holiday online shopping

Cyber Monday has taken the crown for the heaviest online shopping holiday for the past few years, with total sales more than doubling between 2006 and 2013. Last year, Cyber Monday generated over $1.7 billion in Internet sales and is poised to make history again this year as retail experts predict an increase in overall e-purchases.

To capitalize on the growing popularity of this online shopping event, e-retailers are promoting Cyber Monday sales like crazy and the overwhelming number of offers can make the buying process confusing if you don’t have a plan. Browse with less stress and know when and where to snag the best bargains with these nine savvy shopping tips.

1. Protect Your Payment
Whenever you are shopping online, always use a secure network (no Cyber Monday purchases during your visit to Starbucks!) and look for the “https” when checking out. If you’re ordering from a laptop or desktop, double check that your anti-virus and spyware software is up to date. For a list of the most popular cyber scams and what to look for, check out this advice from tech guru Shelly Palmer.

2. Price Plot and Bookmark
Research prices on the products you plan to shop for now so you can identify the real deals from the duds. Come sale time, retailers may inflate the original price to make a deal or sitewide sale look like a better value. After all, 40% off sounds more appealing than 15% off! Once you’ve found the products you want to purchase at the best prices, bookmark pages for price checks and speedier checkout.

3. Set Sale Alerts
Retailers fluctuate prices throughout the day based on what the competition is offering, so comparing prices and tracking sales is essential to knowing the best time to buy. To find the best price, install the InvisibleHand browser add-on which alerts you when an item you’re looking at is less expensive at another site. Avoid overpaying by using the free PoachIt Web tool which alerts you if something you bought goes on sale later in the day. You can then ask customer service to match the lesser price by opening live chat or calling customer service.

4. Sign Up and Follow To Save
Stay on top of Cyber Monday sales by subscribing to your favorite brands’ and stores’ e-newsletters. You may even get a new subscriber coupon code which you can often use on top of the sales. You should also consider following those brands and e-retailers on Facebook & Twitter for instant updates on Cyber Monday promotions throughout the day. Stores will be posting and tweeting new product deals and may even offer exclusive coupons to followers via their social networks. You can even create separate lists on Twitter to aggregate all the retailers in one place for faster browsing.

5. Stock Up On Codes
Keeping track of all the deals on Cyber Monday is overwhelming, especially if you’re working and don’t have much time during break. Use the Cyber Monday category on CouponSherpa.com to find all the best deals and coupon codes in one place.

6. Read Return Policies
Shopping online is incredibly easy. The return process isn’t as straight forward, however, so read up on the return policies of the e-retailers you plan to shop with. Look for free return shipping, or return-to-store options, to avoid a return shipping fee. If you’re buying electronics, beware of any restocking fees and know if you can expect a refund or a merchandise credit.

7. Check For Discount E-gift Cards
Shop sites like Gift Card Granny for any available online gift cards that you can apply to your order on Cyber Monday for extra savings. Since these act like cash, they are infinitely stackable too, and 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% off Overstock gift cards and 13% off Macy’s and JCPenney gift cards.

8. Beware of Shipping Costs
While many retailers offer free shipping on Cyber Monday, some others simply reduce their minimum order requirements. Factor in the cost of shipping while comparing deals so you don’t end up paying more at one store to cover delivery. Another way around shipping fees is to purchase from an online store who has a brick-and-mortar location in your area and select free site-to-store delivery. As retailers increasingly rely on their physical stores to fulfill online orders and delivery items faster, this is a great way to get e-purchases quickly while avoiding shipping costs. Plus, orders are often ready the same day so you also get the instant gratification of picking up your Cyber Moday deals quickly!

9. Wait It Out
If you aren’t wooed by the deals or simply don’t have time to shop because you’re stuck in meetings, don’t worry; there’s still plenty of time to get huge savings! In fact, some goods like jewelry and winter apparel are better deals the week before Christmas. You can also take advantage of Free Shipping Day sales on Dec. 18: not only do retailers offer free shipping with delivery by Dec. 24, but many offer extra discounts for more value.

Happy shopping!

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

 

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