Q: I keep hearing all about the holiday bargains available over the Internet. What's your advice on how to find?those bargains?
A: Here's the thing about holiday shopping online. What you don't get is the sensory and enticing experience of walking through a store and being "struck" by the "perfect gift." What you do get is a disciplined way to shop for the best price on something you already have decided should be the perfect gift.
And since you're likely not to pay local sales taxes when you order online (unless the merchant has a retail presence in your location), there is a huge incentive to avoid the crowds and order online. Online holiday shopping is expected to increase 17 percent from $46.63 billion in 2011 to $54.47 billion in 2012.
But the real benefit of online shopping is instant price comparison. Many websites scurry around the Internet finding all the best bargains on the products you are most likely to want. When you click through from their website, you get the low price guarantee — and they get a small fee per click-through from the store.
PriceGrabber.com is one of the top shopping comparison websites. You can ?go to the site and compare prices of more than 80 million different products and read merchant reviews. Shoppers can also download the PriceGrabber App which gives them the ability to compare prices on the go by browsing or using the barcode scanner.
It's instant information. You can compare by product category — i.e., top three 40-inch LCD televisions, or find the lowest price sellers of the product you decide upon.
PriceBlink.com is another free tool that saves you money by doing all the searching for you for coupons, free shipping and more. If you can purchase that very same product on another site for less or if the site you're on offers any coupon codes, free shipping or any other deals, PriceBlink will let you know.
Priceblink also just released a free companion iPhone App, called BuyorNot, which helps shoppers when they're in the store to quickly see how an item is rated by other shoppers simply by scanning the barcode of any product to search more than 45 million reviews.
JustDeals.com is a daily discount site that offers savings of up to 95 percent off original pricing on deals ranging from electronics to home goods and housewares, to jewelry. JustDeals.com offers four deeply discounted daily deals with limited quantities that go live every night at 11 p.m for a 24-hour period, or while supplies last as products quickly sell out. For today, Thursday, the deals include an HP digital camera, a camcorder, a set of carpet mats and a kung fu food processor!
RetailMeNot.com, CouponSherpa.com, and eBay.com: These and many others have tools to help you search the best online deals, save money and fill your holiday stocking with gifts for everyone. But I just can't resist adding my traditional advice about not overspending. Remember a bargain isn't a bargain if you're paying interest on it for the next six months! And that's the Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5's 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, "The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?" To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.