Money Monday: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Online Holiday Shopping

BY: - 3 Dec '12 | Money

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With Cyber Monday sales totaling nearly $1.5 billion, it’s clear that Americans are embracing the internet for their holiday shopping like never before. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of power tips to help you get the most out of your online holiday efforts while keeping your budget intact.

Remember it’s real money you’re dealing with

While using your computer or smart phone to nab the greatest deals seems like a smart play, it does come with an inherent risk. Primarily, it lowers the “pain of paying.” You see, it’s difficult to hand over hard earned cash but much easier to pay with a credit card. That’s why studies show that consumers spend more when they use credit rather than cash.

And since the internet is basically a credit based system, it’s all too easy for us to spend without fully appreciating that we’re parting with “real” money, especially when retailers make it so convenient with “one-click” ordering.

Don’t get caught up. Remember, it’s all too easy to spend money online without realizing you’re parting with actual money. Keep a running tally of the money you’ve spent online. Better yet, make a holiday budget and stick to it, whether in the real world or virtual one.

Outsmart the online retailers

Did you know that online retailers price discriminate all the time? They offer different prices and discounts to different customer on the very same items. Surprisingly, your computer operating system, the way you enter a merchant’s website, and how you search for a particular product may all determine whether you pay a higher price or not.

Some websites show users of Mac computers higher prices than their PC using friends. Enter a website by typing the address directly into the web browser and experts warn you may be offered higher prices and fewer discounts. So what are some of the best ways to ensure you get the lowest holiday prices?

Shop like a bargain hunter. Arriving at a website by way of a shopping search engine will often result in you being served up lower prices or being offered more lucrative discounts. Experts advise that you never go directly to the product page of an item you’re interested in. Browse around first. If you have an Apple computer, try checking the prices for the same merchandise on a Windows PC.

Most importantly, consider disabling the cookies on your computer. These small bits of information (cookies) are stored on your browser by the websites you visit. They allow merchandisers to track your web usage patterns. Using this information they often charge your higher, or in some cases lower prices, on their merchandise. If you have access to more than one computer try checking the prices on a computer using a browser with the cookies disabled.

Find the best price always

Comparison pricing is perhaps the best way to use the internet to nab holiday deals, and specialized search engines and smart phone apps make it easier than ever. Google Product Search, Nextag, and Bizrate are among the most highly rated comparison search engines. Smart phone apps like Red Laser, allow you to find the best prices both online and at local bricks and mortar stores.

Never pay for shipping

Shipping costs can put a huge dent in your holiday shopping budget, but there are a number of ways to get around having to pay for it. Check with the retailer first. Many, like Amazon, offer free shipping if you order a certain dollar amount worth of merchandise.

Alternatively search coupon websites like RetailMeNot where you can search for free online shipping discount codes at major internet retailers.

Site-to-store shopping is another option that allows you to avoid shipping costs. Major retailers like Sears and Walmart allow you to purchase online and then pick up your item at a nearby store.

If you’re the patient type you can always wait until Monday December 17, free shipping day. That’s when thousands of retailers offer free shipping on holiday merchandise. Check-out for a list of participating merchants.

Always have a back-up plan

In life even the best laid plans fall ruin sometimes as online shoppers discovered last year when several major retailers failed to follow through on delivery promises. Best Buy, for instance, received backlash after it accepted online orders in November but then waited until the week before Christmas to tell customers that their orders had been cancelled.

It pays to have a back-up plan in case a retailer drops the ball or an item doesn’t arrive on time as promised. Last minute gift cards can often serve as a plan B, and some online merchants even allow you to purchase virtual gift cards which you can send to loved ones by way of email.

BMWK. The internet can make the holiday season less stressful and cheaper. What are some of the best web tools or tricks you use to find low holiday prices?

About the author

Alonzo Peters wrote 298 articles on this blog.

Alonzo Peters is founder of, a personal finance website dedicated to helping Black America achieve financial independence.


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Money Monday: Four Money Rules For A Richer 2013

BY: - 10 Dec '12 | Home

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With the New Year right around the corner, everyone will be looking to make fresh starts. Here are four simple money rules that could make 2013 your best financial year yet.

Give every dollar a destination.

Ever discover that you have more month than money?

Ever wonder how all your hard-earned money simply seems to vanish?

Control your money before it controls you by making 2013 the year you give your Washingtons, Jeffersons and Benjamins their marching orders. At the beginning of each month sit down and tell your money exactly where it’s going.

Decide which dollars will be used to cover the essentials like food, rent, and transportation. Tell your money how much of it will be used to pay down debt and how much of it will go toward building savings.

Many experts advocate giving marching orders to your money according to the 50 – 30 – 20 balanced money formula. Fifty percent of your take-home pay should cover absolute necessities like food, shelter, and transportation. Thirty percent should be directed toward your “wants”, those things that are nice to have but not absolutely essential like cable television. Twenty percent should be dedicated to paying off debts and building savings.

While such a break-down may or may not work for you, the important thing is to have a plan for you money at the beginning of each month. When each dollar understands its mission your financial life will fall into place.

Make a resolution to cut the fat.

Consumer Reports
estimated that Americans pay around $216 billion annually in fees. According to Bob Sullivan, author of Gotcha Capitalism, your family’s portion of this $216 billion tab is close to $4,000. For a family earning the median US income of $50,303 a year, fees eat up nearly 8% of their pay. We essentially work nearly a full month each year just to cover fees.

Make 2013 the year you that you really trim the fat by eliminating these unnecessary fees and other wasteful expenses. You’ll quickly discover that you’re wasting more money than you could ever imagine. Take a minute to go through your finances with a fine tooth comb and look for ways to save money and eliminate waste.

Have you called around to negotiate a lower auto insurance rate? Are you utilizing all of your cell phone minutes? Could you switch to a cheaper plan? Perhaps you could switch to a credit union to avoid high bank fees?

Create road bumps to your spending.

Have you ever walked into a store intending only to window shop but come out hours later having spent a small fortune? It happens to all of us, and credit cards make it all the easier because they reduce the “pain of paying”. It’s simply easier to hand over a credit card than it is to part with cold hard cash.

That’s why it’s so crucial to erect small speed bumps that make it harder to spend. These speed bumps give us a little more time to think about our purchase and whether or not we really need it.

Try using cash instead of credit or intentionally leave your credit cards in the car. When you find a retail temptation the trip back to the car to retrieve your credit card may give you the necessary time to rethink the potential purchase.

Here’s a tip. If you do use credit put a reminder of your fiscal goals right on the card. Saving for a new home? Clip an image of a house from a magazine and wrap it right around your credit cards. The next time you’re considering that leather handbag or the Madden 2013 video game, the picture will be there to remind you of what’s really important.

Save your money. One day it will save you.

L. Marie Joseph, author of First Generation White Collar, frequently reminds people of the African Proverb: “Save your money and one day it will save you.” When it comes to building an emergency fund no truer words were ever spoken.

Yet, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 64% of Americans don’t have at least $1000 in savings. Cars break down. Pipes bust. Washing machines stop working. Emergencies happen when you least expect them. That’s why its crucial to be prepared.

You don’t have to create your emergency fund all at once. Creating your emergency fund is a work in progress. Saving even $20 or $30 a week allows you to slowly build a cushion of financial security. Direct deposit part of your paycheck into a savings account. Ten percent is what experts advise, but if times are tough, start off small. Direct 5%, 3%, or even 1% of your paycheck into savings each month. Without even breaking a sweat you’ll start accumulating savings in no time flat.

Use money that you save from trimming the fat from your budget to build your emergency fund. Putting your little “luxuries” on hold, selling some of your excess junk, or even finding a side-hustle are also ways to come up with the money for your emergency fund.

Remember, save your money and one day it will save you.

BMWK, What are some of the money rules you follow to become more financially secure?

About the author

Alonzo Peters wrote 298 articles on this blog.

Alonzo Peters is founder of, a personal finance website dedicated to helping Black America achieve financial independence.


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