It's official. The whirlwind of holiday shopping has descended. Yes, it's still a bit early. That's good. That'll give us time to plan ahead and shop smarter. My hope for all of us is that we will do our very best to shop from our local business owners this year. We have so many amazing places to find those perfect gifts for everyone on our list. However, if you do find you're doing a bit of online shopping, say with Amazon, for example, it's a good idea to get a few pro-tips from those who have studied these things. For example, Consumer Reports magazine offers some well-tested wisdom.

When shopping on Amazon:

Don't hesitate to do a bit of comparison shopping. I know, many of us have grown accustomed to those addictive, one-click, quick purchases. The ease and convenience have become somewhat of an addiction for some of us. However, just because something is on Amazon, that doesn't mean it's automatically the best deal you'll find on an item. Also, you may want to add a price tracker to your browser as Amazon has been known to change prices throughout the day.

Beware of "inflated" product ratings. Many of us look at those star ratings and positive reviews as shopping gospel and are prone to trust those completely. If Nina from Chicago thinks this flatware was literally "the best thing EVER" and gave it a 5-star rating, that's great. However, you may want to dig a bit deeper. Consumer Reports found that sometimes positive ratings for other products were "hijacked" from other listings.

Take a closer look at each seller. Yes, many product listings include the phrase "ships from and sold by" However, some are offered by third-parties. In those situations, don't expect the standard Amazon policies to apply. Do your homework to avoid frustration later.

Ready to become even more savvy? wrote a helpful piece about this in April of this year.

Happy shopping. :)


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