Last-Minute Shopping Tips!

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Yes, we are getting right down to the wire in terms of shopping, with tomorrow being Christmas Eve. And hopefully all of you are done with your shopping by now! But for those of you who will be braving the malls and the stores tomorrow searching for that last-minute gift, I wanted to share with you some shopping tips that I received, courtesy of Oral-B and shopping expert Kalyn Johnson:

  • Plan Ahead – Before you go shopping, create a budget for your holiday spending along with a shopping list of what you plan to buy for each recipient.
  • Do Your Homework – Read product reviews on websites like Cnet.com.  If you are debating between two similar products, look for research or study data to see which is best.  For example, recent studies show that the Oral-B Triumph power toothbrush significantly reduces gingivitis and improves gum health better than Philips Sonicare Flexcare toothbrush.  You can find more information and a $15 rebate at www.oralb.com.  
  • Shop Around — Check out online websites that compare prices like BizRate.com and find discount coupons and special offers on manufacturers’ sites and sites like CouponCabin.com.
  • Keep Track of Your Purchases & Expenditures – Keep a written tally of what you’ve spent.  Be sure to save all of your receipts and remember to ask for gift receipts.  And lastly, keep records of any online purchases and estimated delivery dates.

I also had the opportunity recently to interview Kalyn via e-mail and have her answer some holiday shopping questions that I’ve been wondering about:

There’s such a scramble on Black Friday to be sure to get the best deals. Are the best prices really found only on that day, or do stores offer prices that are just as good during the rest of the holiday shopping season as well?

Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, but it is by no means the only day to get good deals!  There are great deals, both online and at store fronts, throughout the month of December.  Cyber Monday (the Monday after Black Friday), for example,  is the start of the online holiday shopping season; many online retailers start their holiday specials the Monday after Thanksgiving and continue them throughout the month.  And of course, there are the day after Christmas sales too.  This is also a great time to look for bargains because retailers will be offering additional mark-downs to help bolster their sagging year-end sales numbers. 

Does it usually pay off to shop online even with shipping charges? Or around the holidays do many/most sites waive shipping fees in order to get buyers to purchase gifts?

I love shopping on the internet because you can really get some great deals by using coupon codes and taking advantage of special offers.  The best advice I can give  online shoppers is:  Use coupon codes!  Go to sites like couponcabin.com , retailmenot.com , and dealcatcher.com to find discount promo codes for everything from free shipping to dollars off of your purchase price.  Holiday shopping from the  comfort of my own home beats joining the crowds at the mall; the icing on the cake is not having to pay for shipping since so many oneline retailers offer free shipping during the holiday season.  Two things to be aware of when online shopping:  (1) You want to make sure you’re shopping on a secure website – any site that has https is secure, the "s" stands for secure and (2) Be sure to read the fine print with regards to shipping and arrival dates, especially if you want something to arrive by Christmas Eve.

Do you have any tips for what to get that ‘hard to buy for’ person on your list?

You know, we all have at least one "hard to buy for" person – you gotta love them, right?  I’ve found that the best gift to get for a "hard to buy for" person is one that they’d love to have but would not necessairly buy for themselves — cashmere socks, a mink eye mask, personalized stationery, a cool looking jump drive, a beautiful leather notebook, a wine journal, a fabulous hair clip, decadent chocolates … Something that definitely falls into this category are health-conscious gifts like a trial gym membership or a power toothbrush.  One of the best toothbrushes I’ve found is the Oral-B Triumph with SmartGuide – it’s got a wireless display and clocks your brushing time by telling you when to switch quadrants of your mouth.  Recent studies show that it significantly reduces gingivitis and improves gum health better than the Philips Sonicare Flexcare.  And remember, look for discount coupons, if you go to www.startbrushingbetter.com there’s a $15 rebate available. Truthfully, most people who are difficult to shop for are hard to please because they have a lot of stuff or because they’re a bit persnickity, but even the most  challenging gift recipient loves things that make them feel special and luxurious!  

It seems like there’s always a rush to get whatever the ‘hot’ toy is every year. Do toy companies have a good idea before the holidays what will be popular, or is it just guessing on their part?

Every year toy manufacturers roll the dice trying to figure out if they’ve created the next "beanie baby", you know the next "IT" toy.  Industry analysts and retailers get a chance to take a peek at the new toys each year at the various toy fairs held around the country.  The toy fairs are steeped in secrecy, some manufacturers even require a signed confidentiality agreement before showing their latest innovations due to the amount of piracy and poaching that has been known to go on in the industry.  But to answer your question, toy makers are flying by the seat of their pants trying to guess what kids will love next.  Toys associated with a popular movie, television show or cartoon are likely to become "hot" because kids are familiar with the storyline and are clamoring for more.  Collectability is also a determining factor in a new toy’s success, think Ugly Dolls, Kooky Klickers, and American Girl dolls.  According to toy store owner, Jeanette Lauture of Aunt Jean’s Toys, "if a toy has the ‘IT’ factor it will be popular and have longevity."  The same thing holds true for women’s shoes, right?  It’s just defining what the "IT" is that leaves all manufacturers, toy, shoe, whatever, in the dark.

Thank you to Kalyn and Oral-B for giving us some great information that I’m sure will be helpful to everyone, whether we’re sitting around with our shopping done tomorrow or frantically braving the crowds at the stores.

And coming up, I will be reviewing the new Oral-B Triumph with SmartGuide electric toothbrush (and giving one away too!), so check back soon!