Online Shopping Tips

If you can’t hack another day fighting holiday traffic and tempers as you scour downtown stores and the mall for gifts, why not try shopping via desktop or laptop? Herewith, some holiday advice from the cybertrenches.

Have family and friends establish wish lists online. Many online retailers feature these on their websites. Because it’s such a huge umbrella site, Amazon’s is particularly comprehensive. There are also independent wish-list sites such as onlinechristmaslist.com. Another route is to have kids write an online letter to Santa at santaspostbag.co.uk/write-letter-to-santa.html; to check on toy safety, visit toysafety.net or cpsc.gov. There are loads of sites where you can comparison shop, including bizrate.com, shopping.com, mysimon.com, pricegrabber.com, and bookchecker.com. Remember that some comparison shopping sites give higher placement to stores that pay to be promoted; click “sort by price” to find the lowest price.

Check to see whether the website offers a shipping discount if you purchase multiple items. Last year, according to Shop.org, 22 percent of online retailers offered free shipping with no strings attached. This year even more retailers are doing so: The 2006 eHoliday Mood Survey, released in October, shows 83 percent of online retailers plan to offer some form of free shipping this season. At nexTag.com, you can hunt by product category, then comparison shop and see which sites offer free shipping.

If you shop at an online retailer located out of state, you may be able to avoid sales tax. Check on the seller’s website or elsewhere on the Internet for discount coupons; most are highlighted on the seller’s home page. Double-check sales tax and shipping before you submit your order, and don’t forget to print the order confirmation page.

A few online shops we like: Christmasgifts.com (great portal, huge directory of sites to shop at), redenvelope.com (unique items such as a stainless-steel pocket compass for $85, all gifts wrapped in signature red paper), eBay’s Christmas section (for eBay jocks, check out Christmas merchandise by categories such as collectibles, crafts, and toys), target.com (great gift finder by shopper category), toysrus.com (far better than shopping with the children in tow!), zappos.com (shoe retailer that offers free shipping and returns), deliciousorchardsnj.com (Colts Neck–based gourmet food retailer offering gifts like salt-water taffy and John Taylor’s original pork roll, great when shopping for New Jerseyans stranded outside the Garden State).

When you’re all done shopping, don’t forget to have some fun with the kids tracking Santa’s progress around the globe on December 24 at noradsanta.org—which also works as a great geography lesson.

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