How to be a smart internet shopper

Consumers are about to do some serious cybershopping. More than 131 million (54.8%) shoppers, up from last year’s 129 million, are expected to spend $2 billion online for Cyber Monday, which could translate to as much as $82 billion being spent at online retailers in November and December of this year, according to The National Retail Federation.

Shopping online is convenient, but for over-spenders, the Internet may be too convenient. With retailers admitting to spending 20 percent of their yearly marketing budget on holiday promotions, it pays to have a plan before hitting the web.

  • Know your budget. Before browsing the web, determine how much you can afford to spend. The NRF predicts shoppers will spend $129 on non-holiday related items, so don’t forget to add a little extra to your spending budget in case you stumble on a deal you can’t resist.
  • Have a plan for payoff. Since most Internet purchases are made with a credit card, planning is of the utmost importance. In a matter of minutes, you can charge up holiday gifts that take months or even years to pay off.
  • Comparison shop. With the luxury of avoiding the travel time and long lines with in-store shopping, comparing products and prices online can be done quickly and easily, and can result in big savings if done right.
  • Do your research. Most retailers will offer free shipping on Cyber Monday, with discount shipping for the remainder of the holiday shopping season, but many require a shopping code. Search sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponBlender.com for valuable coupons and promotional codes for shipping discounts and other savings.
  • Shop with a list. Make a comprehensive gift list and take note of any other needed holiday purchases. Use your list when you shop online and buy only those items on your list. Buying something you don’t need at a good price is no bargain.

Finally, remember great gifts don’t have to cost money. Consider gifting your time by offering help with useful tasks such as a few hours of yard work or babysitting. Visit MMIurl.org/HolidaySpending for other free gift ideas, and for a free printable gift certificate.

Tanisha (Warner) Smith is a former communications manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.