Five Online Holiday Shopping Do’s

by | November 19, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Shopping

(iStockphoto)

The do’s, don’ts and trends for navigating the internet to find the perfect gift at the perfect price.

Gift-giving season will soon be upon us. Heck, Oprah Winfrey revealed her drool-inducing list of gifts better known as ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’ weeks ago. If you haven’t made your list and checked it twice—what are you waiting for?

Retail gurus are predicting this year’s online holiday shopping will be record-breaking. A report from eMarketer approximates that online holiday shopping will account for nearly a quarter of retail ecommerce sales for 2012. That’s $54.5 billion to be exact—up 16.8% from last year. What do those figures mean for you? Competition. A lot more people will be adding the season’s best deals to their virtual shopping cart.

The good news is you still have several weeks to order and wrap this year’s presents. If you follow these simple online shopping tips you’ll even be able to splurge on fancy wrapping paper and glittery bows with the money you’ll save. Just remember to place your online orders in a timely manner when using the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS to send your gifts.

To find out if your favorite online stores offer free shipping, search by name at FreeShipping.org.

Now for the fun stuff…

Online Shopping Do’s

Do your research. There are nearly as many price tags as there are retail websites to shop. Fire up your favorite search engine, take note of who has the most reasonable prices and continue to watch them until Cyber Monday for fluctuations.

Do check for coupons and specials. Sites like Retailmenot.com, CyberMonday2012.com, CyberMondayNews.com and CouponSherpa.com already have coupon codes listed for your bargain shopping pleasure. As far as specials from individual box stores, many already have pages on their websites teasing Cyber Monday deals and steals:
Amazon
Walmart 
Target 
Overstock 

Do get social. If you’ve been holding out on joining Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest and just needed one more reason to ‘tweet’ or ‘like’ or ‘pin,’ here it is—real-time sale alerts! Pinterest, the virtual bulletin board, just released a “secret board” feature that seems tailor-made for Christmas lists and making online shopping even easier.

“Secret boards give you a place for things you’re not quite ready to share yet, like a surprise party, special gift ideas, or even planning for a new baby,” wrote Ben and the Pinterest team in an email to Pinners last week. “We’re testing out the feature by giving everyone 3 secret boards. You’ll find them at the bottom of your profile.”

Do enlist the help of mobile apps. You don’t have to buy and app to save money—The Wall Street Journal recommends barcode scanner and QR code reader apps Red Laser (powered by eBay, Inc.), ShopSavvy and Amazon.com Inc.’s Price Check app to check and compare prices from select websites with the click of a button on your smartphone… for free!

Do use the right credit card. Using one credit card over another to make your online purchases is another way to save money during the ever-pricey holiday season. In a recent CBS News interview, Carmen Wong Ulrich, financial columnist for Good Housekeeping magazine and president of Alta Wealth Management, sheds some light on the best deals and incentives you can get by using plastic:
Chase Sapphire Preferred (for big spenders): If you spend $3,000 in the first three months…
-40,000 bonus points redeemable for $500 in travel or $400 credit to your statement
-Use rewards points on Amazon.com

Citi Forward (for more normal spenders): spend $650 in three months…
- $100 gift card or 10,000 points
- Five ‘Thank You’ points for every $1 spent

American Express
- 20% off points on select merchandise through November 30 when you shop through the rewards site
-$25 credit for spending $25 on Small Business Saturday

Discover
- 5% cash back on purchases up to $1,500
-Free 1-Day Shipping at Amazon.com
- Redeem cash-back bonus for Partner Gift Cards

“The caveat here is — if you’re going for rewards cards — if you carry a balance and pay interest, obviously it negates the reward,” she said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re not charging just to get rewards and getting into a hole.”

Stay tuned for online shopping don’ts tomorrow and the must-know holiday shopping trends on Wednesday.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.