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Black Friday Ain’t Got Nothing On CYBER MONDAY

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In 2010, Cyber Monday was the most popular online shopping day of the year, and this year it’s predicted that sales will reach $1.2 billion, as eager shoppers take advantage of steals and deals offered by various online retailers.

TIPS FOR SCORING THE BEST DEALS:

Best Overall: Amazon and Zappos

Amazon really pioneered online-only shopping and they continue to do so. We connected with the company and they’ll have a range of offers throughout the day along with “Lightning Deals.” They show you the percentage off, which is a nice way to really get your head around how good a deal something is. Amazon Prime makes checking out incredibly fast, because you’ll have a one-click buying option and free shipping on most items. Once people join Amazon Prime, Amazon tends to become their shopping default, meaning they’ll check there before trying anywhere else.

You’ve got to hand it to Zappos. They offer free shipping both ways 365 days a year. I’ve never had an issue with them, and that includes returning several big boot boxes this fall. I should point out, they’re known for shoes, but they now sell apparel, too, and offer free two-way shipping offer holds.

Best Electronics: Walmart and Best Buy

Walmart’s whole mantra is “everyday low prices” and that holds true online. This year they’re reporting they’ll have 250 online-only Cyber Week specials. Walmart.com actually has tons of items you won’t find in their stores.

Best Buy is pulling out all the stops online this year. Their stores are known for having really helpful guys and girls in blue shirts to answer all your tech questions, and this year online, the site is pretty well organized to give gift giving suggestions. Electronics is such a hot category, so it’s an area where people really do want to know what’s hot for men, women, teens and kids. They’ve even got a tech gifts section for sports fans – win-win.

Best Jewelry Deal: LivingSocial and Blue Nile
Living Social and Groupon are known for providing local deals. Watch for Living Social to really break out with some national deals. For instance, it’s already been announced that BlueNile – the online jeweler – will be partnering with Living Social to offer $200 worth of merchandise for $100. So, right off the bat, you’d DOUBLE your buying power if you go this route. Then, using the $200 voucher on Blue Nile means you’ll get more bling – and we’re talking the real thing – for your buck. This is a Cyber Monday power move!

Best Creative Gift: GetMaineLobster and Restoration Hardware

What’s the point of having millions of items to select from online, if you don’t get a little creative. This idea will really get the recipients attention! You can deliver live lobsters or give a gift certificate to order live lobsters – and to be clear – they arrive moving in the box. The only issue is you need to be sure the recipient is around to receive the order and that the dog – having learned from experience – doesn’t discover the package first. I like the idea of giving this gift and then enjoying it on New Year’s. If you order on Cyber Monday, they’re offering 40 percent off their Surf & Turf special. Good stuff.

Every year the Restoration Hardware stocking stuffers get better and better. They’re not always cheap, but they’re really unique – and there are hundreds of them – everything from Slinkys to survival kits in sardine cans.

Best Free Gift Wrapping: Neiman Marcus

This is one of the best-kept secrets, especially if there’s someone on your list you’re trying to impress – a boss or an in-law perhaps – you can order an item on NeimanMarcus.com and they’ll gift wrap it for free. They don’t even offer that in the store. And, trust me, the gift will look like a million bucks. So, if you purchase an ornament that’s $25, by the time Neiman’s does their thing and it arrives, it’ll look like the Royal Family sent it.

CYBER MONDAY PLANNING TIPS:

1. Be ready to move fast!

One of the things people get burned on is not understanding that it’s not enough to have an item in your virtual shopping cart. Usually it’s not yours until you actually complete the checkout process. In the case of “flash” or “lightning sales” – a limited quantity of a certain item being offered for a limited time at a certain price – minutes can matter. Amazon even has a ticker to show you how much time left you have to make final decision before you let go of the item. Here’s what you can do to get ready: Consider registering with your favorite online shopping sites if you haven’t already, because it makes the checkout process a lot quicker. Amazon even has one-click buying – it doesn’t get faster than that. Of course, keep in mind, the whole “flash” concept is designed to create a sense of urgency. I am not suggesting you fall for that, but if you need a certain size in a particularly popular color and you find it at a price you like, hustle. Some of the best deals can go in a matter of minutes.

2. Pick your currency!

Not to ruin it for everyone, but even though online shopping feels like “magic” sometimes, there’s no “magical” way to pay for the items. So, think ahead to what “currency” you want to use. You may have airline points or rewards points that can be used to increase your shopping budget or offset the cost. If you go this route, consider buying gift cards for yourself and then using them to shop, as the redemption rate is better — sometimes twice as good — as it is if you buy merchandise directly using points. Another power move that’s even more popular this year is to make sure you’re using a card that’s earning cash-back rewards. In the case of Bank of America’s BankAmericard, you can actually have the cash back deposited directly into your checking or savings account, so there’s no change in behavior — just shop as you normally would and then when you go to pay your bills, the cash-back you’ve earned will be there to draw on.

3. Know the code!

Coupon codes use to have an element of “secrecy.” Now, they’re widely available and can mean up to 15 to 40 percent off your entire purchase or be the difference between getting free shipping or not. Sometimes you have to seek them out. If you also get catalogs in the mail, check the catalog inserts for codes. Here’s an insider tip: If you are not usually a real bargain bee or have not insisted on free shipping in the past, don’t expect your catalog to be sprinkled with stickers offering the very best incentives. Offers are based on your shopping behavior to date and the incentives are calibrated accordingly. You can call the retailer or email their customer service to check if you have the “best” available code. Bottom line: If there is a box for a “promo code” as part of the checkout process that means it exists.

Many sites gather coupon codes or by googling the “name of retailer + coupon code.” Some sources are RetailMeNot, CouponSherpa, CouponMountain, FatWallet, BradsDeals. There have been some scams in this arena. Remember: you should never have to pay for coupon codes.

It’s also smart to sign up for email newsletters from your favorite retailers or “follow” them on Twitter and “friend” them on Facebook. Sometimes they’ll reveal coupon codes there and you may have first-mover advantage on special offers revealed on the fly. You can always unsubscribe after the holidays.

Original by:

– Regina Lewis, CBS News contributor

Read more: Cyber Monday Shopping

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