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8 ways to save on Free Shipping Day

By The Numbers: Holiday shopping
By The Numbers: Holiday shopping 00:33

By MoneyTips

Are you a procrastinator who hasn't started your holiday shopping yet? If not, are you still hunting for deals even after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday? In either case, you still want to take advantage of online bargains and free shipping offers.

You're in luck, thanks to Free Shipping Day on Friday, Dec. 15. Luke Knowles, the founder of Free Shipping Day and the corresponding website said he created the holiday 10 years ago "to cater to procrastinating shoppers like myself."

Prior to Free Shipping Day, consumers tended to stop online shopping in early December, worrying that if they waited any longer, their packages might not arrive on time. Knowles knew retailers were capable of economically delivering mid-December orders by Christmas Eve. So he created an annual event that allows retailers to extend online sales and promote new deals while giving consumers more opportunities for late bargains.

Consumers quickly recognized the inherent value. By 2010, online sales on Free Shipping Day had already surpassed those of Black Friday by $294 million. The following year, online sales broke $1 billion.

According to Knowles, "The event simplifies the process of holiday shopping, giving people the chance to order gifts online late in the season and receive them in time for the holidays without paying any delivery fees."

Offers from participating merchants will go live on at 12:01 am Eastern Time and will continue until 11:59 pm. Over 1,000 retailers are expected to participate, including major retail participants such as Kohl's (KSS), JCPenney (JCP) and Target (TGT) as well as specialty retail outlets.

To participate in Free Shipping Day, a merchant must agree to offer free shipping without a minimum purchase amount for a promised delivery date before Christmas Eve. Offers apply to in-stock, ready-to-ship items. Many of the participating merchants offer free shipping on all items, and some offer special deals just for the occasion.

How to get the most out of Free Shipping Day

What's the best way to take advantage of this opportunity? We offer eight tips to assist you in your search for late bargains.

1. Scout out your purchases beforehand – As much fun as it is to browse sites looking for bargains, it's best to go into the holiday with a shopping list and a good idea of which participating retailers are likely to have your preferred items. If you don't have a list, at least review your favorite participating sites a day or two before Free Shipping Day to narrow down the possibilities.

2. Check regularly – If you don't see your favorite store listed yet, don't give up. Some retailers like to reveal their participation and deals at the last minute. According to Knowles, "We typically add merchants up until the site switches over, so check back frequently to see if your favorite stores are participating!"

3. Stick to your budget – Impulse buying and overspending undercuts the advantages of Free Shipping Day. If you charge so much that you have to carry an increased balance on your credit card over to the next month, extra interest charges can easily erase the savings from free shipping. Try to outline your budget constraints before the holiday begins and have the discipline to stick to them. But if you can't, at least take into account your credit card interest charges as you make your decision.

4. Verify free shipping status – Not all merchants are offering free shipping on all items. It's important for you to verify that the item or items you want all qualify for free shipping before you make the final click of approval.

5. Comparison shop – Free shipping isn't a bargain if the same item is available at another vendor for a low enough price to compensate. Shop around prior to the holiday in order to identify and take advantage of the best deals possible.

6. Look for corresponding coupons – not only provides free shipping offers, it also offers coupons and special deals for various products from the participating merchants. According to Knowles, there will also be a special 10th Anniversary category for this year. You may be able to increase your savings beyond the shipping costs.

7. Check store return policies – Look over the return policy of each retailer before your final purchase to make sure that you understand the return/refund options for any item, especially if discounts or coupons are involved. Note that does not participate directly in any transaction, and therefore it has no role to play regarding returns and refunds.

8. Send your shipments to a safe place – Every year, thieves follow behind delivery trucks and steal packages from doorsteps and patios while the recipients are at work and unable to receive the package. Consider having your packages shipped to a safe location -- your work, if that's allowed, or to a designated neighbor or relative who can receive the packages directly.

The takeaway

Free Shipping Day offers procrastinators and bargain shoppers a last chance to enjoy free shipping on Christmas gifts while incorporating potential bargains throughout the process. Take advantage of this day to complete your holiday purchases -- or, if you are a procrastinator, to start them.

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