As the dust clears from Black Friday, smart bargain hunters all around America gear up for shopping event number two, and this round is without the hustle and bustle of dodging elbows for deals at brick and mortar stores.
The day to save while holiday shopping online is called Cyber Monday. But, what’s the difference between Black Friday and Cyber Monday? And, are there any tricks to finding the best deals?
In short, Cyber Monday is the online equivalent of Black Friday. It takes place on the Monday after Thanksgiving, although, most major retailers start their sales online at midnight.
While Black Friday sales might go on for several days, it should be noted that Cyber Monday is almost strictly a 24-hour affair.
Many retailers will have better deals on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday. Plus, you won’t have to wait in line to get them. To help you take advantage of the savings and find the best deals, here’s our list of the do’s and don’ts of Cyber Monday shopping.
Step 1: Do Your Homework Early
Cyber Monday coupons and promotional ads are released at least a week or two early to help build up some momentum for the big day. Maximize your savings by visiting your favorite retailers’ websites to note their deals and coupons, and then create a gift-buying list that helps you take advantage of the biggest savings.
However, be aware that some deals will have limits on the number of redemptions allowed. Always read the fine print and be ready to pounce early at the crack of dawn (or earlier!) on Cyber Monday morning.
Step 2: Use Black Friday Prices as Your Benchmark
Ever wonder how the deals on Cyber Monday stack up to Black Friday savings? So did the folks at MarketWatch, so they compared the previous year’s coupons for both days and divvied up their findings into what you should and shouldn’t purchase on Cyber Monday.
Items That You’re Better Off Saying “No” to on Cyber Monday:
Televisions and other large electronics: Thanksgiving and Black Friday (and sometimes even earlier in the month, as Black Friday deals have been rolled out earlier and earlier) tend to have better deals on new televisions and other large electronics than does Cyber Monday.
However, Jeanette Pavini, spokesperson for Coupons.com, warns that many of Black Friday’s deals on TVs are actually budget brands or name brands that produce TVs with lower specs for this specific shopping day.
What is the bottom line on shopping for televisions and other large electronics? You may want to wait to buy these items until after the Consumer Electronics Show in January or near the Super Bowl, as deals tend to be abundant then.
Appliances and many other home goods: Again, Black Friday tends to be a better deal day for doorbuster-type items that offer huge savings. Thus, like with televisions and large electronics, appliances are typically not as good of a buy during Cyber Monday. (Plus, it’s not like anyone really wants a Dustbuster for Christmas!)
Holiday decorations and home decor: Typically, seasonal items such as holiday decorations are best purchased right after the occasion—just like the slashed prices on boxes of chocolates on February 15th, Christmas decorations are no different. However, if you do need some holiday decor at discount prices, don’t forget to hit up dollar stores, where you can often find items at super-low prices.
Laptops: If you’re looking to start the new year with a new laptop, you probably don’t want to get it on Cyber Monday, as there tend to be better deals on laptops both on Black Friday (which many consumers tend to think of as a day to get deals on electronics) and around the back-to-school period, which offers excellent deals on both laptops and desktop computers.
Jewelry: Even though you may be looking forward to getting a loved one a gift that sparkles, waiting until the new year is a better time to buy jewelry—particularly during after-Christmas sales and Valentine’s Day promotions.
Travel: Thanks in part to the fact that so many people now book their travel online, Cyber Monday has become a big day for pushing out travel deals. However, these deals aren’t particularly special, and often pressure shoppers into purchasing vacation packages under the premise of the offer only being available for a limited time.
Instead, it’s cheaper to book air travel after the holidays. While cruises drop in prices from January through March, during the so-called ‘wave season.’
What Kind of Items Should You Expect to Save on During Cyber Monday Sales?
Apparel: Cyber Monday is pretty much the best day of the year to shop for clothing online. MarketWatch notes that 2014 Cyber Monday sales saw 30–40% off coupon codes from the following websites: American Eagle, Ann Taylor, Lands’ End, The Limited, Hot Topic, J.Jill, J.Crew, Macy’s, Nautica, Old Navy, GAP, Banana Republic, Wet Seal—the list goes on and on.
To shop for apparel smartly, be sure you know your size at individual retailers: What size jeans do you wear from Old Navy? What size sweater do you wear from Lands’ End? By knowing your sizes ahead of time, you’re going to avoid return costs if those skinny jeans won’t button.
Toys: While Black Friday savings might not be worth it to fight over the last Talking Elmo for your favorite tot, Cyber Monday does offer significant savings on toys. Big stores to check out? Toys R Us, Overstock.com, Amazon, Target, and Walmart are each offering significant toy savings online.
Beauty products: Got a beauty junkie on your list? Cyber Monday offers deals and steals on some of the cosmetic industry’s biggest names. And, don’t think these beauty blowouts are just for women! The guys in your life can benefit from Cyber Monday’s beauty deals too (because they deserve a little pampering). For example, check out the popular masculine brand, Anthony New York, which has been known in the past to offer customers 30% off all orders Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
Step 3: Get Even Bigger Cyber Monday Deals
So, you’ve checked out your favorite retailers’ Cyber Monday ads, found some good deals, and are pretty happy with your pre-planned shopping list. But wait! There are a few additional tricks to help you score EVEN BIGGER Cyber Monday deals—each still easier than waiting in a Black Friday line:
Hit up live chat: About to buy online and can’t find a coupon code anywhere? Don’t pay full price! Instead, start a live chat session and politely ask the customer service rep for a coupon code for free shipping or a percent off. Customer service reps are often given coupon codes to hand out if asked, especially on BIG shopping days like Cyber Monday—and it never hurts to ask!
Shop online over the weekend, then abandon your cart before Cyber Monday: Making a large purchase on Cyber Monday? Check out this list of retailers who will reward you with extra coupons for abandoning your cart—just be sure to keep an eye on your email for any coupons.
Start with free shipping: Be sure to start your Cyber Monday shopping at a retailer offering free shipping on your entire purchase. Rather Be Shopping offers a list of 45+ retailers offering free shipping (with NO minimum) on your holiday shopping. It’s a great place to start your shopping.
Don’t settle for just one coupon code: You may already know the trick of Googling ‘coupon [store name]’ to find extra discounts, but a surprising number of online shoppers forget to do so in the face of already-existing Cyber-Monday discounts and free shipping. Be sure to search around online for extra coupons that you can stack on top of whatever’s already offered for extra savings.
Step 4: Remember to Shop Online Safely
With so many shoppers expected to be swiping their credit cards come Cyber Monday, thieves are presented with a tempting opportunity to scam unsuspecting consumers. Here are a few final tips to shop online safely:
Don’t Click E-Mail Links
Following links from phony e-mails is one of the oldest methods for scamming online shoppers—so, don't be fooled by messages in your inbox offering enticing sales through direct links. Instead, take the time to open up your web browser and enter the URL of your preferred retailer into a separate tab. If you can’t find any mention of the deal on their website, be sure to contact customer service to find out if it’s a scam.
Make Sure Your Purchase Is Secure
Make sure your purchase is secure by only entering credit card details on Web pages that use SSL (secure sockets layer) security.
To make sure you’re on a secure page, check to see that the URL for the page begins with “https://” and not “http://.” That “s” lets you know the site is secure. Most browsers will also show a lock icon in the lower-right corner of the browser window to let you know you're on a secure site.
Pay With a Credit Card
Another good tip from the BBB cautions shoppers only to pay for online purchases with a credit card—as opposed to a wire transfer or other non-plastic payment method. Federal laws let you dispute an item on your credit card bill if you don't receive your purchase. Plus, many credit card providers also have ‘zero liability’ policies, meaning you're off the hook if a bad guy gets your credit card and starts using it.
Also, don’t forget to make sure that your computer’s security and antivirus software are up to date before you start your Cyber Monday shopping. That way, if you do end up on a malicious site, you’ve already taken steps towards having the best possible protection against any attempts to download or execute viruses on your machine.
The bottom line? Cyber Monday is a very good time to take advantage of deals. Just remember to rely on your common sense and secure shopping tips when taking advantage of sales!