From the Kenosha News on 11-26-06

Can you save money and time shopping on-line?

It’s Christmas shopping season again, so I set out to find out if on-line shopping could save me any money this year. If you read magazine articles on how to save money, they all tout on-line purchasing as a big money saver. My experience would indicate that you CAN save money by shopping on-line, but you can also pay more. Comparing prices on-line is quicker than driving from store to store, so it can give you a good idea of what a low price is.

Watch for on-line specials and discounts. Recently, while searching on Google, they advertised that I could save $10 on a $30 purchase by using “Google Checkout.” They had a specific list of vendors that offered the discount. I decided to look for a few books on buy.com. I found three items that I wanted, totaling $33, so I was eligible for the $10 discount and also for free shipping, so my final price was $23. I had looked for these books before, so I knew that the prices were fair.

Before you buy anything on-line, if you have college-bound children, family or friends, register at Upromise.com so that qualifying purchases will earn money towards college. Access the on-line merchant sites through links at Upromise.com. Also, get an Entertainment book (or look at a friend’s) to see if it has discount codes or coupons for on-line purchases.

Sometimes, shopping on-line isn’t cheaper. I have searched in vain for any vendor that has an Xbox 360 package for less than $399. Even though there is a discount listed on Upromise.com and a discount coupon code in the Entertainment book for Overstock.com, when I tried to use them to purchase an Xbox 360, the discount would not appear on the order. I resorted to the telephone and was told that those discounts do not apply to “media,” which apparently includes video game systems. So, I think I’ll be buying one locally at Game Crazy, where I can get 12 free game rentals with the system I purchase, and I pay no shipping.

If you do shop on-line, pick one specific credit card to use so that you can watch that statement very carefully to look for possible mistakes or misuse. In general, you will not be liable for fraudulent charges to your card over a certain amount (often $50, but sometimes $0), Of course, you’re only protected from charges that you notice and dispute.

When making on-line purchases, watch carefully for the “locked lock” in the lower right-hand corner of your browser window. It may not be there while you make your selections, but it should be when you are at the “checkout” entering your credit card number. Also, look for https:// at the beginning of the web address in your browser’s address bar. Both of these items indicate that you’re using a secure web site that encrypts your credit card number to protect it from hackers.

Of course, the big advantage to on-line shopping is the absence of crowds and lines. This alone may be worth not necessarily saving money. If you are shopping for friends or relatives who live far away, you can have the gifts sent directly to them. Many sites even offer gift-wrapping.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 11-26-06