Still Checking Off That Gift List? Shop and Save on Dec. 18

Red Christmas gift sitting on a table with a decorated tree in the background.
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You can't beat the convenience of doing your holiday shopping online. No bundling up against the cold, no fighting fellow shoppers for a parking spot, no tired feet from doing laps around the mall.

The downside? Shipping costs can add a hefty toll to your purchases. For example, at Harry and David, a popular source for holiday food gifts, shipping on a $100 gift runs $14.95.

Free Shipping Day

Started in 2008, Free Shipping Day -- this year, it's Thursday, Dec. 18 -- is a way for small and large retailers alike to offer free shipping, with purchases guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas. As of this writing, 952 retailers have signed up, from Harry and David to REI to more niche sites like skateboard-chic site Zumiez and techie favorite ThinkGeek. Other popular shops participating include J. Crew, Coach (COH), Zales, Sports Authority and L.L.Bean.

Of course, some larger retailers like Apple (AAPL) and Zappos offer free shipping year-round and plenty of sites offer deals during the holidays. But many of those require a minimum order amount, from $35 at (AMZN) to $150 at Coach, meaning you may end up spending more than you had planned. Free Shipping Day doesn't include any minimum purchase requirements.

More Ways to Save

What's better than free shipping? Free shipping plus additional discounts, free returns, and more. Here are a few more tips on maximizing your savings when shopping online this Free Shipping Day -- and beyond.

  • Check out coupon sites. Many retailers will allow you to combine other promotions with the free shipping deal. Be sure to search for online coupons and promo codes -- is a great source -- to see if you can snag an additional discount.

  • Check the return policy. Free returns are rarer than free shipping, but can save money and reduce hassles. Nordstrom (JWN) and Zappos are two retailers that won't make you pay for returns. You'll also want to note the holiday return window, which varies widely. Apple will only take back items until Jan. 8, 2015, while Sports Authority extends its return window to Jan. 31. And speaking of returns...

  • Stash those receipts. Online shopping makes it easy to keep receipts in case the recipient needs to return an item. Set up a separate folder to capture those emails, and you'll never risk getting stuck with an unwanted item because you can't find that e-receipt.

Motley Fool contributor Robyn Gearey owns shares of and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends, Apple, Coach and Nordstrom. The Motley Fool owns shares of, Apple and Coach. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want one more thing for free? Check outThe Motley Fool's free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.