9 Tips to Maximize Savings on Cyber Monday

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U.S. shoppers spent $59.1 billion over the long Thanksgiving weekend, with an unprecedented 41% of that spent via retailers’ websites, says the National Retail Federation.

And now that Cyber Monday is well under way, are there still deals online worth your attention, whether you’re at home or work? You bet. “Eight in 10 retailers surveyed by Shop.org, the online division of the National Retail Federation, said they planned to offer Cyber Monday discounts, while 58% of people with Internet access at the office say they plan to shop online during the workday, reports The Washington Post.

Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion online today, up 20% from last year. If you’re one of them, here are our tips for making the most of it…

  1. Scope out the sales. Browse dedicated sites like CyberMonday2012.com, check your ads, and visit your favorite stores’ websites.
  2. Comparison shop. To ensure you pay the lowest price in cyberspace, enter an item into the search engine of a price-comparison website. I prefer PriceGrabber, but I also check Bizrate and Nextag just to be sure.
  3. Check the return policy. This is especially important if you’re buying a gift for someone else. To avoid sticking a loved one (or yourself) with an unwanted purchase, check out Best and Worst Return Policies for 2012 Gifts, which has separate instructions for interpreting return policies for online purchases.
  4. Use a secure Internet connection. Unprotected Wi-Fi networks, like the ones you may access at coffee shops or bookstores, make it easier for identity thieves to intercept your personal information, including credit or debit card details.
  5. Shop secure websites. Instead of the standard http://, look for the https:// protocol in front of a store’s website address in your browser (the s stands for secure). You may also see a lock symbol, another indication of a secure website, next to the website address. If you don’t see either, check whether the store offers a secure checkout option like PayPal.
  6. Check for coupons and promo codes. To ensure you’re not overlooking extra savings, search your favorite aggregator and Google for [item name] + “coupon code” or “promo code.”
  7. Avoid shipping costs if possible. Keep an eye out for free-shipping promo codes, which many stores offer to shoppers who spend a certain amount. You should also always search FreeShipping.org before making an online purchase.
  8. Pay with a discounted gift card. It’s late to buy them to use on Cyber Monday. But some of the Best Sites for Buying Discounted Gift Cards, like Plastic Jungle, also sell electronic versions. Just don’t wait till the last minute: Plastic Jungle says their eCODEs take a little longer to be emailed to you – about 24 hours – the first time you buy one.
  9. Get a rebate. Rebate websites like Ebates, Big Crumbs, and Extrabux will essentially pay you to shop online if you know How to Make Money With Rebate Websites.

Karla Bowsher covers consumer, retail, and health issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

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