Cyber Monday is almost here, with this year's shopping event coming Dec. 2. Naturally, you're concerned about finding the best deals on the things you want, but that's not all you should be paying attention to. You also have to think about security, your budget, and what you'll do if you don't like your purchases. Before you submit your order, take a breath and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is this website safe?
You shouldn't have to worry about security if you're shopping on well-established websites you've used before. But if you found an awesome deal on an obscure website, you should be careful before you hand over your credit card information. If it's a scam, you could be putting yourself at risk of identity theft, and that could create headaches later.
Verify that the website is secure by looking for "https" in the URL. You might also see a little lock icon near the URL bar that indicates that any information you enter on the site is encrypted so hackers cannot steal it. Consider doing a quick internet search of the store as well to see if other customers have reported issues with it. If a site does not encrypt your information or you're unsure of its legitimacy, avoid it and shop elsewhere.
2. What am I here for?
You'll save yourself time and reduce your risk of missing out on the things you want by going into Cyber Monday with a plan of attack. Make a list of the products you want and the stores you plan to shop at. Start with the most important items first. Stores only have a limited supply of goods, and if you delay too long, what you want might be sold out.
Some stores publish information on Cyber Monday deals before the day arrives, so you might be able to start crafting your shopping plan in advance. If you're helping out friends or relatives with their own holiday shopping needs, don't forget to prioritize their gifts, too.
3. Is this available cheaper elsewhere?
Some items are available on multiple sites, and retailers can charge slightly different prices for the same thing. If stores announce their Cyber Monday sales in advance, you might be able to figure out which one offers the best price. Check their social media pages or sign up for their email lists to see what they're offering. If you can't find any information on a store's sales in advance, you'll have to do some calculations before you check out. Don't forget to pay attention to shipping costs if the store doesn't offer free shipping.
It's easiest to compare prices from two online stores, but don't overlook brick-and-mortar stores. Some still offer great sales through Cyber Monday, and they might actually have the better deal if the online store you're considering charges you for shipping.
4. Is this within my budget?
Don't get so caught up in the frenzy of limited-time offers that you overlook your budget. Charge too much to your credit card and you could rack up debt that haunts you for months afterward. No shopping deal is worth that.
Decide how much you plan to spend on each person on your list and stick to that budget. Don't forget about taxes and shipping when calculating the full cost of an item. Try to avoid buying things for yourself or assign yourself a spending limit, just as you would for anyone else on your list. If you find an item you want that's beyond your budget, see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere. You could also suggest it to others who are looking for gift ideas for you.
5. What are the return and exchange policies?
When shopping online, there's always the risk that you won't like something you bought. Usually, this isn't a problem because you can return it or exchange it. But some stores have different return and exchange policies for items on sale, and some may not allow returns or exchanges at all.
Check the company's return policy before you buy. It should be listed on its website, but if you can't find it, contact the company directly. Weigh its return or exchange policy against the cost when deciding which store offers the best deal. If a company charges a slightly higher price but allows returns, it might still be a better choice than a company with a lower price that doesn't allow returns or exchanges.
Have fun on Cyber Monday, but don't forget the five questions listed above. You might be able to do some of this research in advance to save yourself time. Then, you can just focus on the deals when the day arrives.