Monday, December 1, 2014

Cyber-Monday Strategies

by Barbara Early

I must confess. I am an ardent online shopper. I understand the importance of supporting small businesses and the local economy, but I am also rather jealous of my time and energy, and since I live in the country about fifteen to twenty minutes drive to the nearest store…well, let’s just say that the man in brown and I have become very well acquainted.

And more Americans than ever are shopping online, so I’ve decided to share a few of my online shopping tips.

1. Get all the deals. For the store shopper, the flyers in the mail or newspaper are a guide to planning their shopping. For the online shopper, these special percent-off and/or free-shipping discounts are often available by email--or at least email will be the easiest way to find out about them. So sign up for those emails. You’ll often get a one-time discount just for giving away your email address. But here’s the problem. Before long you’ll be inundated, so be smart about it. If your email provider allows you to set up files to filter emails into, send all your ads to one folder. It will leave your inbox uncluttered and allow you to see and compare all the deals. Or set up an email account just for this purpose.

2. Be flexible. You’ll have a greater chance of finding those good deals if you haven’t narrowed your shopping down to one item or brand. Does a little one on your list love Frozen? (Who doesn’t?) You have a lot of options, from costumes to comforters to giant stuffed Olafs. So rather than deciding what you want and then go looking for the best price on that one item, keep a person and his or her interests in mind, and then go looking for the best deals. (Actual results may vary, especially when dealing with particular people and finicky kids.)

3. Don’t be misled by exorbitant list prices. Seventy-eight percent off isn’t a good deal if the list price of an item is purposely inflated. One way to tell if something is a good deal is to track it over time, and across several different sellers. For example, I put things in my Amazon wish list, and it tells me if the price is lower than it used to be. (It does not, however, tell me if the price is higher than it used to be.) Or you could keep a spreadsheet on the computer or even in a notebook. But follow the prices over time--and then jump when it gets to what you think is the lowest point. Yes, there’s always the gamble that it could go lower or go up before you buy, but that’s the exciting part. This is the closest I come to day trading or Vegas casinos.

4. Consider all costs and savings when comparing prices. This is where you might actually use that Algebra that you haven’t touched since high school. Say I wanted to buy four towels. Store A has a buy-two-get-two-more-at-half-price sale. I also have a 30 percent off coupon, but I’d have to pay shipping. Amazon has the same towels for a little bit more, but I’d get free shipping with my Amazon Prime. And if I don’t need them right away, I can defer free shipping and get a dollar credit toward an e-book. And hmmm…if I order each towel separately, that’s actually four dollars toward e-books. But if I buy twelve towels… It can get complicated pretty quickly. Or if you don't want to do that math, create a cart at both places and let their computer tell you what the final price will be. Delete one cart and check out the other. Or delete both if you can go a few more months without those new towels, which leads to...

5. You still save the most money by not purchasing an item, so don’t get drawn in by all the “huge savings” that you buy things you don’t need or want.

6. About DVDs and Blu-ray. You might find your best holiday deals this year in this department. Maybe it’s because of all the people streaming movies, but many DVDs and Blu-ray discs (and even players) are way down in price. Again, you can save a lot of money if you’re not too specific. But I bought a number of DVDs for under five dollars each from Amazon this year, and DVD collections and Blu-rays for under ten. (Remember when a decent VHS tape could go for almost thirty bucks?) And whole TV series can be had for less than thirty dollars now. 

The tip here is not to jump too fast. You come across a deal for a movie your whole family loves and
watches every year, and it’s under four dollars. Don’t click ‘buy’ just yet. Read the reviews on the quality of the transfer and the packaging, and the 'extras' if those things are important to you. Don’t click ‘buy’ yet. What is the Blu-ray price? I’ve seen some Blu-ray prices close to the DVD prices, and sometimes even lower! Don’t click ‘buy’ yet. Search for the title. You might find it’s included in collections with other movies you want. Why pay three dollars for one Batman movie when you can get four Batman movies for six bucks? And check for DVD and Blu-ray versions on the collection. It can get complicated, but there are some great deals out there waiting for folks who take that extra effort!

7. About Amazon lightning deals. OK, I’m the queen of the Amazon lightning deal. At least I like to think so. (My tiara is backordered.) My best advice? Only try for items you really want and decide ahead of time how much that item is actually worth to you. (I like that pillow, but I wouldn’t pay more than fifteen dollars for it.) Ignore the percent off numbers and list price. Before the sale comes up, or even after an item is in your cart, check the listing and see what the item is actually selling for. Or compare it to prices elsewhere online. (Work quickly! You have fifteen minutes after putting an item in your cart before you have to be checked out.) Also look for coupons. They’re available on some items, and can be used in conjunction with lightning deals.

Consider if this is really where you want to spend your gift giving money--or household money. It’s always a great place to pick up things you need around the house. But if this isn’t exactly what you want, or it isn’t worth the price, let it go.

Wait, isn’t that a song?

Question: What are your best tips for tackling Cyber Monday or even Black Friday, if you’re one of those? And what is the best deal you’ve found so far?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book and audio format from White Rose Publishing. Barbara also writes as Beverly Allen, and her debut cozy mystery novel, Bloom and Doom, was released in April 2014 from Berkley Prime Crime. You can learn more about her writing at


  1. I am usually finished shopping by early November but I do like your tips for Cyber Monday and may try to do some Cyber Monday shopping next year. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Hi, Terrie. I'm almost done as well, but Cyber Monday is also not bad for ordinary household shopping either. I just clicked on a great deal on new sheets, for example. And I got an online deal on toothpaste on Black Friday that actually made me money. I think I'm addicted.

  2. Great post, Barb. I do a lot of Christmas shopping online, but I'm not super savvy about it, so these are great tips!

    This year, however, I noticed tremendous deals online on Thanksgiving day itself. A retailer with clothes my kids like offered their entire stock at half off all of Thursday and until noon on Friday, plus free shipping. No brainer (I found out about this in an email). Target offered giftcards for 10% off until noon and free shipping so I didn't have to brave the store (read about this in their ad). So while the turkey was in the oven I spent some $$, but I got some nice savings.

    1. You know,Susie, I was thinking something similar. I found better deals online also on Black Friday than I have today.

  3. Good tips, Barb. I have a separate e-mail account for all the "deals". Smartest thing I've ever done. It backs up fast!

    1. I have mine filter into a folder. If I had it to to over again, I'd create a separate account, since they still clutter up the email on my cell phone.

  4. Great ideas! Crowds make me queasy, so I'm a mostly online shopper. Have been for several years now.

    Sadly, I haven't even gotten started for this Christmas.

    Note to self: NEVER schedule two books at once, especially during December. ;)

    1. Since mine comes out in early January, I'm pressing to get done early!

  5. Terrific words of wisdom, Barb! I quit shopping in stores for Christmas years ago for many reasons. My goal now is to figure out how to support small local businesses and still get a decent deal, and avoid the crowds. So far, I have no Christmas shopping done for the year, if that gives you an idea how it's going!

    1. Worthy goals...I do know some people who order from Amazon's third party sellers, thinking that they are small local businesses, local somewhere. :)

  6. Great tips, Barb. What is Amazon's Lightning Deal? I shop on Amazon, but haven't see this before...or else I did without realizing what it was. Hmm...

    Canada is starting to have Black Friday deals to keep the shoppers from heading down to the States for the big event. That means we can shop online and in the stores.

    I have one email for flyers, family and financial and it works great because it's also the one we use for exchanging Christmas lists.

    This year we did a lot of checking for a couple items. At first we were disappointed because one gift was 50% off at one store but you had to stand in line in way below freezing weather in order to get 1 of the 3 allotted to that store. Ferget it! But then we received an email that Best Buy was selling them at the same price online as well as in the store. We went in the next day - Sat - and we got it at the 50% off price and only needed to stand in line behind one person.

  7. I totally prefer on line shopping to battling the crowdo for s parking space and a table in the food court! Great tips, Barb!

  8. I buy almost all my Christmas gifts online, but I've never found any particularly good deals on cyber Monday, so I just buy them anytime in early December.


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