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Cyber Monday: Are you really saving?

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Posted at 10:25 AM, Dec 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-01 11:05:42-05

The holiday shopping season is stressful. For some, they struggle with what to get the significant other in their lives or whether they need to buy something for the mailman or their boss.

On top of this, there is pressure to save money and get the best deals on everything on your shopping list so that you don’t blow your budget and end up with a big credit card balance come January.

Retailers know this, and over the next few weeks they will be looking to lure you into their stores and onto their websites with deals on the holiday’s most popular gifts. Of course, once you’re there, their strategy is to capitalize on the stress of gift giving and convince you to buy other items that are regularly priced. But there’s a way to take advantage of Cyber Monday and not get taken in.

While Black Friday has traditionally been the kick-off to the holiday shopping season, people who want to beat the crowds but still get good deals have turned to Cyber Monday to start their shopping. In fact, according to Adobe Systems, last year Cyber Monday sales surged 16 percent to around $2.29 billion.

This year, Cyber Monday is expected to bring in around $2.6 billion. 

But before you take out your credit card today, make sure that what you’re buying is actually one of those great deals. While traditionally people have thought that one of the benefits of shopping on Cyber Monday was that online retailers would have more stock and be less likely to run out of the items with the deepest discounts, that’s not always the case.

In fact, many of the best sales this year are on items that the retailers themselves have said they have in limited quantities. These doorbusters are used strategically to get people onto their sites. Once they’re sold out, they will offer other deals on similar products but these savings won’t be nearly as good.

It’s important to do your research before you buy a similar product with discounts that aren’t as steep. You need to know what the price is elsewhere before you purchase to make sure that you’re really saving money.

You also need to make sure that the quality of the product is good. For example, if a store advertises deals on exclusive TVs that no one else is selling — even though they might be brand names — make sure to check the specifications to ensure that they’re still good quality.

Also, check to make sure that any discounts offered are actually as good as they claim. Many online sites list exaggerated regular prices that make it seem like you’re getting a deeper discount than you are. By knowing what you would normally pay for a product, you’ll be more likely to quickly know if what’s being offered online is a good deal.

Keep a shopping list and try to only buy items that you were intending to buy, especially if the items you’re tempted to buy are full price. You can always come back and buy it later if you really need it. If you’re tempted to buy a sale item that wasn’t on your list make sure you’re buying it because you need it and not just because it would be nice to have.

By cutting out unnecessary purchases, you’ll save more money and not have to worry about blowing your budget.
In addition, be aware that some products might see steeper discounts in the weeks leading up to the holidays, especially if sales aren’t on track to meet expectations. If stores have ordered too much of a particular product they might discount them even further closer to Christmas to make sure they can get rid of them.

Here are some tips to increase your likelihood of saving money this Cyber Monday.

Find out when the sale starts
If you want to buy something that’s only available in limited quantities, make sure you know when it will be offered and be online promptly at that time to score one of those items. Online sales can be complicated because it can be hard to know precisely when the sale starts but many websites list the time. If they do not, assume that it is 12:01 a.m. EST.

Find more than one deal
If you’re shopping for something very specific, look for more than one retailer who will be offering it on sale. That way, if the retailer offering the lowest price runs out, you can still get a good deal at another site. One of the best things about Cyber Monday is that if you miss out on a great deal at one retailer, you don’t need to get in your car and drive to the next store with a great deal. Keep multiple windows open on your browser so that you can easily switch from one website to another.

Focus on what Cyber Monday does best
Cyber Monday is known for great deals on name-brand TVs, toys, shoes, beauty items, gaming systems, laptops, travel, apparel, kitchen goods and appliances.

Check out the hourly sales
Online retailers know that not everyone can get up at the same time to get a deal so they often create hourly sales that give you an opportunity to get a deal on one particular product. These are generally great deals, so check back often to see what’s offered.

Approaching Cyber Monday and the rest of your holiday shopping with a solid plan can help you stay on budget. Many people end up paying for their holiday shopping well into the next year. It’s best to avoid going into debt if at all possible, but if you can’t then it’s important to have a plan to pay it off as soon as you can.

Debt can cost you plenty over the course of your lifetime because of the credit score implications. Maxing out your credit cards can drop your scores. 

More from Credit.com
* The Lifetime Cost of Debt Calculator 
* 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies 
* Tips for Paying Off Credit Card Debt

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.