Holiday shopping is all about being in the know. Sales occur, but they can end as quickly as you find them. This also extends on the fact that certain deals can get better over time. The saying, “the early bird gets the worm” doesn’t hold as much as it used to. There are even times when sales are even better at times you wouldn’t have normally expected. We will take a look at the importance of timing, pricing, deals, and research in shopping smart this year.

There’s a Time for Everything – Free Shipping Day!

Extending on the point I mentioned earlier, holiday online shopping is all about timing. Almost every type of item has an optimal date around it. We are currently at a time when Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday have long passed. The next hot shopping day is actually Free Shipping Day on the 17th of December.

However, in my opinion, the namesake isn’t the reason why I recommend it as a hot shopping day. This year, and much of last, as been a time where free shipping is sort of expected from a retailer. Every website I personally have purchased from have offered free shipping. So how else can the 17th be good? Many of these retailers may also tack on a certain percentage off to further your savings and to make the say more worthwhile.

As for specific products, the week of free shipping day is one that I have found to be a great time to purchase your big ticket items, like electronics. Things like clothes toys, and other similar items are ones there shouldn’t be sweat over. They are your quintessential holiday shopping items that retailers will make available throughout the season at a good price.

Ensure that You Are Secure

Identity theft and fraud are a big issue during holiday shopping. More individuals than ever are pulling out their credit cards and signing into PayPal to make their purchases. For this reason, online shopping is even more vulnerable to theft.

There are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that you are safe this year. First off, make sure that you are shopping in a safe network. This means that the WIFI you are using is familiar to you. If you are traveling, make sure that the WIFI is one that the hotel requires a password for.

Once in a safe network, make sure the website is safe by ensuring there is a security lock there. This is done with the “https” added before a website link. Facebook already has this and almost every big name shopping website does as well.

Lastly, if you must shop in a public network, ensure that you don’t set “Remember my password” when signing in and ensure that you not only sign out, but also quit the web browser when done.

Mind Your Calendar – Stay Updated

We mentioned earlier that there are key times throughout December where you are more likely to get a certain deal. However, aside from this, other reasons to make sure you know the date is because of something much more important – shipping.

As I am writing this article, I am in shock at how close some deadlines are. The mean deadline for free ground shipments to arrive by the start of your holiday is between December 14th and 17th. While many providers allow you to ship up until the 24th for some locations, others have a December 19th deadline for 2nd or next day shipments.

Just because it says next day doesn’t mean it will get there the next day at this time of the year. They are backed up with orders and it’s safer to always add three to four days for your 2nd day shipping.

Get Paid (or Benefits) for Shopping

It is very possible to get some form of benefit from shopping online at certain websites. eBay is a great example of this. The website has a program known as eBay Bucks. On most products, there will be an icon stating how much you’ll get in eBay Bucks based on how much you are paying. There is also a way to gain more bucks from other things you to (for example, signing up for trials through Blockbusters or booking your flights). I easily gained a good chunk of change from shopping online that I can use in the beginning of January for things on eBay.

Other options you can have is through cashback programs available through your credit cards or websites (American Express is a great example I have used). Also, Amazon Prime is a third program you should look into signing up for. The membership gives you the ability to have free shipping on most items as well as other benefits.

One success story I have had with Prime was when I purchased a book for a family member’s birthday. Turned out, they not only already had the book, but finished it. I went to return it and due to being a Prime Member, I was able to get a refund and keep the book (sitting on my bookcase as I type this). The $7.99 a month membership fee is worth it, especially for frequent purchasers.

Compare Before Your Buy

My last tip for today is to compare before you purchase. No, I don’t mean compare items, chances are you are already dead set on the item you want to purchase, and it’s not my job to sway you for a different product. That’ll be my job for other articles.

I mean you should compare shops before you buy. For example, I’m purchasing an iPhone 5 for myself this year. While I was set on purchasing through Apple, Best Buy has a special where you can get a $25 gift card when purchasing your iPhone 5 through them. I will either use this to regift or will use it toward my LifeProof case ($54 after using the gift card!).

Compare who to purchase your items from and see who will give you the best deals. Some have even found it beneficial to go through the purchase process until you get to the final checkout page before you card is charged – then exit out. They will notice you didn’t complete your purchase and will offer up deals for you to complete the purchase.

As you can see, there are many tips and secrets to ensuring that you get the best deal with your holiday shopping. Let us know in the comments below what tips you have already made use of for this holdiay and which tips you have that weren’t mentioned above.

Featured photo credit:  Beautiful shopping woman at a draw mall via Shutterstock

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