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Online Tips for Cyber Monday, or Any Day

The Internet has put the store at your fingertips, but don't get sucked in by the convenience—we've got tips to find the best deals around.

Do crowds make you crazy? Traffic get you in a tizzy? Long lines turn you looney?

If you said "yes" to one of the above, online shopping for all your holiday gifts is just what the retail doctor ordered! 

You can snag some amazing deals all from the comfort of your home. And what could be better than shopping in your PJ's with a glass of wine in hand? Yup. I thought so. 

Here's some of my tried and true tricks and tips to assure you can fill all those stockings while keeping your wallet, and your sanity, happy. 

1) Comparison shop. You have the ability to compare a price on any item you find with every other price on the internet. That's something you can't do very easily while standing in a crowded mall. My favorite way to make sure the deal I'm getting is the absolute best is to simply Google it. Enter the name of the item and on the left side of your screen click on the "Shopping" tab. You'll instantly see what else is out there and you can sort by lowest to highest prices. Just make sure to factor in tip #2. 

2) Don't get burned by shipping and handling costs. This is one area where online retailers can make up for their low prices. When you're shopping on the web always make sure you know that the shipping and handling costs and rules are before hitting that checkout button. Some sites will offer free shipping once you reach a certain total threshold, while others will charge you for each item you buy. No two stores are the same so pay very close attention or that amazing deal could end up costing you a pretty sneaky penny. 

3) Ship to store to save. Many big box retailers offer the option to ship to their store for free. Yes, you still have to go to the store, but everything you ordered is right there waiting for you, like you're a VIP! And you save big on shipping fees. This is also a great option if you order something at a rockbottom price online but the item a wrong size or color. You can easily exchange it right there at the store. 

4) Search out online coupon codes. Here's where it gets really fun. There's a whole slew of online promotion and coupon codes out there which can knock a hefty percentage off your total. My favorite place to look for these is RetailMeNot. If there's a coupon out there, they'll have it. Plus other users rate if the coupon worked so you won't get your hopes up if it's not working. Also, make sure to check how many coupon codes your online store accepts. Some will take more than one so you could use a percentage off code along with a free shipping code and really maximize your savings! 

5) Sign up for deal sites. These days there's a specialized version of Groupon for every demographic. Deals change daily and they're up to 70% off retail prices. Plus, I find that the items they feature are unique and make for inventive gifts. Some of the sites I frequent most is daily pet deals over at Doggy Loot  (bonus...they have free shipping on everything!), fun items for both moms and kidlets at Plum District, gorgeous home accessories at Joss & Main, and my personal favorite, Fab, where there's a little something for everyone. Another amazing site to check out is Brads Deals where they find the absolute rock bottom prices on everything from Ugg boots to electronics online. Sign up for their email and each afternoon they'll send you that day's best deals.

6) QVC Easy Pay is amazing. I say it every year and I still stand by it. QVC is a great place to shop for all your favorite brands, but what stands them apart is their Easy Pay program. There is no credit check and unlike lay-away you receive your item right away. If Easy Pay is offered on an item, QVC divides payments anywhere from two months to six months on a variety of items and each month that amount will be deducted from your respective payment source, be it a credit card or a bank account. There is no interest so it's a better option than using a straight up credit card. I have been using Easy Pay for years and it's one of those hidden little gems that make the holidays shine just a bit brighter, especially if you're trying to pinch those pennies. 

7) Get paid to shop. Another tried and true method I use to maximize my online shopping saving is to do all my shopping through either Ebates or ShopAtHome. Both sites do the same thing; they pay you a percentage on your online shopping total. Seems too good to be true? It's not. So far I've been reimbursed hundreds of dollars by using these sites. ShopAtHome is my favorite as they send you a check and I've found their pay back percentages tend to be higher, but when in doubt certainly check both. Each has specials each day where certain stores cash back amount temporarily grows. 

And with that I hope I've encouraged you to spend a little more time relaxing this holiday shopping season instead of finding yourself in a re-enactment of a WWE episode at the malls. Happy shopping!

Sara Conrad blogs at SarandipitySaves.

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