Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Smart Buying

Where to Go for Holiday Help on the Web

Our list of sites makes it easy to find deals on gift and travel, choose a charity and manage your holiday spending.

The holidays can be chaotic: all the gifts to buy, travel plans to make, parties to attend. And, of course, they can be expensive.

That’s why we have compiled a list of Web sites that will help you save time and money this holiday season. Use our picks to find deals when shopping or booking travel, select a worthy cause to donate to or volunteer with, and track holiday spending and gift purchases.

Sites to help you find shopping deals

By skipping the malls and shopping from the comfort of your home, you’ll likely save your sanity and money, too. Sites such as PriceGrabber.com and Shopping.com do the comparison shopping for you. Search for an item on your gift list at these sites, and you’ll get a list of retailers selling it, their price and product reviews. Bing.com/shopping provides price comparisons and product reviews, and it indicates whether the retailer offers free shipping. Bing also gives you a chance to get money back with products eligible for “cashback” (see to learn how cashback works).

If you don’t want to spend time comparing prices online, you can sign up at some sites to receive e-mail alerts when items you’re interested in go on sale. For clothes, use ShopItToMe.com, which records the products, sizes and brands you’re looking for and sends you “Salemail” twice a week, listing sale items that meet your criteria. For electronics and other products, use ZingSale.com, which gives you the 60-day price history of items on your list so you know whether the sale is worthwhile.

Advertisement

If you plan on hitting the stores on Black Friday, which is November 27, research deals first online at sites such as BlackFriday@GottaDeal.com. GottaDeal.com also has a page devoted to Cyber Monday sales.

Before making a purchase online, search first for coupon and free-shipping codes to get an even better deal.

Find savings at RetailMeNot.com, where you can get coupons and promotional codes for more than 40,000 retailers. You can search for discounts either by retailer or by product category. And Twitter users can find out about deals and get tips by visiting Twitter.com/retailmenot.

To avoid those often-shocking shipping charges, visit FreeShipping.org and FreeShippingDay.com to find out which retailers are offering free shipping. Many retailers will have strings attached -- a minimum-purchase requirement or free shipping to your local store where you can pick up your purchases, for example. Some retailers offer free shipping all the time, such as Zappos.com for shoes and BlueNile.com for jewelry.

Advertisement

For a list of 22 sites that help you save money while shopping online, see Amazing Holiday Deals Online.

Sites to help you find travel deals

Airline fares tend to spike on high-traffic days over the holidays. So if you are planning on flying, you can use the “price predictor” at Bing.com/travel (formerly Farecast.com). The predictor can tell you whether to buy tickets now or wait a little longer to get a better deal. Yapta.com (which stands for Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant) will also track airfare for you.

If you’re making more than a few visits to the mall, or trips over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house, consult Gasprices.Mapquest.com. The map will point you to the cheapest gas price around.

Sites to help you with charitable giving

If you plan to make end-of-the-year charitable donations, use Charitynavigator.org to select a worthy cause. The site evaluates more than 5,400 charities for how efficiently they function and how likely they are to maintain their efforts in the future. You can also use the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to vet charities. Both sites provide statistics on how organizations spend their money, whom they employ and what they do.

Advertisement

At NetworkforGood.org, you can buy a gift card, called the Good Card, for friends or family members. They can then choose which of the network’s 8.1 million charities they’d like to send their money to. Charitable gift cards also are available from CharityChoice or TisBest.org.

And if your New Year’s resolution is to do more volunteer work, Idealist.org will help you find opportunities in your area. Set up e-mail alerts with your location and interests to stay up to date.

Sites to help you track holiday spending

Keep spending in check by setting up a budget before you start shopping. Free online budgeting sites, such as Mint.com, help you keep track of where your money is going with easy-to-read charts and graphics.

Organize gift-giving with Amazon.com Wish Lists. You can make your wish list online and share it with your friends and family with product links. Or, if you do your shopping on Amazon, use the Gift Organizer to keep track of what gifts you have bought and for whom you bought them.