Holiday shopping season is upon us, and you, like many gift-givers, may be wondering how to get the best deals on all those gifts you need to buy. Savvy bargain shoppers have been working Black Friday for years, but you may be less familiar with how to get a great deal on Cyber Monday.
Though it’s pretty much an establishment now, Cyber Monday is relatively new to the holiday shopping scene. And, unfortunately, Cyber Monday shopping can be a bit more complex than finding Black Friday deals.
For Black Friday, many major retailers publish their deals in advance. Some publish the top deals weeks in advance online, and most send out newspaper fliers for turkey-stuffed consumers to peruse on Thanksgiving Day.
Cyber Monday deals can be more elusive. Many times, they’re not available until that day, and the best deals disappear quickly. The key to spending money well on Cyber Monday is to shop smart. Get to know prices, and where you’re going to look for the best prices, ahead of time.
7 Cyber Monday Shopping Tips
1. Check Prices
Any time you’re shopping for big-ticket items, or a bunch of lower-priced items, you want to shop around. Just because Target’s website offers the latest electronic gizmo at 50 percent off its prices doesn’t mean that’s the best deal online.
If there are big-ticket items on your holiday must-buy list, start by getting to know their general pricing – well before Cyber Monday. Spend time shopping around online to get a feel for the normal prices for those items on your list. That way, you’ll know what to compare Cyber Monday prices against.
You may be able to find Cyber Monday prices before the big day by searching for “Cyber Monday 2013” online. If not, your best bet is to check price-comparing websites like DealNews.com, CyberMonday.com and SlickDeals.net the morning (the very, very early morning) of the event.
These sites let you compare deals at a glance, so you can see who really has the best offer.
2. Look for Added Discounts
Before you automatically pick up your next iGadget from the store with the lowest price on CyberMonday.com, type the store or item name into a coupon code site. RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and DealCatcher.com are three good options.
These sites can help you find free shipping, added discounts, or other value-added coupons that will bump prices lower – even if you wind up paying a higher ticket price on a particular item.
3. Follow Your Favorites and Get Customized Offers
While the websites mentioned above will help you easily compare pricing for a variety of items, you may find even better deals if you follow your favorite stores, products and brands on Facebook or Twitter.
It’s common for brands and stores to offer their most loyal customers better deals through their social media outlets. Some stores are starting to offer customized offers tailored to customers’ shopping habits.
But before you swipe up those social media and customized offers, compare prices online. Also, don’t buy something just because it’s on sale; really assess whether the purchase is a good fit for your holiday shopping list.
4. Set up Ahead of Time
One of the biggest problems consumers report on Cyber Monday is lag times online. If you’re shopping for some of the hottest items, they might disappear before you can check out – even if you’re one of the first shoppers to hit the web.
To streamline your shopping process – and give yourself the best chance to land the best deals – set yourself up for easy purchasing ahead of time.
If you have some idea which online stores you’re likely to use, set up an account, if you don’t have one already. This takes loads of time out of the process of checking out once your shopping cart is full.
If you don’t know where you’ll shop online, opening a PayPal account can help streamline checkout. Most retailers now allow for PayPal payments, and because your PayPal account can be linked with your shipping address, you don’t have to waste time entering that information.
5. Check for Bonus Points
As you’re planning your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, take time to research different payment options. Making the right choice – whether it’s paying by PayPal, by credit card, or through a specialized shopping program – can net you more savings in the long run.
For instance, last year, PayPal offered price match guarantees and free return shipping for any items bought through its system. Several credit cards also offer price matching and bonus points around the holiday shopping season. You might even check into programs like U-Promise, which could put money into your child’s college savings account while you shop Cyber Monday deals.
6. Use the Best Rewards Credit Card
Since you’ll be shopping online, you’ll likely be paying with a credit card. As such, there’s no reason to forego cash back with the right credit card. My personal favorite cash rewards card is the Citi Double Cash Card because it pays 2% cash back (1% with every purchase + 1% when you pay for those purchases.)
However, the Chase Freedom card is a serious contender. It pays a $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months. In addition, from October to December it gives 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases from Amazon and Zappos.
Whatever cash back credit card you use, be sure not to overspend and to pay your card off in full the following month.
7. Take Advantage of Cash Rebate Websites
Finally, once you find the deal you want, use a cash rebate site to save even more money. These sites offer up to 5% or more in cash back just for using the links on their websites to go to your favorite online shopping destinations. My personal favorite is Ebates.