Plugged in Parent November
By Sharon Miller Cindrich
Q: I’m going to do my holiday shopping online this year. Any tips?
A: There are lots of benefits when it comes to joining the ranks of online shoppers during the holiday season. Aside from beating the crowds, many retailers offer special deals online to boost sales, and a majority of vendors will offer free shipping to entice online shoppers.
You’re not the only one who thinks online holiday shopping is a great idea. Cyber Monday is a term used to describe the busiest online shopping day of the season – the Monday after Thanksgiving. Having shared time and turkey with relatives and friends, many folks head back to work the Monday after Thanksgiving, log onto the computer and quickly take care of their holiday shopping needs while gift ideas are fresh in their minds. Sites like CyberMonday.com will even offer hourly deals, so carving out some time to check in on cost savings is wise.
Before you get caught up in the frenzy, however, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your Cyber Monday – or any online shopping experience.
Comparison shop first. Before you jump at an online deal, make sure that local retailers aren’t offering even better prices. Don’t make a purchase based solely on the digital photos online; check size, colors, model numbers and measurements before you buy online.
Stick to a budget. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the deal and simplicity of online shopping; however, creating a budget before you shop will help you stick to your limits. Make sure to factor in shipping costs, taxes or service charges.
Beware of auctions. Online auctions sites, like Ebay, can offer great deals on hard-to-find items; however, make sure you understand the terms of purchase, timeline of the auction and return policy before you depend on an auction item as a gift.
Consider gift-wrap options. Most items will not arrive gift-wrapped unless you request it. Although gift card sentiments are often free, gift-wrap options are usually available at an extra cost.
Set up a PayPal account. Never use your debt card for online purchases. Designate a credit card for online purchases or try a third party service, like PayPal.com, to keep your account information safe.
Find secure sites. Look for signs that your site is secure for transactions. A little lock appearing at the bottom of your browser or a URL address that starts with https:// indicates the site is secure.
Shop sites you know. Reputable online stores and large retailers with websites handle many transactions, and your purchases will most likely be handled professionally and securely.
Consider certificates. If you’re giving an online gift certificate, beware of emailing them to the recipient. Emails from an unfamiliar vendor can be blocked or end up in the recipient’s junk mail box. Instead, print out the certificate and send it in a holiday card.
Double check return policies. Return policies for an online purchase may be different from the return policy in the store. Gifts purchased online may also cost your recipient extra postage to return. Some stores also charge restocking fees – especially on electronics.
Print out receipts and order information. While it’s handy to click and buy, orders can still get misplaced and charges can be incorrect. Print out your order information and receipts, so you can follow up on the delivery of your gifts and look for charges on your PayPal or credit card account.
Factor in delivery and time needs. Will your gift require a signature? Will there be someone home to take the gift? Is it perishable? Even a simple online purchase might involve a little planning depending on the gift you’re ordering. Take a moment to read details on perishable items, delivery requirements and make sure your recipient knows that a gift is on the way.
Q: Where can I find a fun Thanksgiving resources online?
A: There are loads of great holiday resources online for your family – from crafts to historical games to exercises in giving. Check these out:
Arts and crafts: Holidays.kaboose.com offers fun crafts, coloring pages and table decorations. Don’t miss DLTK (www.dltk-holidays.com) for fun free holiday printables including Thanksgiving themed puzzles, recipe cards, coloring pages, bookmarks and stationary.
History: The History Channel (history.com) offers fun videos on the history of Thanksgiving, fun facts and a Thanksgiving quiz. Fun.familyeducation.com provides lots of great project ideas and resources to help kids learn about Thanksgiving history.
Parades: Macy’s lets you build your own parade on their site, and get details on this year’s big event. (www1.macys.com/campaign/parade/parade.jsp)
Turkey: Need help with your gobbler? Learn how to brine, roast, carve and grill your turkey at Butterball.com. Plus, sign up to participate in live Web chats, too.
Recipes: AllRecipes.com offers Thanksgiving recipes for breads, pies and gravies, as well as how-to videos on turkey carving. Kids can find recipes for the kid’s table at FamilyFun.go.com.