the December 18th promotion, and what other special offers may be available.