|Savvy shoppper Andrea Woroch|
Cyber Monday sounds like the title of a futuristic sci-fi movie; an event triggered when robots gain consciousness and attempt to take over the world. Your imagination could run wild if you don't know that last year, Cyber Monday was the biggest online shopping event in history. With the promise of so many bargains, it's still tough to keep visions of iPads and big-screen TVs at bay. As you prepare to load up your virtual cart with discounted gifts and gadgets, consider some of these Cyber Monday shopping strategies.
1. The Wish List The most elementary element of any smart shopping strategy is a list. It keeps you on track and prevents unnecessary impulse buys. As with Black Friday, many merchants announce their online offers well in advance. At sites like CouponSherpa, they have a roundup of deals available from popular merchants to help you compile your list ahead of time. They also have special coupon codes available to enhance your Cyber Monday savings.
2. Pre-Shopping Clever marketers can make a reasonable regular price seem like a steal. They bank on shoppers being swept up in a bargain frenzy, desperately buying to make sure they're one of the lucky few. Before you start loading up your cart, do some comparison shopping. Sites like PriceGrabber.com allow you to easily compare prices across the web and at local stores.
3. Use Protection Online shopping has become so commonplace we rarely consider the risks. With tons of shoppers eager to transmit credit card information over the Web in one day, scammers are salivating. One easy way to protect yourself is to download the latest updates for your anti-virus and spyware software. Also, confirm any page during checkout is secure by looking for the "https" in the address bar before giving the e-retailer your billing information.
4. Read Up on Rules Though this online shopping day is considerably more casual than Black Friday, each Cyber Monday offer has different guidelines about when it starts and how many items are available. Being aware of such details ensures you won't sleep through a deal that begins at 12:01 a.m.
5. Under Review Many of Monday's markdowns are nothing more than attempts to unload junk and make room for something better. When you're shopping for high-priced items like TVs, go to stores and compare features you can't view online, such as picture and sound quality. Try Cnet.com for in-depth, credible reviews of everything from cell phones to slow cookers. When you start to notice a pattern, it's best to pass, even if the deal seems exceptional.
6. Fast Friends Though there's some debate as to whether or not corporations are people, don't feel bad about taking advantage of their cyber friendship offer by liking them on Facebook. In the days leading up to Cyber Monday, stores post additional offers exclusive to followers. Tracking feeds for a few days keeps you from missing anything critical.
7. Find Free Shipping When you're shopping online, steep shipping and handling costs quickly cut into your cyber savings. Luckily, merchants are starting to respond to customer demand for free shipping. Best Buy announced in late October that it would offer free shipping on everything over the holidays, and Overstock.com is the latest retailer to offer site-wide free shipping.
8. Keep Your Eye on the Prize You'll likely be bombarded by a slew of offers for accessories and add-ons as you search for a special sale price on a particular laptop. Typically, the savings on these items are minimal, so buying them later won't make a big difference. Plus, spending an extra $100 on items you otherwise would never have bought quickly counteracts your discounts.
9. Preparation Pays When you're getting ready to run a marathon, it's essential to prepare with a good warm-up. The same goes for shopping on Cyber Monday, and we're not talking about stretching your mouse-clicking finger. Get ready by bookmarking your favorite sites in advance. Keep them open in different tabs so switching from store to store is easy. If a merchant requires you create an account to make a purchase, do it ahead of time.
10. Read Up on ReturnsWith deals flying around furiously throughout Cyber Monday, make sure you don't get stuck with any items that don't meet your expectations by brushing up on online return policies. Some major retailers allow you to return online orders to a local store at no extra cost, while other smaller merchants might charge you for return shipping as well as a restocking fee. Return windows are often limited, so it's important to act soon once you've determined an item won't work.