How to Shop on Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday has quickly become a holiday shopper’s favorite time of year, especially for those who aren’t interested in lacing up a pair of boxing gloves and bashing it out with another exhausted housewife for the last “Team Edward” t-shirt at Target. Although Cyber Monday may provide you with a reprieve from Black Friday Fight Club, there are still a few things you need to know before your fingers shop until they drop.
Know what you want to buy. Since you will be able to jump from item to item with the greatest of ease from your cozy seat, not having a list risks leading you down the path of credit card disaster. Consumers are meant to be led astray by all the pretty graphics and animation, telling them that they must purchase this item because there are only three left. Stand strong and stick to your list the entire time.
If you find yourself ogling the electronic miniature Dalek that marches up and down your desk for sheer amusement or a set of Ninja cookie cutters but you never even had the intention of owning such products, slap yourself back to reality. You don’t need these gimmicks, no matter how cheap or cute they seem.
Devise a budget *before* you start shopping online. As with any shopping endeavor, know the limits of what you can spend before you shop. The best way to determine how much you can afford is to calculate your total monthly expense as compared to your net income. Add in any money you’ve socked away for the holidays to determine how much you can spend. Or, if you’ve always spent a certain amount of money every holiday season and seemed to pay off your bills with ease within a few months, use that total as your guide.
Another way you can stick to your budget is to transfer money via PayPal to make your purchases. Doing this is virtually like paying with cash––when you’re out of dough, it’s time to stop shopping.
Research and do comparisons between merchants and prices. Not only should you do a quick price comparison at least a week before Cyber Monday, you should also know each site’s shipping policy. Generally speaking, free shipping is the goal. However, avoid getting caught up with any offer along the lines of “buy $100 worth of merchandise for free shipping” at sites where you only want one item. This could cause you to purchase items you don’t really want or need (like those Ninja cookie cutters). Other research you should do includes:
Select several of the big-ticket items (such as a TV, iPods or computers) you want to buy and find prices from a minimum of three different vendors. Having three prices will give you the best way to compare the Cyber Monday deal and determine if you are really getting a bargain. Plus it will give you an idea of which vendor is offering the best deal.
Identify sites that allow you to purchase numerous items for a good price, along with free shipping. Superstores like WalMart, Target, Costco and Sam’s typically give you more bang for your buck (and most likely free shipping) when it comes to a diverse number of items.
Avoid weird, unfamiliar or gimmicky sites. This isn’t the time to test drive a new vendor with no track record––this is holiday shopping for goodness sake… we’re talking serious stuff. Stick to the merchants you know so you can trust that your item will arrive on time.
Look only for secure sites. Since you will be transmitting your personal financial information to the vendor through the site, look for seals like the yellow padlock symbol or “Verified by Visa.” Also, examine the URL. A secure URL starts with https (s for secure) and not simply http.
Pay attention to “hidden” additional costs such as taxes and handling expenses. They’ll be noted there but usually only after your heart is set on buying and you’ve already worked through the initial payment steps. Or, they’ll be in tiny print at the bottom of the page. Also, some merchants only provide free shipping for some items and not others on the same site, so scrutinize the sale terms carefully to know which items you’ll get for free.
Know what’s worth buying on Cyber Monday. Some merchandise is typically a better deal than others. The word on the street is that the best items to shop for on Cyber Monday include:
- Aside from it being Cyber Monday, experts say that you can get a better deal on a computer on a Monday versus any other day of the week. Other electronics to look for include cameras, TVs, Apple merchandise, video games and video gaming systems.
- Cyber Monday is a great time to get the cook of the house the blender of his or her dreams. Other good deals can be found on washing machines and dryers, refrigerators and ovens. Tread carefully when it comes to buying home appliances, like a blender, for gift purposes––you don’t want your rare edition Bob Dylan CD being blended along with your spouse’s banana smoothie… Think household gift rather than personal gift.
- Look for popular electronic and fad toys to be on sale. It’s typically a good idea to nab those items early as they sell out fast. Parents may also want to consider the longevity of the toy before purchasing. Recall the “Tickle Me Elmo” fad from years gone by––how many of the kids whose parents beat each other black and blue for the last toy are still playing with Tickle me Elmo? Or care?
- Thinking about giving the gift of plane tickets this holiday season? Cyber Monday is a great time to check for deep discounts on airfares, hotels and vacation packages. It’s also a good time to consider sending your mother-in-law to Barbados for the holidays, on your dime.
Hit the sales early. Like Black Friday, the early bird gets the worm for Cyber Monday too. If you are awake at midnight, grab a cuppa Joe and start shopping! As with shopping in the stores, some online merchants offer the equivalent of “door buster deals”, which means the offer only stands for a limited time. Some sites will have clocks ticking over with a measure showing how few of the deal are left.
If you do wish to buy something that has a limited time availability at that sale price and everyone else seems to be clamoring for it, beware the rush of this pressure sales tactic getting to you. You still need to ask yourself “Do I need this, is this what I set out to actually buy?” and not be simply taken in by the speed with which you need to make the buying decision. A good site will reserve the product for five minutes to allow you time to work through the different payment pages; use these five minutes to make the right choice.
Check coupon deals. Whether you participate in Groupon or receive special offers from your favorite retailers, gather your coupons the night before Cyber Monday. Be sure you read the fine print, as some merchants may exclude use on certain days like Cyber Monday.
Keep all receipts from purchases. Take a screenshot copy and keep the email copy. If anything goes wrong, such as the item not turning up, the item turning up damaged, the item not being what you ordered or it just isn’t what you want, you’ll need these receipts as proof of purchase.
It is also a good idea to check out the return terms and conditions, as well as shipping coverage for returned items. Some stores allow returns for a change of mind and cover the shipping costs for return while many others don’t. And some stores have very strict return policies. Know these before you buy by doing some research the night before.