Bargain hunting in
The great thing about
the Internet is that you can peruse hundreds of different stores to find the best
price without becoming physically exhausted or cranky. And, you probably have
a better chance of staying within your budget. After all, there's no chance of
standing in a crowded department store tired, achy and frustrated, shelling out
too much money for not-quite-right gifts just to have your shopping mercifully
allows you to shop in your pajamas, relaxed in front of your computer in the comfort
of your own home. But, don't get too comfy -- you still can overspend and even
get your cyber-pockets picked.
Consider these seven factors when
looking for bargains online.
For the rest of you, comparison-shopping is the only way
to buy online. When you find an item you like, save it in the site's shopping
cart, then scour the Web for a better price. You might find it's easier to open
another browser window so you can skip back and forth to compare the items, prices
and shipping costs.
"Compare, compare, compare,"
says bargain hunter Matthew Coffin, founder and CEO of LowerMyBills.com,
a free comparison service for monthly bills, such as long-distance and car insurance.
He recommends checking sites, such as MySimon,
"It's generally cheaper to operate an online store (than a brick-and-mortar
store) and those savings can be passed on to consumers," says Coffin. "The
Internet empowers the community. It has an availability of information and that
gives people the ability to compare prices. You can't do that in a mall."
The best way to save money while shopping online is to create
a budget and stick to it. It's easy to get swept up in the spirit of giving and
go overboard, especially when you're paying with a credit card. So make a list
of everyone you need to get a gift for and write the top dollar amount you will
spend for each. Then stick to it.
button is your best friend
Most sites have a clearance or sale button
that will pull up great deals just by clicking. If there's a feeling of triumph
better than finding the perfect gift, it's finding the perfect gift on sale.
only to the sale button is the gift-wizard or gift-ideas button. The results might
not always be low-priced, but you can get some good ideas to help you on your
Where to e-shop
Almost every business has a Web site, so if you have a favorite store, look for
it online. Some businesses have special Web deals -- sales offered only on the
Internet. You might do better than you would by walking into the brick-and-mortar
If you still don't know where to look, check out Consumer
Reports. They keep a list of reliable sites, divided by categories, such as
clothing, electronics and toys.
Remember to factor shipping costs into the final price
of the gift. Many sites have free shipping during the holidays for orders over
a certain amount or certain number of items. If you find one of those deals, search
the site for other gifts on your list to see if you can reach the minimum -- but
don't buy things you don't want just to get free shipping.
also need to verify the delivery date. Paying for Express shipping will nullify
any bargain price you found so for the best shipping deals, buy early.
out if there is a guaranteed delivery date and what steps will be taken if your
items don't arrive on time. A Federal Trade Commission rule requires that sellers
ship items as promised or within 30 days of the order if no specific date is promised.
If they can't ship the order within the promised or 30-day deadline, they are
required to notify you, give you chance to cancel the order and provide a full
refund if you choose to cancel.
You may be able to avoid shipping
costs completely if the company allows you to place your order online, and then
pick it up at your local store. Many large chain stores have this option.
up for coupons
No one needs more junk mail, but everyone can use coupons.
So get a second e-mail account -- a free one, such as Hotmail, and use it just
for applying to the frequent shopper e-mails on Web sites. That way you get coupons
and are alerted to sales. Ask your friends and co-workers if they have any coupons
they can forward to you (quietly if it's your co-workers -- you don't want the
boss to know you're shopping).
Sites such as Amazing
Bargains and Clever
Moms keep track of Internet coupon codes, so before purchasing an item, check
to see if they have a coupon for it.
only legitimate sites
The lowest price is too high if you
end up with a shoddy product or no product at all. So check for:
policy -- Many stores, such as Gap and Barnes & Noble, allow you to return
online orders to their local stores. Lillian Vernon allows you to return personalized
- Warranties -- If you're shopping for electronics,
make sure your product comes with a warranty, and read the specifics before buying.
of the company -- Anyone, including con artists, can set up a Web site that
looks legitimate. Shop at sites you know and trust. If in doubt, check with the
BBB and Consumer Reports.
Remember, if it seems too
good to be true, it probably is. If you find an item being sold for an amount
that is vastly lower than other sites, maybe you just found the deal of the century
-- or maybe it's a scam. So shop carefully.