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Tips You Must Know for Online Holiday Shopping

Tips You Must Know for Online Holiday Shopping

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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