Money Saving Holiday Shopping Tips

Last Updated Nov 16, 2010 1:32 PM EST

Earlier this week, I wrote about using promotional codes and coupons to rack up the savings.

I received so many great tips from savvy shoppers on using online coupons and promotions that I had to share a few more here.

A special "Thank you!" goes to Andrea Worotch for providing the first three money saving tips.

Stack Coupons
Some retailers allow you to use more than one coupon on the same offer. Use a 25% off coupon along with a free shipping code to maximize savings or apply a coupon code on a sale or clearance item to get the best deal. Also, check out the coupon comparison tool called the Couponscout which allows you to compare coupons from up to 5 retailer's side-by-side and all on the same screen.

Stock Up And Increase Savings.
Sometimes purchasing more may qualify your order for a better value coupon. Consider purchasing multiple gifts from the same retailer to take advantage of a coupon such as $50 off $150.

Get Free Shipping
Check out this site for free shipping codes for overnight, two-day and priority shipping from thousands of top brands like Verizon, DELL, Macy's and more.

Use Credit Cards
When doing your holiday shopping, I strongly suggest using a credit card, especially for your purchases on-line. There are several very compelling reasons for this. First, only credit cards provide consumer protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this federal law, your liability for fraudulent or disputed charges on credit cards is limited to $50 and you have the right to dispute charges and withhold payment while the charge is investigated. Also, if the merchandise delivered is defective or not in the condition "as agreed", you have the right send it back to the merchant and deny the payment to them - try getting your money back from a difficult merchant after you've paid by a check.

Also, even though banks advertise that their debit cards provide comparable protection, they are not required by law to do so. Your liability for fraudulent charges on a debit card can be as high as all the money in your account and your credit line, depending on when you report the fraudulent or disputed charge. Finally, many credit cards also provide benefits such as requiring merchants to exchange or replace defective or damaged merchandise, protection against no return policies and extension of manufacturer's warranty - this is particularly valuable when buying and shipping fragile gifts (such as a digital camera or a DVD player) to your family across the country.

Gift Cards
The bottom line: If you are still holding on to gift cards received in the past, now is the time to use them. Buy gift cards for things the person you give it to will use immediately. Also, be careful to only buy gift cards that do not have the security number exposed, or is held in a safe location behind the counter - thieves can write down gift card numbers and monitor your card online, quickly accessing the card when activated and draining its value by making their purchases before the gift card owner is aware of it.

And check into the gift card fees before you buy. Fee information is typically posted on the gift card sleeve or on the web site. Buy gift cards with no issuance fees, expiration dates or maintenance fees, which can easily be found with gift cards issued directly by retailers.

And if you receive a gift card, use it promptly - not only to avoid possible maintenance fees and expiration, but also to take advantage of post-holiday discounts.

If you have a holiday shopping tip that has worked for you, please share it with me by clicking on the "Contact Ray Martin" link to the left and sending an email.
  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS Moneywatch.com and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.

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