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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Technology: Savvy Shopping for the Holidays

How's your holiday shopping going? This year I found myself using some new tools to do my shopping; not only was it fun but it saved me money too!

Internet Shopping

Lots of us have been shopping on the Internet in the past few years – and using the Internet to do comparison shopping as well. A recent survey by Pew Internet found that 58% of Americans now report that they research products and services online before making purchases. Comparison shopping, whether online or through other means, can help you get the most value for your dollars. While we tend to be short on time during the holiday shopping season, take time to comparison shop for your large purchases to save yourself money, as prices do vary from one store to the next.

If you choose to make purchases over the Internet here are a few tips to make you a savvy shopper:

  • Be sure that the website is secure before entering your credit card information. The website url should be "https" to show that it is secure. The "s" stands for "secure" and indicates that the communication with the webpage is encrypted.
  • Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Credit card transactions are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act; if a problem occurs, you are only liable for the first $50 in unauthorized charges. With a debit card, you do not have this protection and you could lose all money in your account.

Shopping with Your Cell Phone

I love my new smart cell phone and used it this year to do my holiday shopping. According to a Consumer Report survey, about 12% of cell phone owners expect to make a purchase using their cell phone this holiday season. Other popular uses of cell phones include checking prices and finding coupons and other discounts.

Did you know that many different applications are available that may help you manage the financial aspects of holiday shopping? Apps are available to help you comparison shopping. After you scan in a UPC from a product (the bars on the label that give price information), the apps typically search the Internet and then provide you with a list of prices and availability at different stores online. Some even show you what's available in stores locally. This can give you a good idea of a reasonable price for the item and whether the "sale or deal" being offered a store is actually a good savings or not.

Related to this Consumer Reports has an app that allows you to scan in a UPC and then link directly to their information to read more about the product. For example, when I scanned in a UPC for a vacuum cleaner, the app found a link to a video showing which vacuum cleaners clean cat hair the best.

I used an app for my holiday shopping to help me stay on budget too. Using a budgeting app is much like setting a shopping budget on paper: you set-up a list of who you're shopping for and how much you want to spend. The difference is that as you shop and add your purchases, it quickly gives you a running total of how much you've overspent (or how much you have left to spend). I was surprised to find that this affected my spending decisions and to be helpful staying with my set budget; it helped me more than a paper budget has in the past. I think a budget on paper is easier to ignore when I'm in a shopping mood.

So, whether you're shopping for a holiday event, or for other needs, keep in mind that technology can help us save time and money.

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