When it comes to doorbuster deals and massive discounts, Cyber Monday is on the safer side of holiday shopping. Since you don’t have to leave the house, there’s little risk of a pepper-spray attack from crazies clamoring for the last Furby.
Despite the relative safety, Cyber Monday is an event that requires some preparation. Without a strategy, you might miss out on some essential deals or find yourself lost among the masses of online retailers promoting limited-time savings. To keep you in the spirit of the season, here are eight valuable life lessons you can apply for a better Cyber Monday shopping experience.
1. Be Prepared
Since 1907, Boy Scouts have been living by the simple motto, “be prepared.” When it comes to online shopping, you’ll want to take a similar approach. Because website traffic will be especially high, it’s beneficial to have all of your account information on hand or even entered the night before. Also consider bookmarking desired items for easy access on the big day. This ensures you won’t have to hesitate when it comes to ordering limited-quantity items.
2. Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s
Surprisingly, a recent survey found more than one-third of online shoppers never look for coupons or deals. This is basically like giving away free money. During Cyber Monday sales, merchants won’t guide you directly to available coupons. Instead, use sites such as FreeShipping.org for a collection of offers specifically for the event.
3. Knowledge is Power
They say ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to Cyber Monday, knowledge is power. Many merchants are adjusting their hours and specials up to the last minute, so it pays to monitor the news. Finding out something went on sale two hours earlier than you expected can lead to a lot of disappointment.
4. Be Friendly
The power of social media continues to grow, with more stores announcing sales and deals to their Facebook and Twitter followers first. In everyday life, being friendly pays off most of the time. The same goes for shopping online, as the next week provides ample opportunity to expand your cyber social circle by following your favorite brands.
5. Have an Escape Plan
Consumer Reports found only a little more than half of shoppers review return policies for online purchases. Not knowing this information can leave you stuck with impulse buys that impact your budget for the rest of the holiday season. Before you order, find the answers to questions such as “is there a charge for return shipping?” and “do you get cash back or store credit on returns?”
6. The Best Things in Life Are Free
This saying probably relates to intangible things like love and sunshine, but there’s no reason you can’t apply it to your holiday shopping strategy. If you’re not finding the deals you want, keep in mind Cyber Monday isn’t the be-all, end-all. You can also shop Free Shipping Day on Dec. 17 for big discounts, plus free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve.
7. Expand Your Horizons
When it comes to new experiences, it’s unlikely alternative shipping methods get your blood pumping. However, using such methods can increase convenience and decrease overall cost. Stores like Toys ‘R Us and Walmart allow you to have your online order delivered to a local store for free. All you have to do is stop in and pick it up. If you won’t be around the house to sign for packages, have them delivered to a secure Amazon locker for easy accessibility.
8. Calculated Risk
There’s a time to take risks and a time to play it safe. In the case of online shopping, you definitely want to take some precautions. Steer clear of ordering on public networks found in coffee shops and libraries, as scammers can easily snag your information on unsecured connections. Also consider using payment alternatives such as PayPal. They reduce the chance of fraud and provide recourse for suspect charges.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers and helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.