This was originally published on Monday,November 24, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
It is official: The holiday season is in full swing. If you did not want to brave crowds of Black Friday shoppers, you still have an opportunity to find some great deals. The Monday after Thanksgiving is Cyber Monday, or for Guam, Cyber Tuesday. It is the day for online retailers to offer holiday shopping bargains. Shopping online can definitely ease holiday stress.
Be organized: Just like the jolly ol’ fella, check your list and decide who you will be nice to this year. Create a budget that will not put you in the hole and start off 2015 in the red. Gather information on who you are buying for and what you are buying. Have your address book on hand so you can send gifts directly to the recipient. Look for codes that unlock free shipping.
• Compare: This is probably much easier than comparing prices at a typical brick-and-mortar store. Use a search engine to help compare prices. Sign up for newsletters or emails informing you of sales. You also can follow your favorite retailer on social media sites.
• Hidden costs: Be aware of what you are paying for. Gift wrapping, state taxes and shipping and handling fees all add up. If you can shop at just a few stores to help keep the shipping and handling fees to a minimum, you will save a lot of money. Many online retailers offer free shipping if you purchase a certain amount.
• Limited offers: Just like physical stores, the quantities of an item may be limited. You may want to check to see when the item goes on sale.
• Avoid temptation: Stick to your list and don’t get side tracked. There will be many offers enticing you to buy something you don’t need.
• Coupons: There are a few major retailers that will allow you to stack coupons. You can really get some great deals by using several different promotional codes. For example you may get $10 off a $100 purchase with free shipping.
• Discount sites: There are several online stores that offer items at a very low cost. These items could be from last season or acquired from a store close out.
• Shipping and handling: Living in a tropical paradise does offer some drawbacks such as certain sites not delivering to Guam, or items that are shipped by expedited mail service carriers. If items cannot be shipped to Guam, ask a friend or relative on the mainland to receive it, then ship it you. Of course you have to plan ahead to accomplish this.
• Shop safe: One of the worse things that could happen is to find out that your identity was stolen. When shopping online, use secure sites and stay away from sites that you have never heard of. Look for the “https” in your web browser address. The “s” stands for secure and it offers the highest protection for your transaction. Do not use your debit card because that gives thieves direct access to your checking account. Unauthorized charges on a credit card of $50 or more are protected by federal laws. Create an email account that is used just for shopping purposes. Ensure that your antivirus protection is the most recent version.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.