To learn more we turned to Jess Swain, online shopping expert and director of brand strategy of ShopLately.com, the first online woman-centric style marketplace. She shared her top tips for making holiday shopping easier this season.
Challenge: Where do I find the deals?
Solution: Be a store super-fan
Make sure you're signed up to receive email alerts or newsletters from your favorite stores, Swain says, who also advocates joining your favorite businesses on Facebook and Twitter. You should also visit stores' websites and look out for holiday sale ads, special promotions, price-matching offers and early bird offers. "Stores are likely to offer sneak peeks and special offers to their best customers, so make sure they know you're a fan," she says. Aggregators like RetailMeNot (which has coupon codes for more than 130,000 stores) are also great guides for telling you which deals are where.
Challenge: How do I save money while I shop?
Solution: Get your geek on
There are a number of websites and apps dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest deals, helping you compare prices and ultimately getting you through your holiday shopping without breaking the bank (too much). Amazon's Price Check app will let you scan items in stores to see if they're available for less on Amazon.com. ShopSavvy allows you to comparison shop on the fly (i.e., as you're braving the shopping hordes) with the scan of a barcode. Read product reviews and find out where to get your goods cheapest as you shop.
Challenge: There's no time or room to try stuff on
Solution: BYOF - bring your own fitting room
Whether you're buying a holiday party frock (so many parties, so little time) or taking advantage of last-minute sales, it can be hard to get a fitting room during the Christmas shopping chaos. When that's the case, dress like there's no such thing as a fitting room, Swain says. "Maximize your time and avoid the lines by being prepared to try on anything you might want right in the aisle." Consider flats or boots that slip on and off easily and make sure you have socks. Also be sure to wear a camisole underneath your other layers so you can slip on other clothing right over it.
Challenge: I don't want to wait in a huge line to check out
Solution: Consider shopping online
As online shopping become more and more popular, more and more stores are offering the same discounts online as they do in stores. Some may even offer better promotions online if you dig around, Swain says. "Yes, some brick-and-mortar stores will reward you for spending all night in a sleeping bag outside their door with certain early bird specials and other in-store-only offers, but there's a good chance you can find what you're looking for from the comfort of your own couch or bed." Do a little research and you might find that it's worth shopping in your pajamas while eating freshly baked Christmas cookies and sipping eggnog.
Challenge: That discount looks too good to be true
Solution: Do your research
Not every deal is all it's cracked up to be. That 40-inch HDTV may be $199, but is the brand trustworthy? Sometimes with a bit of research online you can find reviews and ratings of the product so you know what you're getting into before you buy, Swain says. CNET and Amazon are great at providing user feedback, so make a point of reading reviews before you jump into your next holiday purchase. With enough digging you might find a new brand that's awesome and great quality – for less. "Because they're a small player in the retail space, they're being offered for a steal," Swain says.
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