Attractive glamorous senior woman sitting in her living room in front of a decorated Christmas tree using a laptop, red and white themed

On your marks, get ready, shop! It’s December, and we all know what that means! Time to fill our homes with family, holiday cheer and presents! If you’re not a Black Friday / Cyber Monday warrior whose shopping is all done, we have some great new tips and useful reminders for you. Make the most of your holiday shopping dollar, both in person and online, with our Holiday Shopping Toolkit. Caregivers, loved ones and home care aides can use these tips and tricks to make the most of the holiday shopping season.

Step Number One: Make a List

Santa knows what he’s doing. The list is your best weapon against going over budget or forgetting someone important. First, list everyone you want to buy a gift for, from the most extravagant to the smallest token of gratitude. Second, decide in advance what your budget is for each person. That way, you won’t be swept off your feet by a tempting discount, or gorgeous gift pack. And don’t forget the ‘oh yeahs’, like your hairdresser, babysitter, or office manager.

Step Two: Soup Up Your Online Shopping

There are two price comparison tools that the serious online shopper can’t live without: search engines, and browser extensions. Specialized search engines like Google Shopping (the tab next to ‘All’ on the Google homepage), PriceGrabber, and Nextag will search the web for your item and tell you the best prices available. Start with one of these sites when you know what you want, and can search specifically for an item, like a GoPro camera for that daredevil nephew. Price comparison browser extensions are little applets that install on your browser, and automatically show you the best price for whatever’s on that page. Browser extensions are the best for the shopper who browses, and who might not know exactly what she’s looking for. The extension follows you as you move from item to item, and tells you if you’re getting the best deal or not. Check out PriceZombie, Honey and Invisible Hand.

Step Three: Coupons, Coupons, and Cash

This time of year, retailers are offering coupons right and left. If we have one holiday motto, it’s ‘don’t pay retail!’ Go to the site RetailMeNot, where they have collected literally all the coupon codes available on the web.  Can’t find a discount code? How does cash back sound? Start your shopping journey from the site eBates, and you will get some percentage of your purchase back in a check in early 2017. Who doesn’t love cash back?!

Step Four: Free Shipping Is The Best Shipping

Did you know that many popular retailers participate in Free Shipping Day? This year, this bright spot in the retail calendar falls on December 18th. If you haven’t completed your list by then, shop at any of the sites found on Freeshippingday.com, and enjoy free shipping with delivery guaranteed by Christmas Eve.

Step Five: Ask And You Might Receive

Many retailer websites have Chat Support, for shoppers who miss the human touch or whose questions can’t wait on an email reply. There are real humans behind these chat boxes, and they have access to inside information. If you don’t ask you’ll never know, so open a chat and ask if there are promotions available, or upcoming sales on the item you want.

Step Six: Painless Returns From PayPal

Many retailers, and small businesses, use PayPal on their websites. As you know, you don’t need to have a PayPal account to use PayPal – you can check out with your credit card and enjoy the security PayPal offers. But, PayPal gives something special to shoppers who use their PayPal balances to make purchases: free return shipping! Start here, and find out all about it!

Step Seven: Play Hard To Get

Have you ever browsed a store’s site, filling the cart with needs, wants and ‘oh I shouldn’t’s? And then you went back to Facebook and forgot all about it? If you sign up for that site’s email list – with your ‘only for online shopping’ email address, of course – the site will try to lure you back to complete the purchase. Let your cart sit for at least a day, and you should see an email or two from the store offering discounts, or free shipping, to encourage you to spend your money.

Step Eight: Wait For It

The day after Valentine’s Day, the day after Easter, and the day after Halloween, candy is cheap. The smart shopper stocks up on those days for the next year’s holiday, or a serious sugar craving. The real rewards come the day after Christmas, when prices on the inventory that’s left is slashed and returns come pouring in. If there are people on your list who you won’t see until after December 26th, consider holding on just one more day, when you can save big.