9/5/08 -
Budget Shopping: Interview with Karen Hoxmeier

By Susie McGee

Families everywhere are feeling the crunch of the economy as prices continue to go up.  With grocery bills, utilities, and gas prices continually on the rise, Americans are starting to search for ways to cut back.  Shopping for bargains entails more than hitting the weekend sales of local department stores.  In many cases, the Internet has opened up the door for bargain shoppers, providing better deals, and eliminating the need to spend gas driving from store to store.

Karen Hoxmeier is a "professional" bargain hunter and the mother of three.  She started in 1999 to help find great deals at online stores.  Karen's insider secrets on where to shop, when and how to avoid long lines, whether to use the Internet vs. retail, and effectiveness of coupons have helped many readers with budget shopping for the best gifts for children.  She has been featured on Fox News, ABC News, MSN Money, USA Today, NY Times, LA Times, Yahoo!, Real Simple Magazine, Family Circle and many others.

Her website has lots of great information and features for bargain shoppers everywhere!  You can find new coupon codes, a deal blog, and the latest online deals.  There is also a great forum with topics like "Online Bargains," "Freebies," "Rebates," and "Online Coupons."  Don't forget to check out the forum threads for "Healthy Living,", "Recipe Swap", and more!

Karen shares some of her insider secrets and tips with our readers in the following interview.

What are some tips for choosing great gifts on a budget?

Don't fall for fad gifts!  A $300 Tickle Me Elmo is just as likely to end up at the bottom of the toy box as a gift that cost 1/10 as much.  It's smarter to look for toys that offer longevity.  Building sets, dress-up items, food toys, things that help kids use their imaginations and keep them busy are ideal.  Children also love items that are personalized.  A blanket or piggy bank with their name on it is something that would be treasured for years.

Do you have an insider's advice on where to shop? lists dozens of individual products that are on sale.  The items change daily and savings are up to 90% off retail.  There is also a directory of over 1,700 online stores, including coupon codes and direct links to clearance departments.

How can shoppers avoid long lines as they search for the perfect gift?

I highly recommend shopping online.  In less time than it would take to drive to the mall, you can find the perfect gift, skip standing in line, save gas, money and time!

What are the benefits and drawbacks to shopping online versus shopping in retail stores?

Many great deals can be found online with just a few clicks of the mouse.  However, when you shop online, you need to allow for shipping time.  Rush shipping can cost more than the gift itself, killing any sort of deal you may score.

Do you have any other advice you'd like to share with our readers?

Shop for gifts throughout the year.  When you don't have to rush, you can spend more time looking for the perfect gift at the perfect price.  Look for stores that offer free or discounted shipping.  I've compiled a list of over 100 online stores that offer free shipping.  For more information and lots of shopping bargains, check out