Cyber Monday is here. This year, the shopping bonanza takes place on Monday November 26.
If you’re planning on hitting the sales, either in person or online, be savvy about it. Here are our top tips to use in the run-up to Cyber Monday and on the day itself.
Get in the know by signing up for newsletters
By signing up for newsletters you will get to know about deals in advance and often get VIP access ahead of other shoppers. Retailers know that these kinds of deals instill loyalty in customers, so will be keen to sign up as many people as possible to their mailing lists with exclusive offers you can't get anywhere else.
Make a shopping list - and stick to it
Plan ahead and make a list of items that you really want and target them on the day. This will also help you avoid overspending and getting sidetracked by offers on products you don’t want or need. Remember: it's only a deal if it's something you will actually use, because no matter big the saving, it will still cost you money.
Check if the deal price is actually a steal
Some websites might trumpet their deal as an absolute steal, but is it really any cheaper than normal? Price-tracking websites like PriceRunner, or, if you're shopping on Amazon, CamelCamelCamel, track prices over time for specific items, letting you see how much they have fallen, or not, as the case may be. It could be that an apparent deal is actually just a slight discount on the recommended retail price, and is not that much of a bargain after all.
Be the early bird
Online deals are likely to start at the stroke of midnight and some stores are likely to be open earlier than normal, so make sure you get an early start to take advantage of the best offers on the day. 4am start? Better put the kettle on...
Plan for the future right here in the present(s)
With Christmas coming up it’s a good idea to see if you can get any deals on gifts, decorations or even food during the Cyber Monday event. This will help you spread the cost of Christmas over more than one month, which will be a godsend when that credit card bill lands. And hey - it's never too early for tinsel. You could even be super-organised and buy some presents for next year while you're at it.
Shun the shops and head online
Not keen on queueing in the freezing cold all night only to have to fight your way through the hordes of bargain hunters? Can't say we blame you. Why not fire up your computer or mobile device instead, and shop from the comfort of your own home? Cosy sofa versus tetchy, sleep-deprived shoppers - it's no contest.
Shopping online has other benefits, too. You can quickly compare prices with other shops with a quick search, so you can see if it really is that good a deal. And you can read user reviews, which should help make your mind up. With most sites offering next-day delivery - at a price, admittedly - you can see why fewer and fewer of us are braving the shops in person.
Don't get caught out - beware online scams
Shopping online does have one rather large downside: scams.
You're far more likely to be the victim of cybercrime than you are in person. That's why it's more important than ever to protect yourself. Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails, especially if they ask you to change your password. Never provide your personal details over email, as they can easily be intercepted by hackers.
Stick to trusted websites, and look out for the green padlock next to the web address in your web browser's URL bar - this means it's a certified retail website. The web address should start 'https' as well, instead of just 'http' - the extra 's' stands for secure, and means you can trust it with your financial details.
Be careful out there - the internet is an amazing resource, but it also has plenty of pitfalls. There's a reason scammers can't wait for Cyber Monday as well. Check out BT's scams advice.
How shopping around can save you a pretty penny
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Don’t just go for the first deal you see, make sure you shop around and compare prices before making a purchase. Obviously this is a lot easier to do online, but don't be afraid to hotfoot it around the shops to see what other deals there are. You shouldn't be pressured into making a purchase, and chances are stock will last the few minutes it takes to check. It could save you a tidy sum, which will more than cover the cost in shoe leather.
Don't pay more than you should - beware hidden costs
An online price might look like an absolute bargain, until you see the price of delivery, that is. Some sites offer free delivery, though you usually have to spend a certain amount (£30 or £50, say). Make sure you factor in the cost of delivery, as for a few purchases it can soon add up. You can minimise it by placing items in your online shopping basket and only buying them when you're sure you won't by anything else from that site. That way, everything will be grouped in one delivery, and it'll cost you less.
Some sites - like Amazon - sell items from other sellers, so check who you're actually buying from and what their delivery charges are before you buy.
Get money back on your purchases by earning cashback
You can maximise your savings by looking for voucher codes and shopping through cashback websites like Quidco and TopCashback. You can also use a cashback credit card. But, as with all credit cards, make sure you can pay the balance off in full at the end of the month.
Don't get carried away - remember Cyber Monday!
It's easy to get swept up in the hype of Black Friday, but remember it's not the last sale day before Christmas. The whole weekend, Cyber Monday and even a few days afterwards will all be part of the event. So if you're after something gadgety, you might be better off waiting.
There's always the January sales, too. If you're buying something for yourself, this could be a better bet, as it means hefty discounts once the madness of the Christmas sales is over.