For many families, Black Friday is part of the Thanksgiving tradition. Whether camping out overnight or waking up early to snag deals, shoppers have spent years bundling up and fighting crowds to get the best holiday buys.
But holiday sales are no longer restricted to Black Friday. Now, stores are offering doorbusters throughout the season to convince customers to shop.
At FindLaw, we have mixed opinions about big box store blowouts. After reading one too many stories about shopping injuries, some of our staffers prefer shopping online for holiday gifts.
While online shopping may require more patience -- after all, you have to wait to pet your purchases -- it has a number of advantages: No crowds, no pesky salespeople, and no need to change out of your pajamas.
If you're new to making your holiday purchases online, here are five tips for Internet shopping:
Plastic, Not Routing Numbers. It's easier to erase a bogus credit card charge than to get money back from your wiped-out checking account. Avoid entering your checking account number on a retailer's website if possible. If you don't use credit cards, try using a third-party service like PayPal, WePay, or Google Wallet to complete transactions.
Comparison Shopping. The best part of shopping online is the ease of comparison shopping. Use a search engine like Bing or Google to look for the widget you want. Select the shopping filter with either search engine, and you'll receive a list of e-commerce returns. You can even filter those returns within a specific price range to find the best deal. A word to the wise: Be sure to factor shipping costs and sales tax when calculating which retailer offers the best price.
Reputation Matters. Only shop at reputable online retailers. (Keep in mind that a high search return doesn't make a vendor reputable; retailers can pay for prime placement.) If you're not sure if a retailer is reputable, run a search for the company name with the word "reviews." If other shoppers have had problems, they've probably vented about them online. If a deal appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.
Flash Deals May Not Be Deals at All. Flash sale websites like Gilt or Rue La La have some killer deals, but some of their prices can be beat by traditional online retailers with more flexible return policies. Before you make a flash sale purchase, run a search for the exact item and brand name; you might be able to find it for a better price from a different vendor.
Track Your Spending. If you notice purchases on your account that you don't recall making, alert your credit card company immediately. You can also use an app like Mint to avoid overspending during the holidays.
Do you have online shopping tips or legal horror stories that you want to share with us? Let us know on Facebook or Google+.