Forget Black Friday. If you want to score deals without dealing with crowded stores and long lines, Cyber-Monday is for you. Last year alone shoppers spent more than $1 billion on Cyber-Monday alone, according to an IBM Benchmark study. So if you're ready to get clicking read our insider tips, and start saving online on Cyber-Monday and all holiday long.
We asked author, shopping expert, and founder of Shefinds.com and Momfinds.com Michelle Madhok for her tips on the best way to score online holiday deals. Here, your one-stop online holiday shopping guide >>
Step 1: Get Ready
Before you get clicking, get organized. Use these tips to get organized before shopping.
• Make a list and check it twice. Create a list of who you need to buy for (and what stores they like) using an organizing site like rememberthemilk.com. As you shop, you can check-off when you score something for someone on your list.
• Be the first to know. Take note of the sites you’ll be shopping at. Three things to do right this minute: Sign-up for their email newsletters, follow your favorite retailers on Twitter, and join their Facebook fan pages which frequently give subscribers early access to sales and additional discounts. Note: This is also a good time to note each site’s shipping and return policies.
• Read reviews before you buy. Amazon.com consistently has the most and most helpful reviews. You can quickly see the best and worst reviews of a product to help you make an informed decision.
• Use comparison-shopping web sites that specialize in categories. For instance, Pronto.com has specific databases for fashion, home, and kid’s stuff, while sites like shopping.com and bizrate.com make it their mission to ferret out the best prices on major items like big screen TVs. Then there are price-comparison sites like PriceGrabber and Yahoo Shopping that weed through the listings and clearly indicate the best deal, and will let you know when prices drop.
Step 2: Get Set – How to Maximize Your Savings
Once you’ve got your list of who to buy for and know what sites and items are on your radar, keep these tips in mind while shopping.
• Sign-up for price alerts. There are sites where you can sign up to be notified when an item is marked down (Zappos.com is one example). Similarly, you can use PricePinx bookmarklet on your browser's toolbar to track prices. (When you're shopping online and see something you like, you highlight the price and then click on the PricePinx bookmarklet. Then, when the price drops for that item, PricePinx notifies you via e-mail.) Note: PriceGrabber.com and PriceProtectr.com are two other similar tracking services.
• Grab a promotional code. To find promotional codes, go to RetailMeNot.com or Google the name of the shopping site with the words “coupon code” or “promotion code”.
• Examine shipping costs. Sometimes the deal loses its allure if the shipping charges cost the same as the product, so make sure you know how much it’s going to be before you check out. Save money and time by planning ahead and if you’re a big shopper throughout the year, sign up for a shipping subscription service. ShopRunner members, for example, get free two-day shipping and free shipping on returns for purchasing holiday gifts as part of their membership fee (which starts at $8.95/month). For free shipping coupons, check out Freeshipping.org. Also keep in mind that some stores offer online purchasing with in-store pickup.
• Get cash back when you can. Take advantage of websites like FatWallet.com, ShopatHome.com, and Ebates.com, a shopping web site that's free to join and allows shoppers to earn cash back on online purchases—on top of retailer discounts.
Step 3: Go – Shop Smart
Congrats – you’re finding deals and bargains left and right. Make sure you keep these tips in mind during and after Cyber Monday.
• Shop from the bottom of the page up. Hit view all at the top of every page you visit, and then shop from the bottom up of the sale page. Everyone else will be shopping top down so things sell-out more quickly at the top of the page.
• Shop safe. Be wary of ordering from a merchant that you've never heard of for a quick check Google the name of the site and "fraud" "scam" and do a quick search of ripoffreport.com to see if anyone else has reported a scam. Shop with companies located in the U.S., as you will be protected by state and federal consumer laws. Use a credit card when you shop online since unauthorized charges of $50 or more are covered by federal law. Never use a debit or check card, which could expose your bank account to theft.
• Know the return policy. Some of the sale items may be final sale.
• Ask for an after-the-fact markdown. If the item you bought goes on sale within the week or the month, many stores will pay you back the difference. Keep your receipts and call customer service, or go into the store itself (if it’s a brick and mortar). Some retailers offer a price guarantee over 100%, which means if you find the item cheaper anywhere else, and prove it to the retailer, they’ll beat that price.
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