The holidays are a stressful time for everyone, and while many people enjoy browsing the numerous online retail sites to find the perfect gifts, no one enjoys the financial stress that comes at the end of the season when the charges have piled up. Online shopping continues to be a popular and convenient way to shop for holiday gifts, but the lack of physical contact for purchase and payment can make it easy to lose track of costs and let spending get out of control.
Take a little stress out of the holiday spending by planning ahead and utilizing the benefits of online shopping. Make shopping online this year more affordable, more secure, and more enjoyable overall.
Few people like to shop on a budget during the holidays, but it really is essential for keeping track of spending. Having a list of people to buy for, with a realistic spending range for each person, is a good way to start and will help keep the spending manageable (and less stressful) later. It may be helpful to make two budgets: one for gift purchases, and one for all the other holiday expenses you’re likely to incur, such as: travel, food, entertaining, creating and mailing cards, charitable donations, and contributions to office gifts or parties.
One of the best features of online shopping over in-person shopping is how easy it is to compare prices. Since more and more people each year depend on their mobile phones for online shopping, browsing for products, comparing deals, and finding nearby stores for specialty items have never been easier. Take advantage of this perk by shopping around as many places as possible so that you don’t overpay or miss out on a time-sensitive discount.
The costs of shipping continue to go up at a lot of online retail sites, and many places that used to offer free returns now expect customers to absorb the cost of return shipping. Save some money—and reduce the stress on your friends and family members who may have to return a gift—by looking for deals that specifically include free shipping and free returns.
The holiday season can be a good time to join email lists of your favorite stores to learn about special discounts and sales events. Some sites offer a bonus discount just for joining their email list, and many send emails that routinely contain coupons and direct links to products of interest. If you think you’ll be spending a lot of your budget at a specific online retailer, it might be worth your time to see if they have an email campaign that rewards subscribers.
Online shopping offers a lot of conveniences, but it also comes with the added stress of having to protect personal and financial information every time you shop. There are seemingly countless online stores now, and choosing reputable ones with trusted websites and account security protocols is as important as ever. Be cautious when sharing financial information on an unfamiliar website, and, when possible, avoid storing credit card info and other sensitive financial or personal data if you don’t have to.
While you should be reconciling your personal accounts all year long, it is particularly important at the end of the year. Reviewing your credit card statements and bank statements to make sure charges align, balances match, and all payments issued were authorized ones will help cut down on careless overspending, errors, and fraud. It also makes tax preparation easier in case some of your spending meets eligible deduction criteria. Keeping records and reviewing them carefully, though stressful tasks themselves, can still reduce the overall stress by keeping you informed of your spending habits and helping your stay on track with your budget.
The holiday shopping season is already off to a busy start. According to professional estimates, over 90 million consumers shopped online during Black Friday this year, and 50 million more people shopped online than in-person during Cyber Monday. Online shopping continues to be a popular and preferred way to buy holiday gifts for millions of people. Some small adjustments to the planning and spending can do a lot to alleviate stress and make online shopping more affordable and secure.