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Online Shopping Leaves More Jingle in Your Pocket

By Suzanne Barlyn/TheStreet.com

You won't find me racing to a retailer for a 7 a.m. door-buster sale.

 

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Ever.

Instead, my holiday-shopping strategy starts with doing what Santa does: making a list.

Then I'll shop online -- at any time of day. Many retailers are offering generous free-shipping deals right now, so it makes sense to save yourself from impulse buys at the store. The only temptation you'll need to avoid online is the "you may also like" link.

 

For example, Sears is offering free shipping on mailable orders of $49 or more, plus a 10% discount this week, when the retailer, owned by Sears Holdings (SHLD - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating), reinstated the so-called Cyber Monday. Shipping is also free for most Home Depot (HD - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating)orders of $49 or more. Free gift boxes are available online from Ann Taylor (ANN - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) this week, and orders of at least $125 are eligible for free shipping, or $6 three-day shipping. We also took advantage of 99-cent gift-wrapping at Amazon.com (AMZN - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) last month.

Even when there are no real shipping deals, I find that online shopping generally costs less than racking up impulse buys at the store.

My strategy will certainly help ease my jangled nerves. It seems that everywhere I turn, voices are screaming at me to buy things. A male voice announcing "the lowest prices of the season" echoes in my head.

This Thanksgiving, I was grateful for DVR and OnDemand. Mercifully, I didn't have to listen to bellowing sales pitches.

But I still can't walk down my driveway without a retailer dangling a carrot about a so-called great deal. The circulars in my local paper convey urgency: 25% OFF YOUR ORDER BETWEEN 6 and 10 A.M.!! BIGGEST SALE OF THE YEAR!! I promptly dump the entire haul into my recycling can.

Let's face it, buying something just because Sears or Best Buy (BBY - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) says it's on sale is rarely a bargain at all -- unless it's something that I truly need or want, such as the new refrigerator we bought this summer. My husband, Ben, and I must be the people who determine what to buy for our family during our occasional shopping trips -- not advertisers and the designers of a store circular.

I've often wondered what would happen if each of my family members made a wish list while quietly chatting with each other in front of the fireplace one evening, and then made another list while perusing store circulars. I think the latter set of wish lists would include a heavy dose of items that manufacturers and retailers wanted us to see -- not necessarily things we would think of on our own.

I try to avoid sales -- and recreational shopping -- for these very reasons. Chances are very good that when I eventually need a new printer or want a new kitchen set, I will find a sale somewhere, and buy those items when the timing is right for me -- but not because I think the price is going up next week. Sales, however, expose me to hundreds of potential impulse buys.

This fall, Ben and I were suckered by an "invitation" to a "private sale" at an Ethan Allen (ETH - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) location that was closing. The wording conveyed almost desperation -- floor samples were all "drastically" reduced. Special discounts would apply to special orders made at that location only, it said. Even better, the sale was not open to the general public -- just lucky Ethan Allen customers, such as myself, and our relatives.


Best Savings Rates for Selected Metro Areas
City Rate
Dallas 5.06%
Miami 4.59%
Los Angeles 4.59%
Chicago 4.59%
Boston 4.59%
Source: manybanking.com
--includes banks and credit unions
--not including Internet banks
--based on $2,500 investment

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