Online shopping ripe for holidays
Editor's note: Don't have all your shopping done? You better get online!
These days, more people are going online, instead of standing in line, to do their holiday shopping. For those stationed overseas, it’s an even more attractive option offering greater selection, often better deals and the ability to purchase and deliver a gift with one click.
Buyer beware. While online retail can be a boon to the modern shopper, it pays in more ways than one to get familiar with the cyber-scape.
Before you start clicking away you should always research the products you want to buy. Having an item’s manufacturer and model number can help you compare “apples to apples” among merchants. Some retailers match, or even beat, a competitor’s prices.
It’s also a good idea to prioritize the shopping sites you intend to visit after learning who’s offering the best deals. And always plan out how much you will spend – then stick to it.
Gift cards can be great stocking stuffers, but avoid buying them from online auction sites. Like any purchase from these sites, there’s no guarantee as to what you’re getting, and gift cards sold on them could be fakes.
Another important guideline is to know the total price of a purchase – Including shipping and handling. Many merchants offer free shipping, but not all – so factor the cost of shipping into the total cost.
Familiarizing yourself with the store’s return policy – return deadlines, requirements and return-shipping costs – can save you a headache as well as money. Read product descriptions and the seller’s ‘terms and conditions’ carefully.
Always confirm an online store’s physical address and phone number before buying in case you have questions or problems later.
When to shop
Is it better to buy early, before Black Friday, or wait and let your fingers do the walking across the keyboard while crazed shoppers elsewhere fight over gifts at the local mall? Should you wait for the holidays to get closer and hope that retailers turn desperate for business and slash prices?
With each choice you take your chances, and military overseas also have to consider holiday mailing and whether presents purchased online will get to their intended destinations on time.
Consumer-price research has shown that the lowest prices on many popular holiday gifts, such as flat-screen TVs, are not found on Black Friday. Black Friday sales for many popular products, such as those from Apple, may not be such good deals. However, some retailers, like Amazon and Best Buy, have been known to offer discounts of up to 25 percent.
In the next couple of weeks, retailers will release their sales ads for Black Friday, and shoppers can see how they compare to current prices. Online shopping sites like BlackFriday.com will display ads, including those from Dell, K Mart, Modell’s, Radio Shack, Toys R Us, Macy’s, Best Buy, Sears, Victoria’s Secret and even the Exchange. The site also offers discount coupons and cash back on website purchases.
If you’re not sold on Black Friday being a good time to shop, you could wait until Cyber Monday, a name given in 2005 to the first Monday following Thanksgiving, which is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, according to its creator Shop.org, a part of the National Retail Federation. Not surprisingly, Shop.org operates a website – www.cybermonday.com – that promotes deals from a variety of major retailers to promote online shopping, many with free shipping.
Ever get tired of going back and forth between Internet shopping sites in order to find the lowest price, or feel that if you just look a little longer you will find a site that has the product you want at the price you want to pay? Then you are the person that shopping search engines have been created for.
These sites do your comparative shopping work for you, listing online sites, as well as brick-and-mortar stores, that have the products you want and state the selling price as well. You can then go to the sites with the lowest prices, figure out the cost of shipping, read customer reviews of their services, and make your purchase.
Shipments to APOs
Some retailers don’t ship to military APO and FPO addresses because they have exclusive bulk shipping contracts with UPS, FedEx or DHL to lower costs, and only the U.S. Postal Service delivers to military addresses. But there is online help.
Oconus.com lists hundreds of companies that ship to military post offices. There is also a way to buy from companies that don’t ship overseas to military addresses.
Apobox.com gives clients a stateside mailing address to use for online shopping. Purchases go to an Apobox.com distribution center, from where they are forwarded via the U.S. Postal Service to customers around the world.
The company claims that most packages are processed and shipped out within 24 hours of arriving at its warehouse. It charges a handling fee as low as $6 per package, plus the U.S. Postal Service’s regular postage cost plus an insurance fee.
Safe cyber shopping
Never use your credit card online with a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. You can tell if sites do their URLs, which will start with “https://” (instead of just http:// - without the “s”). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, generally in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser or right next to the URL in the address bar.
Don’t assume that public WiFi “hot spots” are secure. Unless you can verify that a hot spot has effective security measures in place, you may not want to send sensitive information like your credit card number over that network.
In fact, be stingy with your personal information. Don’t give out your credit card or other financial information in exchange for an offer like a free gift card or chance to win a holiday vacation rental. Never email your financial information such as a credit card number or your Social Security Number.
Don’t click on a link in an email. Legitimate companies don’t ask for your financial information via email or pop-up message.
Free screen savers, e-cards, or other seasonal downloads could carry dangerous viruses. Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software current along with your firewall.
One good reliable source for information about safe shopping and other online activities is the government website: www.onguardonline.gov.
Monitor your money
Pay by credit or charge card. They offer the best consumer protections. Under federal law, you have the right to dispute charges under certain circumstances and withhold payment temporarily while the creditor is investigating. And if your card is used without your authorization, your liability generally ends at the first $50.
Wiring money can be risky. It’s just like sending cash — once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t get it back. Buying online using cash equivalents – debit card, personal check, cashier’s check, or money order – can be risky. Use them only if you know the party you’re doing business with.
Monitor your financial accounts: Read your bank and credit card statements regularly to ensure they reflect the charges you authorized.
Holiday gift ideas for health conscious
Americans have a lot on their minds during the holiday season, and the stress of ballooning budgets and crowded calendars can be enough to affect almost anyone’s well-being. With that in mind, why not use the holidays as an opportunity to give the most important gift of all?
That gift, of course, is health. Here are a few ways to make your health-conscious friend or family member smile from ear to ear.
The Gift of fitness
Whether buying for a fitness buff or a beginner, options abound. Exercise balls, kettlebells and resistance bands are inexpensive gifts that can help budding fitness gurus build their home gyms. If the DIY option isn’t right for the person you have in mind, try a prepaid gym membership, trainer session or package of yoga classes. Losing weight is the most popular New Year’s resolution, so spread the health.
Many health enthusiasts like to monitor their progress and chart their results. These days, there are a number of gadgets that can help keep track of your fitness and dietary goals. From wristbands that log daily activity to wireless heart monitors and interval timers, technology can supercharge any regimen.
Whether you’re shopping for a vegetarian, a Paleo enthusiast, or just someone looking to build a healthier kitchen, culinary gifts are always a sure bet. Healthy cookbooks and kitchenware will help them stick to their healthy habits, and you might even get a delicious meal in the bargain.
Donating to a health- promoting charity on another person’s behalf can be a great way to support his or her health-conscious cause. Giving Tuesday is December 2 – a nationwide event that marks the perfect time for such a gesture.
If you’re looking for a unique way to give back, check out Action for Healthy Kids, an organization that works to make schools healthier places for kids to learn. In its online gift catalog, you’ll find a host of charitable options, scaled to fit almost any budget. From a physical activity classroom kit to school breakfast for a child for the entire year (students who eat school breakfast score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests), Action for Healthy Kids provides an easy way to make an impact with healthy gifts.
“Everyone is looking for the perfect gift for kids this time of year, and it’s hard to beat the gift of a healthier life,” said Rob Bisceglie CEO of Action for Healthy Kids. “It’s estimated that one-third of U.S. kids are overweight or obese. That’s a statistic that needs to change.”
For more information, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.
Holiday gifts for men
The pressure to find the perfect gift when shopping for men this holiday season can easily become a daunting endeavor, but with online retailers, shoppers can better search for the perfect gift with these simple tips.
“It’s important to remember that a well thought-out gift often leaves the greatest, lasting impression,” says Denis Daly Wood, founder of fourth-generation luxury men’s designer and online retailer Dalys 1895.
Well-versed in luxury menswear, founder Denis Daly Wood curates innovative and exclusive accessories from around the world for Dalys 1895 each season. He offers the follow tips to help ease the gift buying process:
- Hone in on what he loves. Keep the recipient’s interests in mind while shopping. If the recipient spends his free time sailing or by the beach, nautical-themed cufflinks or Caravaggio pocket squares are tasteful ways to incorporate his interests into a useful gift.
- Think outside the box. Everyone loves receiving thoughtful, one-of-a-kind gifts. Engravable items, such as sterling silver money clips, are not only useful, but should be personalized to make the gift even more heartfelt.
- Make practical purchases. If the recipient is a frequent traveler, an overnight tote or weekender bag from Jack Spade, Troubadour, or the British Belt Company makes for a stylish and useful gift. While everyone loves a good gag gift every now and then, the most well-received gifts are tasteful and practical.
- Set a spending cap. It may be tempting to overspend, but it is important to set a budget and stick to it. Many online sites allow you to filter products by price. Shoppers should use these price sorting filters to ensure you shop smart.
- Find versatile gifts. Finding a gift that satisfies a number of the recipients’ interests can be difficult, but will ultimately prove to be gratifying. Wearable technology, like sterling silver 16GB USB cufflinks, are a great gift that complement style and function allowing him to store his favorite movies, music and more on-the-go.
- Build in extra time. Consider reputable online retailers to avoid mall traffic, but be sure to take shipping time into account. If an item needs to be engraved or embroidered, build in ample time to ensure the gift arrives in time for the holidays.
- Find a retailer with a generous return policy. Even with the best intentions, gifts may need to be exchanged. Seek out a retailer which offers free returns and other customer service perks.
For more holiday gift ideas for men, visit www.Dalys1895.com where you can find a bevy of options for the men on your holiday shopping list.
By being a savvy shopper this holiday season, you can ease the gift-giving process and make a lasting impression.