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Sleep In and Save on Cyber Monday

We're previewing the holiday shopping season with a series of articles on how to make the most of Cyber Monday -- online retail's answer to the day after Thanksgiving.

Afraid you'll miss all of those door-buster deals the day after Thanksgiving? Don't sweat it: Go ahead and give in to the tryptophan-induced turkey slumber, for Black Friday is no longer the only game in town.

Retailers have extended the pre-Christmas retail-palooza this year to Monday, Nov. 26, in what the National Retail Federation has dubbed "Cyber Monday." (Last year was the first one.) Thanks to the NRF, you now have an official excuse to spend your first day back at the office blowing off work and surfing the Net for bargain gifts! (So far, there's no confirmation from the National Cranky Boss Association about declaring Saturday, Dec. 1, "Get Your Keister Into the Office to Catch Up On Work Day.")

At the official "Cyber Monday" site (from the organization's Shop.org arm), consumers can find online specials from more than 500 retailers. Recent deals have included free shipping at Circuit City (NYSE: CC  ) , Wal-Mart, Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , and Sears Holdings' (Nasdaq: SHLD  ) Sears stores. You'll also find limited-time offers, such as a $79 refurbished iPod nano from the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Store, 40% off outerwear at Old Navy, and 25% off Martha Stewart wreaths and garlands at Kmart.com. (Cybermonday.com's special offers page will be updated all throughout the holiday season.)

While many of these same deals can be found elsewhere, the NRF hopes that online bargain hunters will stick around on the Cyber Monday site to make a purchase, especially since this year, a percentage of the proceeds that the specialty Web mall takes in will benefit the Ray M. Greenly Scholarship Fund -- which, in keeping with the theme, provides scholarships to students pursuing an education in e-commerce.

No matter where you do your heartfelt panic shopping, however, don't fall in love at first click. To make absolutely sure you're getting the best deal, follow our tips.

Door-buster deals from the comfort of your recliner
No need to wait for the sales circulars to see what your favorite retailer has in store for the post-Thanksgiving sales splash. Rabid bargain fans have already started posting top holiday deals.

However, a true shopping pro not only scores serious bargains, but also does it with the fewest number of clicks. So here's a crash course in online shopping to get you in tip-top shape for the holidays.

1. Check out comparison-shopping tools: Sites such as Coolsavings.com, Google Product Search, Shopzilla.com, and Streetprices.com, plus Dealnews.com's companion sites, offer tools to compare prices.

2. Re-sort and revisit: Some comparison websites deliver results skewed by ad dollars -- with the stores paying for placement getting top billing or activated links to their storefront. Try loading results based on price, location, rating, or other criteria to get a true view of the shopping landscape.

3. Fill in the blanks: To capture results from retailers that may not be included in comparison sites and check on the latest promotions, type in the URL of stores directly to see whether their latest promotions are worthwhile.

4. Erase your electronic footprints: Delete all cookies from your browser and search again another day. You want to make sure you're getting as good a price on an item as a first-time visitor to the website is. Some e-tailers serve up your old, cached search results (and old prices) if you've browsed there before.

5. Compare clicks and mortar: Does your favorite store have an online shop? Sign up for its newsletter and get advance notice of sales and subscriber-only coupons. And also compare online and offline prices -- they aren't always identical.

6. Crack the code: If you shop online, don't lose out by leaving the "enter promotional code here" box blank. Get the scoop on possible savings at sites such as Currentcodes.com and CouponCabin.com. Also try typing in the retailer's name and "coupon code" in your search engine.

To hone your holiday shopping strategy even more, check out the rest of our Cyber Monday series (see the link at the top), and also take a look at these articles:


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