Photo by JayGirlsMom

Online shopping is just so convenient! We can buy gifts for the kids, stuff for the house...all without leaving the comfort of our homes. And we can even do it in our PJs! Plus, you can often get better deals online than if you went to the store yourself. It's almost like online shopping was invented for busy moms!

But with this convenience comes concern. That's why I talked to Hillary Mendhelson, MSN's Online Shopping Expert and founder and President of thepurplebook: The Definitive Guide to Exceptional Online Shopping

Here are her useful tips and tricks on how to make sure your transactions are secure and best of all, how to save money!

First you've got to know about Hillary. She's a mom of two kids, now 10 and 12. And she got into becoming an online shopping expert during an "ah-ha" moment she had while surfing the web looking for Star Wars party favors for her sons 4th birthday party. She found inexpensive Anakin Skywalker watches! And soon, her savvy online skills were called upon by friends and family. She put together thepurplebook, an online shopping guide, to offer her info to everyone! And she's giving us CafeMoms these helpful tips:

  • Shop online with your credit card. Debit card can present other issues and potentially shut down your bank account for 90 days. A service like Pay Pal is also good to use.
  • Shop online using same credit card. Reason: You'll never forget what you ordered and you can track all transactions from one spot. This is also good so you can spot any fraudulent charges.
  • Shop reputable merchants -- name brands. Check thepurplebook for a list of vetted merchants...and the best online shops.
  • Look for SSL in URL bar somewhere before typing in your private information during a purchase online -- shows it is a secured server.
  • The letters "https" at start of URL also shows it is secure.
  • If you ever question a sites security, look for phone number to call. No number? Shop somewhere else.
  • Review shipping and return policies. Some merchants only do credit. Be a smart online shopper and know the policy before you purchase.
  • Before you submit order, print that page. This page has all the vitals -- size, color, date of purchase. Also print receipt.
  • Save all email correspondence until you receive item.
  • Don't be afraid to buy big ticket items online. You can get great deals. Plus, if you need something delivered, chances are it will be cheaper to buy online and pay shipping than go to store and pay for delivery. A lot of online merchants have "white glove" delivery where they not only deliver, but set the item up for you.
  • Read all the fine print. Make sure electronics are not refurbished. You also want to make sure you have the warranty.
  • Watch out for phishing -- just like fishing, it's the hook and reeling you in to get personal information. Don't fall for this!
  • Beware of scammers. Some go as far to mimic your bank  or credit card emails. First thing you have to ask yourself: Does my bank or credit company have my email? Then check for phone number on email. No number? Delete. If there is a number, call it and question who they are. Credit card companies rarely send emails.
  • You can get better deals online. Check cashback.com for coupons for over 600 retailers.
  • Get a coupon. Call 800 number just before you finish order and ask customer service for one -- chances are good that there is some offer code they can share with you.
  • Register with favorite online retailer to get info on exclusive sales.
  • It's also good to have a separate email for online shopping, so your personal email doesn't get mixed in.
  • Check MSN savvy online shopping guide, Fundamentals of Online Shopping, for more information.

Have your own online shopping tips? Share with us!