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The Monday following Thanksgiving, known as Cyber Monday, has historically been a one-day, online-exclusive sale event. But now, as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday season sales increasingly expand and blend into one another, it's becoming more difficult to resist the constant pressure to shop.
A solid strategy can help you make the most of Cyber Monday without busting your budget. Here's what to do.
Know what's on sale
Cyber Monday (Nov. 28 this year) is a great opportunity to save money if the deals match your shopping. So what's likely to go on sale?
"Retailers have been extremely cautious with supply chain issues, and it looks like they've stocked up quite a bit. So I think if everybody continues to do that, we're going to see large category-level sales," says Jay Klauminzer, CEO of Raise, a discount gift card marketplace.
For example, major retailers may offer steep savings throughout furniture, apparel or other departments. In addition, Klauminzer expects shoppers will see bigger bargains on consumer electronics such as laptops, TVs, phones and headphones, as well as discounts on hotels, cruise lines and other travel bookings.
Check retailer announcements for updates on what will be marked down, and watch for deals early. Some retailers plan to launch cyber sales before Cyber Monday officially lands. For example, Kohl's Cyber Kickoff event starts Saturday, Nov. 26, and Macy's Cyber Monday sale runs from Nov. 27-28.
Use shopping tools to maximize savings
You'll already be online, so why not use a shopping app or browser extension to save time and money? Reputable tools like PayPal Honey, ShopSavvy, Rakuten and Slide can help you compare prices, find coupons and earn cash back on Cyber Monday purchases. Explore multiple tools ahead of Cyber Monday to find the ones you like.
"Comparison shopping is still always going to be your best friend," says Chris Costello, senior director of marketing research at Skai, a marketing platform.
Using a search engine to look up a product is another simple way to scope out the best prices across retailers. But Costello says that shoppers who go this route may also be more likely to encounter advertisements alongside regular product listings. Ads, which are labeled as such and are often featured prominently in search results, can make better deals less visible.
"Yes, you are doing your research, but at the same time the advertisers and the brands are trying to win you over," Costello says.
Understand your budget and your payment options
It's easy to get carried away with holiday spending, especially online shopping. The convenience of paying with credit cards, "buy now, pay later" plans and services like PayPal can put your finances at risk.
Make a list of everything you plan to buy and set a spending limit before shopping. Knowing how much money you have coming in and going out each month will help you identify an amount you can realistically spend without compromising your emergency savings or racking up debt that you can't pay off immediately.
As you plan your budget, think about this: "Do you already have credit card debt? Can you really afford to take on any additional debt?" says Sharita Humphrey, a Houston-based certified financial education instructor. "Asking, 'Where am I financially?' I think that's going to help us to understand how to properly make financial decisions that may impact our credit."
Keep track of your purchases and add up the expenses as you shop. That way, you'll know if you're approaching your spending limit. If you take on debt, compare the cost of different payment methods first. Make sure you're aware of payment deadlines and any interest charges or fees you may face if you cannot pay on time or in full. Losing track of these details could make your purchase significantly more expensive.
"Throwing it on your credit card bill thinking you'll get to it eventually and ending up paying 25% interest over time and it takes you two years to pay it off, that's where consumers start to get into trouble," Klauminzer says.
Resist the urge to buy everything immediately
As short-lived as holiday deals may seem, take comfort that Cyber Monday won't be your last chance to score discounts. Some retailers stretch out Cyber Monday savings into a full Cyber Week. And experts are confident that there will be plenty of deals to go around.
"I don't think that this year will have the same kind of 'snooze you lose' environment that the supply chain issues of last year might have had," Costello says. "You can be more patient because I think we are going to see those deals later into the season."
If you don't find deals on the goods you want now, check again in a few days or weeks.
"Certain categories don't move like retailers thought they would, and they need to clear those before the holidays. And so you'll see, actually, sporadic, big deals pop up throughout the month of December as well," Klauminzer says.
Keep your budget top of mind, whether or not there's a discount at stake. Before adding an item to your virtual shopping bag, ask yourself, “‘Is this something I need right now? Is this something that I can save towards?'” Humphrey says. Then you can decide whether it's in your best interest to delay the purchase by a couple of weeks or months or skip it indefinitely.
It's important to think long term and focus on "not getting caught up in the frenzy so much that we end up feeling financially overwhelmed after the holidays have ended," Humphrey says.