There is very little doubt that shopping online for Christmas gifts saves time, often saves money, and certainly can be less stressful. There is no vying for parking spaces in over-crowded parking lots, fighting crowds of people in the shops and malls, standing in long lines waiting to pay for purchases, and then dragging items in and out of your car. Though shopping online clearly has advantages there are some things you need to know before you get started.
While many people start their Xmas shopping by grabbing Black Friday deals you can actually get even better discounts by keeping a close watch on store sales during the year. Certain items can be purchased far ahead of the holiday season, but others will have to be bought in the last couple of months due to being newly released onto the market. Make a list as early in the year as you can and then start purchasing when you see the items on your list go on sale. If your gift recipient doesn’t need to have the latest model you can often buy last year’s model of appliances and the like for far less, as stores will sell them off at much reduced prices to make way for new stock.
Create a Shopping Budget
One of the pitfalls of shopping online is that you can often spend more than you can afford, particularly if you are using credit cards to pay for your purchases. The three things you can do to help keep spending in check are:
1. Have a list of the gifts you are buying for each person and estimate the cost
2. Put a total value on how much you spend on each person
3. Put a budgetary limit on your total spending
While creating a budget may require you to re-think some of your gift giving ideas it will help you avoid huge credit card bills once the holiday season has passed. If shopping throughout the year it will also help to spread the cost over a longer period, which should make paying for things more manageable. Where possible it is best to use debit rather than credit so that you are only spending money you actually have.
Not all websites are created equal. While large online retailers are very likely to have security measures in place to ensure your credit card and other personal details are kept confidential, lesser known websites may not be as secure. Make sure you know who you are giving your credit card number to as nothing will steal the joy out of Christmas gift giving more than having your identity stolen and charges you didn’t authorize on your credit cards. One of the simplest ways of knowing whether a website is secure is to check the website URL to ensure it begins with https and not just http.
Having items shipped to your doorstep is one of the huge advantages of shopping for your Xmas gifts online, but if you need to ensure you have the ability to retrieve your packages quickly once they are delivered. Opportunistic thieves often will grab packages from front doorsteps during the holiday season and you may not be any the wiser. Here are some tips for keeping your delivered packages safe from thieves:
- Be there when the package arrives or have someone else in the household be there
- Ask to have your packages placed at your BACK door and not the front – thieves are less likely to venture further than your front doorstep in fear of being seen or caught
- Keep a list of expected arrival dates so you know within a short timeframe whether something either wasn’t delivered as expected, or has gone missing – you can then quickly follow up with the company you purchased from and/or their carrier, and then file a Police report if the item was delivered but is no longer at your doorstep
- Invest in a cheap video surveillance camera and install it at the front door – this won’t likely stop a thief but if placed strategically may get a good photo image of the thief and the vehicle they drove up in for the Police to use
- If purchasing from a large retailer consider having your packages delivered to the nearest brick and mortar store for pickup
Many online retailers will charge for shipping but others will waive any shipping costs if you purchase over a pre-determined amount. Shipping costs can make buying locally more advantageous, particularly for large and/or delicate items that require more packaging and are bulkier/heavier than a standard package. One way to reduce the costs is to arrange to have your purchases delivered to the brick and mortar store for that retailer. This is often done at no charge to you and while you will have to drive there to pick up your packages the savings will most likely make this small inconvenience worth it.