If you decided to spend the day after Thanksgiving (better known as Black Friday) as far away from the mall as possible, Cyber Monday is a welcome invite to scoop up the best holiday bargains without leaving your seat. The term was coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 and has a built growing following: With more than $1 billion in online sales, Cyber Monday 2010 was the largest online retail day, according to online retail-tracking firm ComScore.

All-day shopping event

The trend of Cyber Monday shoppers making purchases on their lunch hour has transitioned to browsing and buying before work, “or staying up until midnight or 1 a.m. doing their shopping,” says Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation.

“Cyber Monday for consumers and retailers is a little like drinking out of a fire hose: There are so many deals from so many different Web sites, and there isn’t a lot of lead time,” Davis says.

To find more variety and not be overwhelmed, use online aggregation sites such as DealNews, which has a Cyber Monday page, and check out CyberMonday.com, a subsidiary of the NRF’s Shop.org, which will have a deal of the hour — good for only one hour — all day, Davis says.

Tips from a pro

Kathryn Finney, founder and author of the Budget Fashionista Web site, shares tips for getting your Cyber Monday in gear:

Make a list and stick to it: The abundance of deals might keep you clicking, but to avoid cart shock when you check out, “be very clear about what it is that you’re purchasing. . . . Actually have a list [so that] you don’t go overboard,” Finney says. Be on the lookout for free shipping for totals over certain amounts, she advises.

Prepare for previews: Check sites such as Finney’s and Retail Me Not, which will have Cyber Monday previews and coupons.

Check for coupons: “I never buy anything from any site without checking for a coupon code first,” Finney says. Google the name of the store and add the word “coupon” to your search.

There’s an app for that: There’s a DealNews app, as well as an app called CyberMonday Deals 2011, from CheapDeals101.com. The apps aggregate sales, which is perfect for one-tap shopping.

Daily-deal sites

While most of us relegate daily-deal sites as places to save money on everyday services or fun excursions, the heavily discounted offers can also serve as great gifts, such as a restaurant deal or a spa day for a co-worker, or a weekend getaway for two.

Limor Elkayam, founder of daily-deal aggregator Dealery, says her site will add a tab for Cyber Monday from which users can find online coupons and product deals for that site and other online shopping spots.

“It’s not necessarily in the core of what Dealery is, but our users like to find deals,” she says of the decision to spotlight the Monday after Thanksgiving.

If users go the daily-deal route, Elkayam recommends that they buy a deal as soon as it catches their eye, “especially with some deals that you know someone would like.” She also advises double-checking expiration dates and scanning fine print for blackout days.

THE BOTTOM LINE Get online early. Bookmark daily-deal aggregators to find goods, services, restaurants and even vacations. Arm yourself with a reliable Internet connection and a cup of coffee, and your purchases will be made before you can say, “Seasons greetings.”


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