Start your engines, shoppers, because the frenzy of Cyber Monday is just ahead.
In 2018, Cyber Monday sales exceeded $7.9 billion, making it the biggest online shopping day of all time in the U.S. Consumers snapped up game consoles, LG TVs, drones, laptops, toys, and Amazon Echo devices in record numbers.
Market research group eMarketer predicts Cyber Monday sales will break records again in 2019 -- potentially topping $10 billion. To get your piece of the action, you could set your alarm and have your phone ready to score some early morning deals. But that quick jump off the starting line may not help you avoid the potholes ahead.
Make the most of Cyber Monday 2019 by steering clear of these seven huge holiday shopping mistakes.
1. Shopping without a list
This is never a good idea, but it's especially problematic on Cyber Monday. You'll be inundated with emails, web ads, and social media posts about the amazing discounts of the day. Online retailers will throw their most aggressive messaging at you -- hoping you'll be swayed by extreme discounts and "can't miss" deals. All that enthusiasm makes it very easy to make unnecessary purchases.
Create a list of items you need or people who'll get gifts from you. Set a budget. Every time you tap "Place Order," check off the corresponding items or people from your list.
2. Not researching pre-sale prices
It's a Cyber Monday blowout! Everything is 75% off! Really, though? You can't trust a percentage-off claim unless you know roughly what that item normally costs. Research nonsale prices for the specific items on your list ahead of time. For items you run across as potential gift ideas, do a quick internet search to compare prices.
3. Ignoring your time zone
Pay attention to the hours of the sale, including the time zone. If you're on the West Coast and the Cyber Monday sale ends at midnight EST, you only have until 9 p.m. in your time zone to access those deals.
4. Not checking return policies
Even if you make a list and do the pricing research, you still may end up with something you'd like to return. Cyber Monday return policies might be the same as the retailer's year-round policy -- but then again, they might not. Double-check return policies before you buy unless you're prepared to offload those unwanted purchases on eBay.
5. Paying for shipping
Cyber Monday has its competition, namely Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Shop for Good Sunday, and Giving Tuesday. Oh, and there are also the sales that'll pop up in the second half of December. All of that means you shouldn't have to pay for shipping. This shopping day is about bolstering sales for online retailers, and they do that best by offering free shipping in addition to discounts. If one online store doesn't offer it, look to another.
6. Not getting cash back
Since you're spending more, you should save more, too. Make this happen by using a cash-back credit card for your Cyber Monday shopping. The best credit cards will have no annual fee and will pay you 1% to 2% back on your purchases. It's basically free money if you pay off the balance right away.
You can earn even more by using the Rakuten Cash Back Button, a browser extension. Rakuten, formerly Ebates, earns a commission for referring shoppers to certain retailers. In turn, Rakuten gives you a piece of that commission as cash back. Install the browser extension and you'll get notified when you're shopping a site that offers a Rakuten rebate. The extension also tells you if another site in Rakuten's network has the same product for a lower price. You can also search Rakuten's website for stores, coupons, and even specific products.
7. Getting duped by scammers
It's one thing to pay too much for a game console, but it's quite another to have your identity stolen. Sadly, Cyber Monday is a great opportunity for scammers. When you're on the hunt for the best deals, scammers know how to get your attention. Click on the wrong link, and you could download malicious software without even knowing it. Once that software is on your device, the bad guys can start collecting your personal information and passwords.
Be wary of emails and social media posts promoting unbelievable deals on well-known products. Deals like an iPad for $50 or a $100 Target gift card for $10 sound too good to be true because they are. Don't click on pop-up ads. And always use a credit card for your online shopping -- it offers more protection than a debit card.
Shop with purpose to save
Head too fast into Cyber Monday and you could just crash and burn. But take a more methodical approach and you'll increase your chances of saving money and your sanity, too.