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Online shopping is the way to go this season

The Ex: Voodoo Knife Set
The Ex: Voodoo Knife Set

As mentioned in a previous article, my preferred form of holiday shopping is definitely NOT the mall. If you're the type of gal that needs to see and touch stuff, more power to ya. Brave those parking lots, put on your armor, or as Stanley Tucci's character says in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep's Anna Wintour-type editor-in-chief character is imperiously heading up to her penthouse office, "Gird your loins!" So what's our alternative for luxurious gifts without all the hassle?

Yep, online shopping. At the click of a button, you can literally have anything and everything sent anywhere in the world--many times with free shipping. No lines, no wrapping, no hassles. Now that's my kind of shopping.

If you're a newbie to the online shopping world, keep in mind these few caveats:

  • Ensure you are shopping at a secure Web site. A secure Web site uses encryption technology to scramble the information you send, such as your credit card number, in order to prevent identity thieves from gaining access to it as it travels through the Internet. Secure Web site addresses also include "https://" at the beginning of the address -- the "s" indicates the Web site is secure. Also, look for a closed padlock displayed in your browser's toolbar or on at the bottom of your screen. If the lock is open or not present, this may be a sign that the site is not secure.
  • Do not use personal information for passwords such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, names, common words, e-mail addresses or telephone numbers which can make you an easy target. Be sure your passwords contain at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols. Don"t write down your passwords.
  • Watch out for sneaky club memberships or coupons that pop up after checkout. See this article from one of my favorite female computer writers, Kim Komando, and check out her site to be "in the know" for all things computer--written in a way that's easy enough for us non-techies to understand.

For the most part, online shopping is delightful. You get lots of free samples (sometimes full size!), many times online-only specials at great prices, and all the time you need to order--and (have I said this?) no lines! Your holiday shopping can be done, spit spot. Plus, perhaps, a happy box full of joy waiting for you to open after a long, hard day.

And who wouldn't want to come home to that?

My fave sites: The superstar of online shopping sites, amazon is not just for books and music anymore. You can literally make this your one-stop "shop" for everyone on your list. Amazon has partnered with other sites and products in practically every category: beauty, kitchen and dining, clothing, jewelry, even tools. And much, much more. The site is also intuitive--it tracks what types of items you view and suggests what might interest you. It's also very user-friendly: you can purchase multiple items to send to multiple addresses with no problem whatsoever--a rarity in the online universe.

My favorite feature of this site? Prime shipping: pay a once a year charge of $75 and get all items (offered by Amazon only, not third-party suppliers) shipped two-day no charge all year long, including the holidays. Love. It. Worth it just for holiday shopping and shipping alone. The queen bee of beauty sites, Sephora is the place to get your beauty on. They offer thousands of brands, free returns, free shipping over $50 (a given), and three free samples with every order. Sephora almost always runs some type of special on their front page: currently it's a cute free metallic flower clutch filled with eight samples, with any $25 order, IF you remember to put the code CLUTCH4U at checkout. They also have fabulous gift sets and offer free gift wrap (it's a cute black bag), and all gifts ship free.

My favorite feature of this site is that they offer clearly delineated categories, i.e., natural and organic, award-winning products, top-rated products, what's new, gift sets (important now), sale, etc. And of course, there's always the Sephora gift card, a gift any girl will surely love. The most fab site for the most fab makeup in the world, MAC (makeup art cosmetics) is known for their sparkling holiday gift palettes and collections. But hurry and buy now because they go quickly! Blink and you missed it, these Magic, Mirth and Mischief babies are gone as soon as they come in. Buy online for better inventory and selection. Purchase Viva Glam lipsticks and glosses and 100% of the profits goes back to the MAC AIDS Fund which supports men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS. Learn more here. This site is cool because if you log in once, it takes you to Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta (cool athletic and yoga clothing for women), and PiperLime (shoes and bags hyped by Rachel Zoe). Log in once and peruse all sites. Another intuitive site, easy to use, fun to navigate and they offer free shipping across all brands. Easy peasy. Wonderful site for the sci-fi fan or nerd geek in your life. Sigh, we all have one. "Entertain your inner child" at this wonderfully creative site with gifts like "The Ex--Voodoo Knife Set" (see pic), the Electro Man Surge Protector, or Koi ice cube tray. Perfect for stocking stuffers.

Hopefully this gives you a start on your holiday shopping so when the week before Christmas rolls around, you won't feel the panic building; you can be one of those smug people we all secretly smirk at  yet always strive to be.