Online shopping is far more convenient than store shopping, and often more likely to score you a better deal on your holiday gifts. There are sites devoted to helping you find the perfect present for just about anyone on your list.
For the luxe lover in your life, flash sale sites are the perfect spot to start your search. Sale sites can offer 60 per cent to 80 per cent off of designer items. The only problem is you can get inundated and overwhelmed with daily offers. One solution for shoppers is a site called FashionInvites.com, which collects all of the daily deals in one spot with a nice summary of what's on sale, and what ships to Canada. Many of my fashion-savvy girlfriends are happy to learn that this holiday they can purchase from another flash sale site, Gilt.com, as they've recently announced they are shipping to Canada. Many of the same girlfriends are also new moms who not only shop online for themselves, but for their babes as well. BabySteals.com is a go-to for daily deals. The site offers two deals of the day on brand name baby products for as much as 80 per cent off. My girlfriend just snagged BabyLegs (leg warmers for the little one), for $4.95, regularly priced at $14.95. Other sites that ship to Canada, with deals at more than 50 per cent off items for kids, women and men, and homes include HauteLook and Beyond the Rack.
Whether shopping in-store or online, you'll want to check for discounts or promo codes before checking out. Never check-out without a simple search. Sites like Smartcanucks.ca and Canadiandailydeals.com offer posted coupons for deals on food, electronics, clothing, and home accessories. Of course, following your favorite brands on Facebook or Twitter will likely lead to some inside info and one-off discounts as well. Referring friends online is another way to earn some credit with your favourite site. Yesterday, a colleague sent me a link to one her new favourite housewares sites, JossAndMain.com. She gets a $15 credit as soon as I make my first purchase. I don't mind getting referral e-mails from others as long as they are something my friends think I'll like.
Only getting deals for items you are in the market for is a smart way to stay on track online. Sites like shoptoit.ca say they sort through more than 9,000 Canadian deals a week and send you only the ones you specifically want to see. Many sites now give us the option to filter deals. Instead of scouring the general Groupon deals, for example, we can select to use Groupon Now! and clarify exactly what we're looking for. Similarly, OneSpout.com sorts in the same strategic way, by categories and even discount percentage. For additional discounts prior to check-out, look to Ebates.com. If you're looking to make a purchase, check to see if you can make it through this site for cash back. The percentages are small, but add up if you shop online frequently. As long as you're shopping, you might as well get something back for it.
Before even spending a cent though, open up a new tab and check out the reward points from your cards. My colleagues put everything on their charge cards: gum, gas, groceries, it all goes on the card and racks up points. This week, one colleague cashed in just over 82,000 points for an 16-gigabyte iPad 2. Another co-worker used her points to order a Kobo eReader, retailing at $149 but "free" with points. The alternative method of online shopping is to use a site like Craigslist. Craigslist is still a great option to find items at a discount. One colleague was able to locate a new, still-in-the-box Kobo for $80. If you're planning to make a big purchase in electronics, check out discounted gift card sites, like CardSwap.ca. I've mentioned this site before as a way to snag some extra cash for unused cards, (right now you get a $10 HBC card for every gift card you sell) but it's also a great resource to check out before you buy something. If you know you're shopping at Future Shop for a gadget this holiday season consider spending $75 for a gift card valued at $100 or more.
Searching online for other items, such as cards and wrap, can also save you a few dollars. You can download free holiday templates for cards and look to sites like Pinterest.com for wrapping ideas. Of course, rolls of inexpensive earth-tone paper is simple and looks great. Just tie it up with some twine for a next-to-nothing festive look. Or use non-traditional wrapping items like kitchenware to create mini-gift packages. A holiday-pattern bowl at IKEA for $1.99, filled with treats or a hot chocolate kit, and wrapped with cellophane and twine is just as festive as Santa covered paper at a premium.
Doing most of your shopping online this year will prove to be less stressful, less costly, and far easier than hitting the malls. Plus, you also avoid the risk of being pepper-sprayed while stampeding a store for a deal. Shop from the comfort of your home, just be sure to prop your holiday list by your computer to you'll stick to the plan and avoid the temptation of overspending by a few extra clicks.
Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at globeinvestor.com's personal finance site.