With the holiday
shopping season heating up and gas prices discouraging shopping
trips, more people are using their computers to finish up their
gift buying this year. Whether you are shopping online or at the
mall, there are some easy ways to protect yourself and make sure
that the holidays are merry.
Don't volunteer to share personal information. Social security
numbers, bank card PIN numbers and account balances, Internet
passwords and other information that isn't needed to process your
purchase should not be part of any online payment form. If you
are uncomfortable with the information that you are being asked
for...just click to another site or go to another store.
When you make a purchase, always get the receipt and save it.
For online shopping, either print out the page or use the "Save"
function under the "File" heading in your browser menu.
Most stores will require a receipt for a return even when you
buy a gift online. Find out the store's return policy. Is there
a time limit for returns? Will the store refund your money or
just give a store credit? Is the item you are buying able to be
returned? Sometimes sale items or lingerie items are not returnable.
If you are giving a store gift certificate find out when it expires.
Many stores have a time limit and if the gift certificate is not
used before it expires, you lose the money. Time limits can vary
from 90 days to three years. The best option is a gift card that
Beware of shipping and handling charges. Catalog and online shopping
may provide access to lower prices than your local stores, but
make sure to take delivery costs into account. The good news is
that many merchants do offer free shipping on purchases over a
certain amount. If you can't find a free delivery option, look
for a store that offers a flat fee when you order larger, heavier
items. Shipping charges based on weight can add quite a bit to
Try using price
comparison search engines to make shopping easier. Many of
these sites rate the sellers so you can get an idea of how reputable
the merchant is before you make a purchase. Don't assume that
the price comparison sites always have the best prices listed.
Before you make the final decision do a quick Google search for
the item to make sure it isn't on sale at a store that isn't listed!