The Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally the biggest shopping weekend of the Christmas season, the one that can make or break a retailer’s whole year. Many people have heard the term “Black Friday” for the Friday of that weekend, when brick-and-mortar stores have all their big sales and “doorbuster” deals. “Cyber Monday” is the more recently minted nickname for the Monday of that weekend. Cyber Monday has come specifically to be associated with online holiday shopping, as many online retailers offer their most enticing discounts that day.
Preparing for Black Friday properly to really take full advantage of it can be an elaborate, complex process. Preparing for Cyber Monday is quite a bit simpler, like taking half or a third of the steps necessary to prepare for Black Friday and jettisoning the rest.
That’s because for Cyber Monday, you don’t have to plan a route, make sure there’s gas in the car, figure out where you’re going to park, decide what you need to bring to camp out in front of which store waiting for it to open at what time of the morning, or any of that. Heck, you don’t even have to get dressed, since you won’t be leaving your house. You’ll be doing everything from your computer.
1. Research the ads
Keep your eye open for Cyber Monday ads throughout November. Since the bulk of the Cyber Monday discounts are online, most information about it will be online as well.
If there are specific stores you are interested in, go to their website home pages and see if there is any link for discounts, sales, promotions, etc., or even a specific mention of Cyber Monday. They may have specials listed right on the website, or they may have instructions on how to receive notice of their specials (such as by registering your e-mail address with them so they can send you notices of their sales, or by friending them at Facebook).
Do this both for retailers that also have brick-and-mortar versions (e.g., Walmart, Macy’s), and for retailers that are solely online (e.g., Amazon, Overstock).
Next, peruse one or more of the more general websites that post Cyber Monday deals from all different retailers. Some examples are:
Cyber Monday Online Deals
You can sometimes register your e-mail at sites like these as well to get sent the information on Cyber Monday deals as soon as they get it.
Get a sense of what’s available at a substantial discount. Make note of items you might consider.
New information is released all the time, so it’s not just a matter of browsing once. Check back periodically until Cyber Monday itself, to see what other enticing deals you might find.
2. Make a list
Write down the names of everyone for whom you would like to get a gift (that you don’t already have a gift for-if you’re doing this over the weekend after Black Friday, you may well have already completed a fair amount of your Christmas shopping). Match them up with the items from the Cyber Monday ads that looked particularly good. Put down multiple possibilities if nothing jumps out at you as clearly being just right for a given person.
You need not limit your Cyber Monday purchases to gifts. If you come across items that are heavily discounted that you will likely buy for yourself eventually anyway, this could be a good time to get them. So have a section on your list for items you’re considering for yourself as well.
3. Set your budget
Go through your list and calculate about what you’d end up spending if money was no object and you could get everything. Then think about how much you have available to spend currently, how high or low your current credit card balances are, what level of income you have and likely will have in the near and intermediate future, etc., and be honest with yourself of the total you can reasonably spend and not hate yourself later when the bills come due. This is your budget.
In comparing your ideal spending with your budget, you’ll get a sense of how much you’ll have to compromise that ideal. It may be that you’d really like to get these four items for your mom, but you better just pick the two you like best instead. Or maybe there are three items you put down as possibilities for your cousin, but now you see you’ll likely need to go with the least expensive of the three. That gal from work that you don’t know all that well that you had down as a “maybe” might just have to do without a Christmas present from you this year. Of the eight items you had on your list to possibly get for yourself, maybe you need to trim that back to three or four.
Adjust your list until you get it to where it fits your budget. It’s still going to have to be tentative-as a Cyber Monday sale might have only a limited number of a certain item and there’s a chance you’ll miss out on it, or you might not come across anything on sale on Cyber Monday that fits a certain person, or you might not realize you need to get a gift for a certain other person until after Cyber Monday has already passed-but you should have a pretty good idea at this stage what you’re going to buy at what price for whom on Cyber Monday.
4. Establish your schedule
Do you have to work on Cyber Monday? Do you have other things you need to do that will take a certain amount of your time?
Determine how much time you’ll have on Cyber Monday and when. Keep in mind that some sales may only be for certain hours, so if you have any flexibility at all in your schedule, try to time it so you’re online at the most convenient times for getting what you want to get.
Put together a tentative schedule for the day. Maybe get up with an alarm clock in the morning, spend a half hour doing a final perusal of ads to see if there’s anything new, then hit these five sites and make your purchases in the morning, followed later by purchasing one item at this other site that doesn’t come on special until noon.
The more systematic about it you are, and the better you plan, the better you will be able to take advantage of all the savings on Cyber Monday.