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From the Actrix Online Informer December 2008

Christmas shopping online

One of the biggest challenges at Christmas is trying to find just the right gifts for everybody. It's something we rarely manage and most of us don't feel completely happy with the presents we give. It's not that the products aren't out there. It's more that it's hard to find the time to get to all the stores.

That's why the Internet is such a great tool. So much stuff is available online now and you can browse hundreds of catalogues at the click of a mouse and without having to negotiate your way through jostling crowds of competing shoppers. And it's pretty safe these days if you're sensible.

The other good thing about buying online is that you can have your purchase sent directly to the recipient, and most sites will offer some sort of gift-wrapping service. Don't hesitate to use the Contact details of the site to ask for what you want.

Below I've listed a few sites that are offering a good range of products or services for the silly season. There are actually hundreds of them so if you don't find any joy with these, just Google "Christmas gifts in New Zealand" or something and you may have more luck. I've also included a couple of sites giving advice or extra help. Most of the online stores are New Zealand based, with a couple included from overseas that may also help you secure that special something for that special someone. You still have time to use these sites if you're quick.

None have been featured for commercial reasons. In other words, they're included because I either know or have used them, or they looked pretty safe and useful.

Click the pictures to go to the sites.

NEW ZEALAND: Anything for you is a great New Zealand site that attempts to do a lot more than provide just an online shopping service. You can contact them to arrange just about anything, but at this time of year their Christmas gift selection may be just the ticket. They have plenty of baskets and combinations of goodies they can send overseas to homesick kiwis for you, and feature a reminder service to help you remember those important dates wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Have a look through their online catalogues, and get in touch with them if they don't appear to have quite what you're looking for. 
NEW ZEALAND: Snapfish is an online photo service with more than 60 million members worldwide and a billion unique photos stored online. They offer a wide variety of image-based services but their personalised photo products – ranging from calendars, mugs and mouse pads, to books, puzzles and teddy bears – might be one way you can come up with something a bit different as a gift. You can upload your own photo and have it printed on any of the product items, and they even have a section of such gift ideas for under $20. You have to create an account, of course, but membership is free.
NEW ZEALAND: This online shopping site has lots of blokey stuff that men will like arranged into categories such as Automotive, Work, Fun and Games, Leisure, Sport, Style, Books and Experiences. Stuff is also arranged in price sections: Under $50, Under $100, Over $100 and Over $500. G4M was the first store of its kind in the country when it opened in November 2001, and now has 'brick and mortar' stores in both Wellington and Christchurch, which means their gift vouchers might also be a good option. Anyone anywhere can use the online service, of course.
NEW ZEALAND: Here's a helpful word of advice from The Ministry of Consumer Affairs: "Children under three put everything in their mouths, up their noses and in their ears." Oh yes, they do. So, no matter how rushed you get, if you’re buying toys for the kids, take some time out to remember these 'buy wise' tips to help you and your children have a safe and happy Christmas. There are actually quite a few things to think about.
NEW ZEALAND: Neat Gadgets specialises in gadgets and gizmos for both ladies and men. They used to sell stuff that mainly went with your iPod or that plugged into your USB port, but have increased their product range considerably in recent years. There's a good range of whacky fun stuff such as the solar-powered cap light, but plenty of more practical items as well. I quite like the re-chargeable, portable wine chiller, and the compact first aid kit could come in handy.
NEW ZEALAND: Fishpond is an online book seller providing an excellent alternative to the international book selling giant Amazon.  I use Fishpond frequently as the range of books is extensive. If I can find a book at Amazon, I can usually find it there. Postage is reasonable and delivery usually occurs within a few days. Based on your previous purchases, Fishpond will greet you when you return to the site with a selection of books that suit your interests, and they also carry music CDs and movie DVDs.
INTERNATIONAL: Products from New Zealand seems to be a site geared at Kiwis living overseas, mainly in the United States and the UK. if you have an ex-pat in your family or circle of friends this may be a neat way to get them a taste of home at Christmas time. All sorts of products are available ranging from packets of Burger Rings to Maori carvings. It doesn't matter which side of the yeast-spread debate you adhere to either. Both Marmite and Vegemite are available. You can also buy gift vouchers if you're not sure what your friend is missing most.
UNITED KINGDOM: If you're looking for weird and whacky stuff in particular, then you can't go past I Want One of Those. In fact they pride themselves on providing fun presents of a 'deeply silly' nature. I am particularly intrigued by the pen that converts into a fishing rod ("never again will you be caught short when you spot a fish rise") and Henry the Desktop Hoover would be very useful for cleaning crumbs out of my keyboard. However, I don't think I want to know what the foul little love duck does. Lots of neat stuff here, but "Kitsch and Daft" is the 'funnest' section. As the site is based in the UK, you will need to be quick if you want to order for Christmas.
UNITED KINGDOM: The Present Finder offers high quality gifts and presents with worldwide delivery, gift wrapping and a reliable "Next Day" service. However, their latest posting day for our part of the world is 5 December, so you will have to be quick. The good thing about this site is that there are just so many categories to browse through, arranged according to your target (e.g. teenage boys) so suitable presents are easy to find. And yes, they do have a Whacky presents section.

 

SAFE SHOPPING ONLINE: Buying things on the Internet is very common these days and is pretty safe providing you stick to some common sense rules. Here's a short guide to safe shopping online provided by Nzs.com. It covers topics such as: finding secure websites and paying safely by credit card.
CURRENCY CONVERSION: If you're buying overseas, you may want to check what your purchase will cost you in New Zealand dollars. There are lots of currency converters online, but here's one that's very popular and easy to use. The Universal Currency Converter contains the top 85 currencies sorted by country name – listing the ten most popular currencies first.
 

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