On November 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving, make sure your laptop is juiced up, your Internet is doing the four-bar buzz, and you’ve thoroughly stretched out your mouse-clicking, trackpad-rolling, touch-screen tapping pointer finger, because it’s time for the World Series of Web Shopping.
To make the most out of this day devoted to digital deals, be sure to follow these tips:
No Slow Pokes Allowed
There’s a lot of traffic on the Internet shopping highway on Cyber Monday. Popular websites may slow down, crash, or stall. You must constantly refresh pages, use different Internet browsers simultaneously, keep multiple web pages open at one time, and quickly navigate websites to make purchases before the best items sell out. Make sure you are using a fast computer with tons of memory and a strong connection to high-speed Internet. Using an unreliable, slow-as-molasses laptop from 1994 with dial-up Internet is the equivalent of wearing stilettos to the mall on Black Friday. You’re not even going to make it in the door. If your computer is a lemon or your home Internet is shoddy at best, borrow a friend’s laptop or head to a library or coffee shop with a strong, free high-speed Internet connection. If you are using a public or shared computer, remember not to store any passwords on the computer and delete your cookies and browsing history when finished.
Do Your Due Diligence, Part I
Before clicking on the “Buy” button, research your intended purchases on a price comparison website such as PriceGrabber. To make sure you’re getting a quality item, research product reviews. For professional reviews, check out ConsumerReports (home appliances and electronics) and PCMagazine (computers, tablets, cameras, HDTVs). For customer reviews, check out Epinions and reviews on Amazon.
Do Your Due Diligence, Part II
Check out websites that list Cyber Monday deals, previews, and coupons such as CyberMonday, BlackFriday, RetailMeNot, and Dealio. After doing research, put together a plan, a shopping list and a budget. Prioritize items on your shopping list and purchase anything likely to sell out first.
Get in the Loop
To stay up to date on favorite retailers’ Cyber Monday deals and discounts, go to their websites and sign up for their emails, join their Facebook pages and follow them on Twitter to watch for exclusive deals.
Read the Fine Print
Before making an online purchase, read fine print about the deal. Learn the return policy, shipping policy and fees and any guarantee regarding delivery by Christmas. Know the policy regarding sold out items that have already been purchased.
Watch the Add-Ons
Keep that good deal from turning bad by watching those tempting extras. Make sure the shipping cost is reasonable, and consider whether it’s worth the cost to ship to multiple locations (that’s where costs can really add up). Don’t pay extra money for gift-wrapping. Watch those pop-ups at check-out and resist the temptation to buy something just because it’s a great deal.
Many online retailers (for example, REI) offer the option to have orders shipped to a nearby store for free. If this is an option and it’s convenient to pick up the order directly from the store, take advantage of this savings opportunity!
Order Through a Rewards Site
Earn cash back, rewards points, and other incentives just for doing your online shopping through rewards site such as Ebates and Upromise. To learn more about Ebates, read this Krazy Coupon Lady article, or learn more about Upromise by reading this KCL post.
Print out all invoices, confirmation numbers, digital receipts, and shipping tracking numbers from all purchases. Keep this paperwork in a folder or scan it into your computer for easy, organized reference.
Don’t Shop at Work
A great Cyber Monday deal isn’t worth the risk of losing your job. According to a survey from Career Builder, 22% of companies surveyed fired employees for using the internet for activities that weren’t work-related, and 7% of the human resource managers surveyed said they fired an employee specifically for holiday shopping.
Be Vigilant About Cyber Security
Prevent fraudsters, hackers, and identity thieves from obtaining credit/debit card information when you shop online by utilizing these online shopping safety tips:
- Look at the address bar at the top of your Internet browser. The beginning of the website address should read “https,” which indicates a secure website. If the beginning of the website address reads “http,” the website isn’t secure. Don’t enter any confidential financial information.
- Take another look at the address bar at the top of your screen. If you are using Internet Explorer, you should see a tiny padlock graphic at the far right of your address bar. A closed padlock graphic indicates a secured website. An open padlock graphic indicates an unsecured website, and you should not enter your credit card/debit card information. Other web browsers utilize similar graphics in their address bars.
- Look to see if the website has third-party verification emblems such as the VeriSign emblem or the Better Business Bureau emblem. However, just because a website displays these emblems does not mean that it is secure; sometimes websites will fraudulently copy and paste these emblems to fool users into thinking their website is secure.
- For an extra layer of security, use a “virtual” or single-use credit card, such as the ones offered by Bank of America, Discover, and Citibank. Your virtual credit card will have a different number than your main credit card/debit card. If a hacker manages to steal the credit/debit card information you entered on a website, there is no link to your main credit card number. Set a maximum spending limit and a short term expiration date. As an added bonus, using a virtual credit card with a maximum spending limit is a good way to avoid overspending.