Don't Waste Your Money: 6 tips to save more with online shopping

(Toledo News Now) - If you like shopping online, you still have time to order gifts in time for the holidays. But many people start to rush once December starts, and don't take their time as they usually do before purchasing.

Forget spending 20 minutes trying to find a parking spot at the mall, or wasting gas money getting there. One super online shopper in Cincinnati does most of her holiday shopping without ever fighting crowds, and has some great tips for all of us.

Denise Anderson could write a book about how to shop online.

For instance, she says a common mistake many novices make is paying for shipping during the holiday season.
"You could spend $15 to $20 on shipping and then the money's gone," Anderson said. "That eats into any savings you just found."

Most Important: Free Shipping

This busy mom says start by looking for free shipping and free returns before you click "check-out."

"Free shipping and free returns are essential if you want to save a lot by shopping online. And a lot of the best companies that you purchase from online, give you that, and they send the label with it. If you're unhappy, you box it right up and take it to the post office. And there's no cost to you," explained Anderson. 

The online site that made easy, free returns famous is shoe seller Zappos, and its sales have exploded as a result.

Best Way To Save On Out-Of-Town Family

Anderson says online shopping is a real plus if you're buying gifts for out-of-town family or friends.

"If you have family who lives far away, buy their presents online. I just have them shipped directly to Connecticut because I don't want to carry them with me when I travel," said Anderson. 

Before You Buy

Anderson suggests six tips to find the lowest prices at the safest retailers:

1. Research both the product and the web retailer for reviews.

2. Make sure the web retailer has a legitimate address in the continental U.S. Avoid any seller where you cannot find a location; it could be offshore.

3. Check Consumer Reports magazine and tech sites, like CNET and Engadget, for official product reviews. Also read customer reviews on Epinions and Amazon.

4. Compares prices on multiple sites. Despite what many people believe, Amazon does not always have the lowest price.

5. Search for promotional deals, by Googling the store's name with the word "promo." For example, "Banana Republic promo code."

6. Always sign up for the store's e-mails. As soon as you do, you usually receive a welcome e-mail with some type of promotion.

Be Cautious Of Third-Party Sites

Anderson does have a warning: Sites like Amazon and often redirect you to smaller retailers.

"You go onto Amazon, they'll divert you to a different store, and then I don't know that store and I don't know the history with that store. I may really be comfortable giving out my credit card information," said Anderson. 

Also, many of those third-party sites do not offer free shipping, so read the fine print carefully.

Check For Flash Sales

Finally, this super online shopper says watch online shopping sites for "flash sales," where they offer big discounts during a certain time period. Joining their e-mail club will alert you to these.

Anderson says if you worry about getting too much junk mail, set up a separate Gmail or Yahoo account so your regular email account is not inundated.

That way you don't waste your money.

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