With Christmas just around the corner, and as the U.S. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are set to kick off the Christmas shopping season south of the border, more and more consumers are turning to online shopping and mobile shopping.

A survey from FedEx Canada just published this week found that 60% of respondents said they will be shopping online this holiday season. That’s up 12% from last year. But we’re not the only ones. UK retailers are also looking forward to a record year for online shopping sales and according to a survey by Deloitte, online shopping in the U.S. is set to surpass brick-and-mortar as consumer’s favourite shopping destination, for the first time ever.

Whether it’s for the bargains or shopping in your pyjamas or to avoid the long lineups at the check-out counters, crowded streets and rage-filled parking lots, there’s many benefits to online shopping. But with credit cards as the largely preferred method of payment, it’s also very easy to get caught up with impulse purchases. So in the spirit of gifting, here are some simple ways to save time and money this holiday season on all your online purchases:

Making a list, checking it twice

Window shopping online is a great way to get Christmas gift ideas to fill your list, but before you even set out to make a list, you really need to think about how much you have or are willing to spend.

Yes, Santa has a budget too… for everyone on his ‘nice’ list. Make a mini-Christmas budget, listing all the people you’re going to buy for first and attach a dollar amount, according to your total Christmas spending budget. It will literally take you a few minutes, but it can save you weeks of grief after the holidays, when you receive your credit card bill. A little planning goes a long way.

Gather ideas, save on shipping. Working with a budget will also make it easier when you’re searching sites for ideas, because you can then sort your ideas by price range. So browse and gather as many gift ideas you can and list them and where you found them next to the names on your shopping list. Whether through Wunderlist, Google Shortlists, Amazon Wish Lists, your favourite listing app, or your handy notepad, write them down! Another benefit of creating a list, is not only will you be able to knock off a few people off your list at once, but most online retailers offer free shipping after you spend a certain amount. So bundle your purchases and save on shipping fees!

Gift cards, loyalty rewards. Once you made a list, it might be a good time to look at what other payment options you have. Keep an eye out for any discount gift cards you can use towards your purchases. They don’t always have to be used. Sometimes retailers offer discounts on their gift cards throughout the holiday season. Or maybe you have unused loyalty rewards that you can tap into, so you really don’t have to spend a dime. Seek and ye shall find!

Online shopping around the Christmas tree

“No matter what the product or service might be, you can find it somewhere else cheaper!” – E. Scrooge.

One of the great things about online shopping, is that not only do you have access to a greater catalogue of products, but you also have plenty to compare, when it comes down to price.

Comparison shop using deal aggre-what? Once you’ve made your list of great gift ideas, there’s plenty of sites out there that make it easier and will help you find the perfect price to go along with your gift. Many deal aggregator or price comparison websites like Pricegrabber.com or Shopbot.ca, for those in Canada, take the hard work out of online shopping. These aggregators partner with a whole bunch of mostly quality merchants and scan their prices to provide you with the best price comparisons. Some are even specific to certain niches. For example, Photoprice.ca is an excellent search bot for all-things camera and camera equipment.

What are you Googlin’ at? If you’re already a big Google services user, Google also has a online shopping aggregator as well at google.com/shopping. Although it’s only for US residents, if there’s a product that you want, anyone can add it to a Google Shortlist, which allows you to share your list with other family members and also write notes, so you can reference the product later.

But these deal-aggregator sites are not always a one-stop shop. While they are meant to scan a wide variety of sites for prices, many only show a limited selection of stores, depending on who they’ve partnered with. Pricegrabber.CA for example, seems to have very few partners and thus, you often get poor results. But if you find a store that isn’t listed there, you can always visit the company websites as well.

The point is, that you should know what you want to buy, before you even get to this point. Remember, you’re not out shopping for deals, you’re shopping for gifts (that you hope to get deals on). There’s a difference.

Bells on emails ring

What can make spirits brighter than a 50% off email coupon, off something you were already planning to buy? Well, actually I can think of plenty of things. Nonetheless, don’t spend too much time searching for deals – have some of them come directly to you.

Sign up for Price alerts. Come across something you liked from one of those deal aggregators, but the price is still not to your liking? If there’s a gift you have your heart set on, many big retailers like BestBuy and Futureshop, offer price alerts that can email you to notify you when something you want is on sale, or below your specified target price. For some reason, sites don’t always make these features clearly visible, but usually if they have a spot for an account signup, you should see additional settings that allow you to create wish lists and price watches. Or check out my post on how to customize your email alerts to get the best deals delivered right to your inbox.

Amazon zon’t have it? No, zee world’s biggest online retailer Amazon, still doesn’t have one, but you can sign up for a free account at CamelCamel.com (no affiliation) to help you get over that hump. CamelCamel allows you to track Amazon prices worldwide. Set your desired prices and it will notify you by email and/or through Twitter.

Social media and e-blasts: Follow the deals. For all websites that don’t have price alerts, it might be a good idea to sign up to their email newsletters. You can always unsubscribe later, but you’ll always be the first to know when a sale goes live, and often get access to the most exclusive coupons and deals, delivered right to your inbox. If you really hate the idea of getting junk mail, or looking for other ways to score exclusive deals and coupons, follow the companies on social media – Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, etc.

But always leave plenty of time between now and Christmas, for shipping – never leave yourself waiting too long for a deal that may never come.

Before you check-out, don’t forget about this!

Okay, this is probably the most important. I never make an online purchase without one, or at least looking for one. And you shouldn’t either.

Check-out promo codes. Finally, you’re ready to buy. But before you’re ready to hit the checkout button, check that the site has a spot to enter in a promotional code. Almost every online retailer does. Retailmenot.com is usually my first stop for searching any promo code. Sometimes it’s 15% off, sometimes it’s a free shipping offer and sometimes it’s only $5, but it’s always worth the 2 minutes it takes to check. If you can’t find one there, just Google the store name followed by the words ‘promo code’ or ‘promotional code’ and followed by the current year. I very rarely can’t find a promo code for something I want.

Well there you have it! Plenty of tips to keep your online shopping fun and under control. Just remember to add me to your gift lists, or you can just subscribe to my posts by e-mail, follow me on Twitter, and like me on Facebook.

Happy shopping!

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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