Today is Cyber Monday, the day following Black Friday weekend, when people turn from brick-and-mortar stores to the Internet for good holiday deals. Whether you're scouring the web for discounts right now, or you're planning to surf for low prices over the next few days, we've got a few tips to help you navigate the maze of online shopping.For those who hate to deal with holiday crowds, online shopping is an attractive alternative. From your computer, you can collect a lot of information in a short amount of time, compare prices, and read product reviews at a glance. You also have to watch for scams, calculate shipping times, double check return policies, and keep an eye out for added fees.
- Stick to reputable stores. If you haven't used or heard of a store before, verify their contact information and make sure they have a direct phone number with a real person at the other end of the line who you can call in case of problems. For online store reviews from Apartment Therapy, click here.
- Keep a budget and stick to it. It can be tempting to overbuy online when a purchase can take place in seconds. Keep close track of what you've spent to avoid overdoing it.
- Check return policies, return timelines, shipping costs, and find out what fees you'll have pay if you end up sending an item back.
- Check the retailer's shipping timelines to make sure your gift will be delivered in time. The US Post Office also lists holiday deadlines for shipping on their site.
- Consider buying vintage online. It's greener and often cheaper than buying new, and sites like eBay and Etsy have a wide selection of vintage goods.
- Keep an eye out for online sales. We post many of them to our Sales Calendar, and sites like ShopStyle and ZingSale allow you to search for products by sale price.
- Look for discounts online by googling the store along with search terms such as "promotion code," "coupon," and "free shipping code."
- Check the clearance rack. Like brick-and-mortar stores, most online shops have clearance sections with significant markdowns.
- When shopping for electronics, you can often get better deals by buying refurbished. Stores such as Apple and Target feature refurbished sections on their sites.
- Do you have other tips for online holiday shoppers? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: Nicole and Brandon's Oak Park Bungalow
Re-edited from a post originally published 12.08.08.