10 Embarrassing Online Shopping Fails to Avoid This Holiday Season

There’s no need to wait in long lines at crowded stores to snag the perfect holiday gifts at the best prices. All kinds of great deals can be found online.

However, online shopping comes with its own perils when you’re trying to stick to a budget. Buying virtually makes it easy to buy a cartload of stuff in a few simple clicks — without really paying attention to the real-life dollars you’re spending.

Before you hit that “buy now” button, check out how to avoid making these 10 common mistakes when you shop online.

10 Online Shopping Mistakes to Avoid This Holiday Season

As you browse online for your holiday finds, avoid these pitfalls to keep yourself from spending a ho-ho-whole lotta money.

1. Getting Fooled by Terrible Discounts

When is a Black Friday sale not really a sale? When the discounts aren’t any better than the ones you normally receive.

For example, if you can typically find your favorite brand of shoes for $50 — even though the “suggested retail price” is $90 — consider $50 the benchmark. So if a retailer advertises the shoes for 50% off, but the discount is off the regular suggested retail price of $90, it won’t be much of a deal because you’re only saving $5 off of what you’d normally pay.

Let it be a lesson that just because an item is listed on the sale page of a website doesn’t mean something is worth your money.

2. Spending More to Get “Free” Shipping

We’ve all been there. You know you can get free shipping if your order totals more than $50, but your cart comes to $48.50.

Maybe you can find something for $1.50 to meet the minimum… or maybe you’ll just toss in that $10 item you don’t really need but lets you get the free shipping.

Rather than sorting the sale section from low to high, step away from the virtual cart and rethink your original purchase.

Would it be worth paying to have that original item shipped and sticking to your original budget? Or consider other shipping options the retailer offers — could you use a ship-to-store option that lets you save on shipping and drive up to get the goods?

3. Not Abandoning Your Cart

Yeah, it might be bad form to leave a cart full of stuff in a brick-and-mortar store, but do it online, and you could score a better deal.

Some retail sites will trigger an email coupon when you leave items in your cart and close your browser. Leave your cart for a few hours (or a day) and you could receive an email saying, “Did you forget something? Here, have a discount!”

If you don’t need to place the order immediately, a short period of indecision can help you get a better deal.

4. Falling for Expensive Promoted Products

Websites like Amazon, Etsy and eBay know that consumers want convenience — and are easily distracted by the first item they see in search results. So they place advertised products in the search results, even if you choose to sort by price from lowest to highest.

Before you click on that attractive-looking item, thinking it’s in your price range, double-check for an indicator that it’s a promoted product.

5. Not Shopping in Incognito Mode

Did you know some online shopping sites will show higher prices depending on your location, the time of day you’re shopping and whether you’ve checked out the item on the site earlier?

Shop in your browser’s private mode to avoid retailers switching up prices to try to get you to buy now.

6. Shopping While Intoxicated, Tired or Hungry

No. Do not.

That is how you end up with a skirt two sizes smaller than what you normally wear, because you think you might be able to fit into it eventually. And it’s a final sale. Just don’t do it.

If you have the tendency to shop when you’ve been drinking or late at night as you try to cure your insomnia, do yourself a favor and protect your wallet from your worst shopping tendencies.

Put a few of these shopping safeguards in place to prevent your retail hangover.

7. Not Doing Your Research

Never make an impulse buy based on the image of the item alone.

Did you read reviews for the product? (Bonus points if you peep user-uploaded photos.)

Did you check the specs on expensive electronics to make sure you’re getting a high-quality item? Or that it has the connectors you need for it to work with your current setup?

Did you check the clothing size chart?

If you can’t rattle off the reasons it’s worth buying that product right now, step away from your laptop. You’re not ready to buy.

8. Not Checking the Return Policy

A lot of online stores let you make returns, but some of them also make you jump through hoops before you can get your money back.

Before you buy, check the store’s restrictions on returns and find out how much it will deduct from your refund (for return shipping or restocking) if you send the item back.

9. Not Using a Cash-Back Program

If you’re not shopping online through a cash-back portal, you’re missing out on free money.

Check out these Google Chrome extensions — they automatically detect if there’s a rebate, cash-back offer or deal for your purchase.

Bonus points if you shop with a credit card that offers cash back or reward points.

10. Not Having a Budget

Before, when you headed to the store, you may have had a list, or if you shopped with cash you’d know how much you had left to spend. It’s a lot easier for online shopping to get out of control since you can hop from site to site — and can do it any time.

Plus, online retailers purposely try to get you to spend more by suggesting similar products you might like based on what you’ve searched for.

If you set aside an hour before you start your holiday shopping to review your numbers and create a holiday budget, you’ll be able to make the holiday cheer (and more cash) last into the new year.

Lisa Rowan is a former writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors and senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this post.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday: When to Score the Best Deals

To make things easier, Prime members can send a gift to someone with just the recipient’s cell phone number. No need to ruin the surprise by asking someone’s physical address.

Walmart + members will get early access to these deals. Offers will be available first online and then in stores.
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Amazon began holiday deals in early October to get things started early. They have a “Holiday Gift List” feature you can make and share with people to help them buy you a gift you want. You can also ask friends and family members for their lists.
Night owls might be able to find the best prices since many retailers post new deals at midnight.
Katherine Cullen, NRF’s senior director of Industry and Consumer Insights, said there is a lot of excitement around Thanksgiving weekend shopping this year.

Holiday Shopping on Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday

Returns are extended until Jan. 16.
Best Buy started offering sale prices early in November with more deals launching closer to Thanksgiving.
The NRF also said on average consumers plan to spend 7.73 on gifts this year, which is close to what it was last year, but less than it was pre-pandemic.
According to 2020 data from Salesforce, the average discount rate was 28% on Thanksgiving Thursday and then grew to 29% by Cyber Monday.
Deals labeled as “Holiday Best” will be the best price of the season, no matter when you see it. If a price goes lower, you can ask for a price match up until Dec. 24. They will also match a competitor’s price for 14 days.
There are deals to be had tied to both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, mostly in the five categories of tech, beauty, clothing, toys and home products. Take a deep breath though, pandemic-caused supply chain issues may make certain items in those categories difficult to find.
The best deals on Black Friday are traditionally for expensive big ticket items like TVs, laptops, phones, and other technology. (But, again, some of those items may be tough to get in time for the holiday. An IOU maybe and hope for January delivery?)

When Are the Best Deals?

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.
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To help shoppers prepare for online holiday sales, many retailers have released details about their pricing, returns, and more.
“It’s kind of a signal that people are looking to bring back some of the traditions they had in the past in terms of how they shopped over Thanksgiving weekend,” Cullen said.
To help you get what you want, it may pay off to prepare a bit whether you plan to physically go into a store or shop online during the holiday weekend or before.

A man looks at holiday deals on his laptop on Cyber Monday.
The average discount on Cyber Monday is about 30% and the sales usually extend over five days or more. Bebeto Matthews/AP Images

What’s the Average Discount?

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Quantities of an item might be limited, so once they’re gone, they’re gone and so are the major discounts.
Here’s how you can prepare for the biggest shopping time of the year.
They’re calling it “Black Friday Deals for Days” with several shopping events leading up to Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Items will be available while supplies last.
The NRF survey showed about two-thirds of people who planned to shop on Black Friday were heading into brick and mortar stores.
“Last year, we were in a very different place. There was a lot of uncertainty and people felt a lot of concern around shopping in stores and shopping in person. We’re just in a different place this year. What it means is we are expecting to see a lot more shopping in stores.”

How to Prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

Bicycles won’t be plentiful but skateboards are, according to Amazon which promises delivery on many models well before Christmas. Game consoles? A tough get. TVs? More likely.

  • Make a list: (and check it twice) Having an idea of what you want to buy can help you focus your energy when you either go into a store or go online.
  • Look at ads: Many stores have already released their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Some have even started their sales.
  • Use online tools: Cullen suggested utilizing the tools many stores have online about quantities available both online and in stores and how many people are shopping for that particular item. It can help you find what you need.
  • Know sale dates: Many stores are offering great deals long before Black Friday, so if you wait until then, it may be too late. If there is something you know you want, look at the store’s web site to see if you can get it now.
  • Check return policies: Some stores will allow you to return an item to a brick and mortar store if you no longer want the item. Others require online returns. Many retailers have extended their return policies beyond their usual 14, 30, 60, or 90 days from date of purchase to some time after the new year.
  • Consider price adjustments or price matching: Some retailers will offer price adjustments if you buy an item and then either they later offer it at a lower price or a competitor does. Just be aware, some retailers exclude Black Friday deals from these practices since the quantities are limited for many items.
  • Follow stores on social media: Cullen said many stores will offer specials on top of specials and social media might be a good way to snag them when they happen.

They’re offering what they call a “Black Friday Price Guarantee” where if you buy something and the price goes down before Black Friday, they will refund the difference.

Store Specific Information

Traditionally, the deals are usually the best for fashion, small appliances, and beauty items but Cullen said since everything is basically becoming a five-day shopping period, the categories for the sales are blurring also.
What was once the traditional start of the holiday season has morphed into several weeks of sales, some starting in early October. Then there’s Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, both of which happen after Black Friday. For 2021, those dates are Black Friday (Nov. 26), Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 29).

Amazon

Nearly half of shoppers (49%) started buying gifts before November, which is up from 42% last year, according to the NRF.
But with some items in short supply, experts are warning us to not hold out for a better deal if you find something you like,

Best Buy

“We do encourage people, particularly with what’s going on the supply chains right now, is if you see an item that you’re looking for on sale at a price you’re willing to pay, don’t wait,” Cullen warned. “Inventory is a little tighter this year. We are hearing from retailers this year that they are offering promotions and discounts, but they’re not holding off until the last minute to offer those, so if you see something you’re looking for, go ahead and buy it.”
Walmart says they reinvented the Black Friday shopping experience in 2020 and are returning it this year.
American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage shoppers to patronize small and local businesses and not just large retailers during the holiday shopping season. Many small stores will offer deals the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Target

Black Friday and its epic sales have become a way to get customers who have the day off into stores to spend money. Now, many of the deals are also online.
“What we see changing is more of a move towards deals of the hour with different items and different release times throughout the day,” Cullen said. “Customers should keep an eye out for some of those things because something unexpected might pop up on sale.”

Walmart

Over the years, the lines between the days have become blurry, creating one mishmash of sales that blend together.
Gone are the days when you needed to pitch a tent in front of a big box store to be the first in line on Black Friday and get the best deals for the holiday shopping season.
Target began advertising holiday deals on Oc. 31. They start each Sunday and last a week and are available for online, in store pickup, and in store purchase.
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Here is some basic information about a few big retailers to help you get the best deals.

9 Gifts That Will Be Impossible to Find Due to Supply Shortages

COVID-19 shuttered gyms last year and caused most people to shun public transportation. As a result, millions of non-cyclists rushed to buy new bicycles both for recreation and bike commuting. As demand has surged, the bicycle industry has struggled with factory closures in Asia, where most bicycles are produced, and shipping logjams.
As demand for print books has soared, the raw materials used to make books have been in short supply. Wood pulp, a key ingredient for paper making, and ink are both scarce. Many printing presses in the U.S. have also shuttered over the years as the publishing industry predicted the demise of print books and the rise of ebooks.
The 2021 holiday season is shaping up to be a disappointing one for gamers. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X remain hard to find nearly a year after their initial release. Now, Nintendo just announced it’s cutting production of its Nintendo Switch by 20% for its 2021 fiscal year.

9 Gifts That Will Be Ridiculously Hard to Find This Year

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1. Gaming Consoles

You probably won’t have trouble finding shoes this season, but the inventory you find may be older and less popular designs. Also be prepared to shell out more. According to Footwear News, shoe prices were up 6.5% in September compared to one year ago.
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You don’t need to worry about empty shelves at your local bookstore. If the book you’re planning to gift is a widely anticipated bestseller, you should have no trouble finding it. It’s the surprise hits that are causing booksellers anxiety, because they may not be able to get new copies in time for the holidays to accommodate demand.

Pro Tip
If you’re able to add a console to your online shopping cart, don’t wait to complete additional shopping. Check out immediately, as bots have a way of being faster than humans.

2. Bicycles

Demand for toys has been consistently high throughout the pandemic as parents sought to keep bored kids entertained from home. But for several months, manufacturers have been warning that toys could be hard to find this season. Materials like plastic and resin that are used to produce many toys are in short supply. Exorbitant shipping prices and a lack of warehouse space and truck drivers could add to shortages.
Retail forecasters are mixed on how bad the toy shortage will be. It will probably be tougher than usual to find 2021’s most popular toys. But as long as you’re not set on buying the season’s hottest toys, you should have ample options.

3. iPhone 13

It’s unlikely that stores will run dry on wine this season. But if you have your heart set on buying a specific bottle as a gift or for your own celebrations, have some alternatives planned. Also, alcohol tends to be popular as a last-minute gift, so shopping early could help you avoid shortages.
As of this writing in early November, Apple’s website listed estimated delivery dates of less than a week for its cheaper standard iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. But for its pricier iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 ProMax, expected delivery dates extend into mid-December.
Shipping costs are expected to peak Dec. 20-Dec. 21, according to Adobe Analytics. Last-minute gift buying will cost shoppers an average of per order.

A man proposes to his girlfriend on Christmas. Their dog jumps up in the photo.
Getty Images

4. Engagement Rings

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]
You’ve probably heard that holiday shopping will be a nightmare even the Grinch himself couldn’t dream up. Supply-chain troubles, shipping bottlenecks, and worker shortages will make it harder to find big-ticket items.

5. Cars

Unfortunately, consoles will still be hard to find after the holidays. Shortages are expected to continue into fall 2022 or even 2023.
Here are a few solutions for beating supply chain troubles this holiday season:
Apple has fared better with supply-chain shortages than many of its rivals because of its huge buying power and long-term agreements with suppliers. But even the world’s most valuable company is feeling the pinch of the global chip shortage.
Ready to stop worrying about money?

A little girl rides a pink toy car on Christmas Day.
Getty Images

6. Toys

COVID-19 brought diamond mining, trading and cutting to a halt in spring 2020. Yet demand for jewelry stayed surprisingly high. Demand will likely keep surging as a sense of normalcy returns and couples can safely plan vacations (where proposals often happen) and weddings again. Investors are also increasingly seeking out diamonds, putting more pressure on demand.
As a result, the average price of a new car topped ,000 in September for the first time in history, a 7.7% year-over-year increase, according to Kelley Blue Book. Even prices for traditionally affordable brands like Hyundai, Kia (up 15.4% year over year) and Mitsubishi (up 23.8% year over year) are surging. Meanwhile, the latest Consumer Price Index survey showed that used car prices rose 26.4% in the past 12 months.

7. Sneakers

The global chip shortage and shipping woes have hit the auto industry hard. Meanwhile, the pandemic fueled demand for vehicles as people avoided public transportation.
If you haven’t started your shopping yet, don’t panic. As long as you’re flexible, you’ll surely be able to find plenty of gifts. But if you have your heart set on buying one of these nine items, it’s time to start your hunt ASAP.

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Pro Tip
Wine will be in short supply this holiday season, but COVID-19 doesn’t get all of the blame. Droughts in California and other Western states have lowered the grape yield at many vineyards. But much of the vino winemakers do have is sitting around in oak barrels. That’s because glass bottles are in short supply thanks to the pandemic.

8. Surprise Bestsellers

MarketWatch reported in October that it now takes more than 70 days from the time a manufacturing order is placed until the bicycle arrives at a warehouse. Pre-pandemic, it took just 45 days. Many in the bicycle industry expect shortages to persist into 2022.
Apple is now expected to ship 10 million fewer of its new iPhone 13 than originally projected through the end of 2021. New iPads, MacBook Pros and the Apple Watch Series 7 are also expected to be in short supply.
Dealerships have razor-thin inventories right now. Available vehicles are often less popular models, yet they’re selling well above the sticker price. If someone you love is hoping to find a new set of car keys in their stocking, now is a great time to remind them that there’s always next year.

A group of friends hold wine as they take a selfie together on Christmas.
Getty Images

9. Wine

Meanwhile, demand is up. Holiday shoppers expect to spend 5 on average this season, more than they planned on in both 2019 and 2020, according to market research company The NPD Group Inc.
Car company commercials would have you think that it’s totally normal to wake up to the gift of a shiny new set of wheels on Christmas morning. We’re guessing that this is pretty rare, though. Which is good news because the 2021 holiday season will be an awful time to buy a car.

What to Do if You Can’t Buy the Gift You Want

The global chip shortage is just one factor. Demand for gaming devices has surged since the beginning of the pandemic, as people sought ways to entertain themselves at home. Adding to the frustration is the fact that humans are increasingly competing with bots to buy in-demand consoles. Then the bot-purchased gaming systems pop up at unofficial retailers at an exorbitant markup.
If someone in your life has their heart set on a hard-to-find gift, now is a good time to temper expectations. Remind your loved one that these are unusual times. Too many customers are chasing after too few goods, which means a lot of people will be disappointed. But also remind yourself that it’s not worth blowing your budget or going into debt just to give someone the perfect gift.

  • Don’t hold out for a bargain. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that holiday deals are expected to be stingy this year. Decide how much you’re willing to pay, and stick to it. If you find a sought-after item that you’re determined to give, don’t wait around hoping for a last-minute deal.
  • Buy gently used. Look to thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for items like bikes and toys.
  • Give them an IOU. If someone has their heart set on something that’s back ordered, you could make them a certificate showing that it’s on its way. Granted, that won’t be as exciting as unwrapping a brand-new gaming console. On the flip side, though, you can extend the holiday magic into 2022.
  • Give cash or gift cards. If you’re over trying to hunt for the hottest gifts, there’s nothing wrong with gifting cash or a gift card instead.
  • Quit delaying. With many people doing holiday shopping in September and October this year, it’s a bit late to say “Shop early.” But if you’re procrastinating, consider this your warning: The longer you wait, the more painful shopping will be in 2021.

The footwear industry is also dealing with the same issues virtually every manufacturer is grappling with, like port congestion, worker shortages and Asia factory closures. In fact, Nike’s chief financial officer said on a Sept. 23 earnings call that the company lost 10 weeks of production since mid-July in Vietnam, where much of its production takes place. <!–

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Expect your choices to be limited if you’re buying someone a new pair of kicks this holiday season. Rubber and plastic are key materials for sneakers, and both are in short supply right now.

7 Online Shopping Hacks to Save Money

There’s no question that shopping online is more convenient than shopping in-store, but sometimes you pay for that convenience in the form of shipping charges. With the holidays coming up, that cost difference can add up fast.

Thankfully, you can make up that difference by taking advantage of some tried-and-true online shopping hacks. Here are some of our favorite ways to save money when shopping online.

Download Money-Saving Browser Extensions

Rakuten, Capital One Shopping and Honey are some of the most popular browser extensions for saving money online. There are two ways that browser extensions can help: offering cash back on purchases and providing special coupon codes to save you money at checkout.

Capital One Shopping provides cash back, coupon codes and even shows if you’re getting a good deal on an item. If not, the extension will show where you can find a cheaper version.

When you download these browser extensions, they’ll pop up every time you visit an eligible site. For example, if you go to Target.com through the Rakuten extension, you can earn 1% cash back on your purchase in select categories.

Not every retailer provides cash back with these extensions, and some may have limits on which categories you can earn rewards with. For example, you often can’t receive cash back on electronics, toys or video games.

Different browser extensions may offer different rewards. For example, if you visit Walmart.com through the Capital One Shopping tool, you may receive 2% cash back in certain categories. But if you visit Walmart.com through the Rakuten extension, you’ll only earn 1% cash back.

That’s why it pays to download all three browser extensions and compare the various deals.

Pro-tip: Set up a holiday spending goal in the Mint app to help you stay on track.

Sign Up for Retailer Emails

Most online retailers offer a special welcome discount when you sign up for company emails, usually ranging from 10% to 20%. Visit the retailer website and wait for a pop-up that asks you to input your email address.

If you’re already an email subscriber to the retailer in question, search through your emails to see if you’ve received a coupon code recently. Check both your spam and trash folders since promotional emails often wind up there.

Abandon Your Cart

If you’ve ever put an item in your shopping cart and not checked out, you may have gotten an email for a special discount code. Many retailers will automatically send out these emails when the customer has abandoned their cart to entice them to complete the purchase.

Use this strategy to your advantage. Visit the retailer’s website, add the items to your cart and exit the browser. Within a day or two, you should receive an email reminding you about the purchase with an extra discount offer.

Not all retailers will provide a coupon if you abandon your cart, and an item in high demand may be sold out before you get the email. Still, it’s worth trying to see if you can snag a better deal.

Cash In Rewards Points

If you’re like some cardholders, you probably have credit card rewards points that you couldn’t redeem for travel purchases in 2020 and 2021. Instead of hoarding them for your next trip, redeem them for a digital gift card to use on purchases right now.

Cashing out for a gift card usually isn’t the most efficient way to use points, but it is a great strategy to save money on online purchases.

Reach Out via Social Media

If you’ve tried all the tricks mentioned above and still can’t find a discount, contact the company on social media. Twitter is usually the preferred method, but you can also try a private message on Facebook or Instagram.

Be polite, friendly and mention how you want to see if there’s a special sale or coupon. Not every company will respond with a discount code, but it only takes a few minutes to try.

Once, I posted a tweet about dying my hair purple using a specific at-home product. I received a discount code from its competitor in just a few hours.

Use a Rewards Credit Card

Many credit cards offer extra cash-back when you shop at participating retailers, usually ranging from 1% to 5%. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back card provides 5% cash back when you shop at Amazon.com.

Most cards provide a fixed cash-back percentage at all times, with special categories that earn an extra percentage. These categories often rotate every quarter.

The rewards may be given as a statement credit, miles you can redeem for travel or points you can use for digital gift cards. These cash-back rewards can be added on top of the browser extension or discount code.

Getting a new card in the mail can take up to two weeks, so apply soon if you want to earn rewards in time to buy holiday presents.

New cardholders may even qualify for an extra sign-up bonus, like $200 when spending $1,000 or 50,000 bonus points.

Follow Influencers on Social Media

Your favorite influencers will often post special discount codes that are only available through them. Follow influencers who shop at similar stores and check their Instagram stories daily to see if they’ve posted a code.

Search for hashtags related to the retailer you’re interested in to find influencers who provide special codes.

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