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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 June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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