delivery man delivers a parcel to a happy guyIf there is one thing you don't want to pay for this holiday season, it's shipping. Three of the hottest holiday retailers -- Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy -- are enticing savvy shoppers with free shipping in a bid to get the biggest slice of holiday spending.

Walmart offered free shipping on 60,000 items, then Amazon said it would match any free shipping offer, and now Best Buy has thrown into the ring free shipping on hundreds of thousands of items.

Dozens of smaller retailers are following suit by offering free shipping with no or very low minimum orders throughout the holiday season.

To top that, my favorite site devoted to free shipping coupon codes, FreeShipping.org, has rounded up 1,000-plus retailers that will offer free shipping on Dec. 17, 2010, the last day to order a present online without paying for shipping and have it arrive by Christmas Eve.

Not that I encourage procrastination. Buying when a sale is hot, instead of when it happens to be convenient for you, is the number one rule of bargain hunting. Watch for sales, then pounce. That's how I scored a $229 computer monitor for $143.

So why all the free shipping promotions? As much as it appears that retailers are trying to save you money, businesses are actually in it to make a bundle. Shocking, huh?

Here are five reasons why retailers are fighting the free shipping wars.

1.) More People Shopping Online:
Back in 2004 when you still had dial-up, 38% of holiday shoppers planned to buy presents online, according to ComScore.com, a company devoted to measuring the digital world. This year, that figure will hit 44%.

2.) Online Shoppers Spent More Than In-Store Shoppers
Folks who buy Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah presents online spend 25% more than average adults, according to the National Retail Federation. Online shoppers start early (43% before Halloween) and a whopping 61% buy presents for themselves as opposed to 57% of adults who shop in stores.

3.) Savvier Spenders
More of us savvy spenders are comparing the total cost of a purchase, including shipping, handling, and tax, instead of just the item price. Case in point, the flurry of websites and smartphone apps devoted to Black Friday deals, price scanners, and finding hot deals.

4.) Wallets are Opening Again, and Retailers Want it!
As consumers open their wallets to buying non-necessities again, competition is fierce. Retail experts predict shoppers will spend $7.04 more on the holidays this year, the first increase since a scrooge-like slide began in 2007.

5.) Cyber Monday is as Hot as Black Friday.
Since its artificial insemination five years ago, the Monday following Thanksgiving has become a hot day to shop from your work computer. Nearly nine out of 10 retailers are offering some kind of Cyber Monday special or coupon, according to the NRF.

Check back later today and throughout the week for more great deals at WalletPop.

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