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5 simple strategies to shop smarter online this holiday season

Dec 9, 2014, midnight

(BPT) - ‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and the top trend for 2014 is to skip the crowds and long lines and purchase holiday gifts online instead. In fact, the average shopper will do 44 percent of their holiday shopping online, according to the National Retail Federation, spending just over $800 total on holiday goodies.

If you plan to shop online for your friends and family this year, technology can help you save time, money and keep you organized – so long as you know the best tips and tricks of savvy digital shoppers. Here are five ways you can make the most of your online holiday shopping:

Organize email clutter

Your inbox is likely to grow this holiday season, and according to Experian Marketing Services’ shopping analysis, 89 percent of emails contain offers. Your goal is to discover the best deals without unnecessary clutter filling your inbox. Email organization tools like, Outlook.com’s Sweep option, allow you to keep just the latest emails from your favorite brands, or you can file email from designated senders into specific folders automatically. By creating sorting rules, you’ll stay organized and ensure you never again accidently delete an emailed receipt. To create a rule, simply choose “rules for sorting new messages” under the options menu.

Track discounts

If you get holiday emails from brands and stores you follow, you’re sure to uncover some incredible deals. In fact, 67 percent of deals will only be offered for online purchases, according to Experian. Never miss another bargain by setting up a folder called “shopping,” and then create a rule to filter all emails with certain key words, like “free” or “discount.” Try to check it every day, as some deals are valid only for a very limited time! Again, tools like Sweep can help you track the latest mail while removing old ones.

Shop safe and securely

Shopping online can be a safe and secure process if you take a few proactive steps to ensure your personal information is protected. When it’s time to check out, use sites that display the lock symbol on the status bar and have “https” in the URL. This means the site has SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption – an industry standard for security. Additionally, never give businesses more of your personal information than is necessary to complete a transaction. For example, you should not be required to enter your Social Security number or birthday to make a purchase online. Furthermore, never provide financial information through email; vendors requesting this are likely scammers.

Keep holiday purchases private

Don’t let your browser history blow your surprise gift! Because so many families share computers, you can keep your online holiday shopping a secret by adjusting your browser’s privacy features. In Internet Explorer, you can use the “InPrivate” browsing option to keep your shopping a secret. By clicking on this option, the pages you visit will not show up in the browsing history and ads won’t follow you – or anyone else – when on the Internet.

Make a list and check it twice

When holiday shopping, always have your gift list accessible so you don’t forget anything. Skip the pen and paper and create a list in OneNote, which automatically saves to OneDrive and allows you to access your list from your computer at home or on your mobile device. You can even share the list with others who can check things off once they are purchased so you always have the most updated list.

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