Hassle-free holiday shopping is not an oxymoron, and yes, it’s quite possible. With online shopping, you can make your list and check it twice, then buy everything on it with just a click of the mouse. Now that you no longer have to fight traffic to get to the store before closing time, circle jam-packed parking lots or wait in endlessly long lines, you’ll have plenty of time to dress up for all those holiday parties or prepare for your in-laws.

If you’re new to online shopping (and for the sake of this article, we’ll assume you are), you may have a few qualms about buying anything online, let alone a gift for someone else; but there’s really nothing to worry about. In fact, online shopping is one of those things that once you get the hang of, you wonder why you waited so long to do it. And, if you can get past the delayed gratification of not leaving the store with your items in hand, it might just become a new holiday tradition.

The biggest concern most people have about online shopping is security, yet it’s not as risky as you may think. Most websites have safeguards in place to protect your privacy, but for added peace of mind, follow these tips:

  • Only shop from reputable and well-known companies. Not only are they more likely to have robust security guards in place, they also may have better satisfaction guarantees than lesser known sites.
  • Make sure that the website switches to a secure connection before you enter your payment information. An “https” should precede the URL in the address bar, and there should be a little padlock icon in the bottom left or right corner of your browser. If it’s not secure, don’t enter any personal data.
  • Only use one credit card for all online purchases. If there’s a problem, it will be easier to pinpoint which card company needs to be contacted.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. In the case of fraud, you won’t be liable for anything, and it’s easier to contest charges if something happens to the item en route.
  • Make purchases via PayPal, an online payment processor that shields your payment information from merchants by transferring funds for you from a pre-authorized account.
  • For additional security, contact your bank to see if you can get a temporary credit card number that is linked to your credit or checking account to use when shopping online.

Shipping — costs and delivery times — is another area of concern  However, many stores offer free shipping when you spend over a certain amount of money; some have free shipping all the time, regardless of the amount spent; and others offer free shipping during promotional periods using promo codes that you may be able to find on freeshipping.org.

As far as delivery is concerned, around Christmas, websites such as Amazon.com will give you order cut-off times (a down-to-the-minute deadline by which purchases have to be made) to ensure your package arrives before the holidays. However, delivery guarantees are sometimes only offered if you buy directly from Amazon, and not an Amazon seller, so double-check that your seller can actually deliver by a specified date before purchasing. Macys.com has incredibly fast shipping, and most items ship within two days; to prevent delays, be sure your item is actually in stock and ready to ship before checking out. Also, Overstock.com ships most items within one to three days and offers free shipping for your first order; every order after that ships for only $2.95.

Online shopping spree not in the budget this year? No worries. Click here to find out how to recession-proof your holidays.