For those who want nothing to do with the madness that comes with Black Friday and prefer to spend the day after Thanksgiving digesting with loved ones, Cyber Monday provides the chance to scoop up similar doorbuster savings online. As the Internet continues to grow as a popular destination to buy gifts during the holidays, this e-shopping event is poised to make history again this year. Last year, Cyber Monday generated over $2.68 billion and retail experts predict an increase in overall online purchases this year.
Though shopping online is certainly less chaotic than shopping in store, the recent frenzy of Cyber Monday sales promotions is overwhelming and those who try to tackle it without a plan may end up getting duped out of a deal. To streamline the buying process and make sure you snag savings with less stress, follow these smart cyber shopping tips.
Keep your payment safe.
Cyber Monday is a workday for many of us which means shopping over our lunch hours and from remote locations. Often, this means sharing personal payment information over public networks which puts your financial information at risk. Always use a secure connection to make a purchase and not those available at your local coffee shop. Also, be sure to use a credit card as it offers multiple layers of protection against hackers.
Since you won’t have a lot of time on Monday to scout products and deals, use the time leading up to Cyber Monday to conduct a little pre-shopping. Sign up for newsletters and notifications from the retailers you plan to shop at for sneak peeks into Cyber Monday deals. You should also follow your favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter, as retailers are increasingly active on these channels, posting sale updates and exclusive deals throughout the day.
Prep your browser.
Bookmarking the retailers with whom you plan to shop will save you a lot of time on Cyber Monday. You can even start loading up online shopping carts with desired items and save them for checkout. Fill in payment information including shipping and billing addresses to make the process even faster come Monday. Then download such browser add-ons like InvisibleHand to avoid over paying. The tool sends you alerts when something you’re shopping for is priced for less elsewhere.
Many Cyber Monday sales represent site-wide savings, but often you can save even more by hunting down coupon codes. Head to CouponSherpa.com or another trusted deal site for access to hundreds of codes to top retailers. You can also use Honey, an online tool that scours the Internet for available codes and provides them to you before checkout. Lastly, search for discount e-gift card codes from sites like Gift Card Granny or Cardpool.com. These arrive in your inbox within minutes so you can apply it to your order almost instantly for deeper discounts. For example, you can save up to 5-percent off Overstock gift cards and 13-percent off Macy’s and JCPenney gift cards.
Track price fluctuations.
The sad truth is that shopping online is more perilous from a price perspective than buying in-store. That’s because e-retailers can change their prices multiple times throughout the day and nearly instantly to stay competitive. Such fluctuations can result in a higher online order if you purchase at the product’s peak price. In fact, Forbes recently reported Amazon changed prices on tens of millions of products over 3,000 times during Cyber Monday week last year. To keep price changes in check, use online tools like TrackIf.com to track sales and receive price drop notifications.
Read return policies.
Returning an online order can be a pain, both from a process and budgetary perspective. Reading online return policies before you make a purchase can save you a lot of headache. In addition to return shipping costs, you may be charged restocking fees on large purchases like electronics and appliances. Some stores pay for return shipping while others allow you to return online orders to their physical stores free of charge. You also want to determine if you’ll receive a refund or get a merchandise credit for your return.
Know what to shop for.
Despite retailers’ best intentions to convince you otherwise, not everything is a good buy on Cyber Monday. Knowing what the top offers are beforehand will keep you focused on buying only those items that represent a good deal. Gadgets, shoes and cookware are all typically great buys on Cyber Monday. It’s typically better to hold off on purchases like toys and winter apparel until prices drop further closer to the holiday.
Understand free shipping.
Shipping isn’t free if you have to spend more to qualify for it. Many online retailers require a minimum order to get free delivery knowing that shoppers are willing to add more to their online cart in order to dodge this charge. However, you can get around this without buying more. Instead, sign up for free trials of two-day shipping services or look for retailers who offer a local pick-up option instead.
Be on scam alert.
The best way to avoid being scammed on Cyber Monday is to know the most popular methods used by the unscrupulous among us. Tech guru Shelly Palmer from Huffington Post does a great job rounding up the top five ways you will be hacked on Cyber Monday. Some of these hacks simply require you to pay attention to things like grammar, spelling and anything that seems “off.” If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is, and you should not proceed until you know the site or promotion is legitimate.