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Online Holiday Shopping

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Doesn’t online shopping sound rather serene this season, given gas prices and the feel-good knowledge that fewer mall trips can help the environment? What’s more, online shopping alleviates holiday shopping rage – no fights for a parking space, no traffic and no lines.

Web sites like http://www.coolsavings.com/ can help you find good deals and a range of offers from retailers and manufacturers. Many web sites, like http://www.freestylerewards.com/, offer rewards programs to earn points for shopping at their stores.

Another shopping comparison site is http://shopping.msn.com/ that features gifts from merchants like Avon, Babies ‘R’ Us, Eddie Bauer, JC Penney, Neiman Marcus, Red Envelope, Target and Wal-Mart. The portal also tells you which sites offers free shipping, MSN says.

But shopping online isn’t always easy. Sometimes it can be confusing to tell if the shopping cart is full or not. Before hitting the buy button, confirm the quantities in your cart, and make sure that you have any discount codes or other items you'll need for checkout handy to avoid time-out issues on some sites, says Matt Heist, Yahoo’s online shopping expert (http://shopping.yahoo.com/ ).

Also, to ensure you’re on a safe site, look for an unbroken key or padlock icon somewhere on the page of the site telling you it’s protected. Heist says, “Read their terms of service and privacy policy if you're not clear. You can also check in with other consumers who have shopped a particular merchant if you're curious as to what other experiences have been. Sites like Y! Shopping offer robust ratings and reviews so consumers can get a feel for exactly what type of experience they can expect with a particular online merchant.”

Here are some additional online shopping tips.

  • Look for discounts and free shipping codes from comparison sites before making a purchase, Heist says.
  • Purchase as many gifts from one site as possible to lower shipping costs
  • Shop early, even online.
  • Look for online gift recommendation tools to help narrow down a search. You can select gifts by recipient, age range, relationship to you, personal interests and more.
  • If you do shop at the last minute, look for retailers that offer last minute shipping, though that will be pricey.