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Top 8 Cyber Monday Shopping Tips to Score the Best Deals

By David Bakke

cyber monday shopperEven with the most comprehensive and organized shopping strategy, you’re likely to encounter a few snags while seeking the best Black Friday deals. You may miss out on an advertised doorbuster sale, traffic may put you behind schedule, and frankly, you may just get tired and go home early.

If this happens, don’t despair. There will be a fresh set of enticing deals available online on Cyber Monday.

To rack up the savings and stay within your budget, follow these Cyber Monday shopping tips.

Shopping Tips for Cyber Monday

1. Review Cyber Monday Ads Beforehand
As with Black Friday, Cyber Monday deals are no secret. Most online websites post their Cyber Monday deals well in advance. In fact, reviewing all Cyber Monday ads before you finalize your game plan for Black Friday is not a bad idea. You can save yourself money, time, and gas if you can purchase something for a better price online.

2. Be Safe
First and foremost, be safe when you shop online. Never purchase from a website you haven’t heard of, and stay away from deals that are simply too good to be true.

If a website requests your social security number to complete a transaction, leave immediately. If you are in doubt about a website’s legitimacy, check for two things: first make sure that “https://” precedes the URL and also look for the VeriSign seal. Either of these should confirm that the website is safe. Finally, make sure your antivirus and security software are both up to date.

3. Coordinate Your Credit Cards
Know which credit card to use for each of your purchases. For example, my Chase Freedom credit card offers 5% cash back on all department store purchases during December, and my Target REDCard gives me an additional 5% discount on every purchase made at Target stores.

Find out what rewards you’re eligible for and strategically use your cards to maximize savings. That said, avoid putting more onto credit cards than you can afford to pay off. The interest you’ll inevitably owe will more than cancel out any reward points, discounts, or cash back.

If you plan to make multiple purchases, call your credit card company beforehand to let them know. I nearly had a meltdown last Cyber Monday when the issuer of my credit card put a security hold on it, which rendered it useless. By the time I called the issuer to fix the problem, I had already missed out on several deals.

4. Stack to Save
Most brick and mortar retailers allow you to apply only one coupon to each purchase. However, most websites allow you to “stack” coupon codes.

For example, you might have a code that discounts your purchase by 10%, another that reduces it by $5, and another code that qualifies you for free shipping. Applying all these codes to one purchase can make for some serious savings. Search for codes online before Cyber Monday arrives and store them all in one document for easy access when you shop.

santa shopping online

5. Beware of Add-Ons
Be wary of add-ons that websites will try to lure you into buying. For example, if you purchase a laptop computer, you will probably be asked if you need a laptop case, an external mouse, a zip drive, and other extras before you checkout. If you truly need these accessories, go ahead and buy them. But if they were not part of your original purchase plan, don’t fall prey to this tactic.

This also includes buying an extended warranty. Think long and hard about whether the benefits of an extended warranty are worth the price. Moreover, check with your credit card company to see if they automatically extend the manufacturer’s warranty on purchases made with their card. Many do, and you can even go with third party providers like SquareTrade.

6. Thoroughly Review Return Policies
Most return and refund policies at brick and mortar retailers are clearly spelled out. However, this is often not the case with websites. Some have very convenient return polices, while others have no return policy at all. If you buy from a site without a return policy, you’re basically stuck with your purchase no matter what. Read through the fine print to know exactly what you’re getting into before you complete your purchase.

7. Wake up Early or Stay up Late
Cyber Monday doesn’t start at 9:00 a.m. – it starts at midnight. And like Black Friday doorbuster deals, many Cyber Monday online deals will be in limited supply. In other words, if you wait until the morning to shop, the best deals may be long gone.

Also, find out what time zone each store you want to purchase from is in. If your favorite online retailer follows East Coast time and you live in California, be ready to shop at 9:00 p.m. Sunday night.

8. Set a Budget and Stay Focused
Shopping online can be very similar to shopping at a physical location. In either case, retailers will tempt you to purchase items above and beyond what is on your list and what your budget can handle. But don’t let them. Make your gift-giving list before you get online and make a clear budget.

Your budget doesn’t have to be strict – you can establish a budget range. Determine a lower limit you’d prefer not to exceed, as well as an upper limit you absolutely cannot go over. This will give you more flexibility when you choose purchases and make it easier to stay on track.

Final Word

Making the most of holiday deals requires a little prep work. Use the tips above and start planning before Cyber Monday arrives. In fact, if you shop on Black Friday as well, factor Cyber Monday into your overall strategy. A healthy mix of both retail and online shopping can reduce your stress level, increase your selection, and save you the most money.

Are you shopping for deals on Cyber Monday? What strategies are you employing to get the best bargains?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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The content on Money Crashers is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, consult a licensed financial or tax advisor. References to products, offers, and rates from third party sites often change. While we do our best to keep these updated, numbers stated on this site may differ from actual numbers.
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