The Best Tips and Tricks for Conquering Cyber Monday

With some research and advance planning, you can cover your whole gift list without getting out of your PJs

It’s Monday after Thanksgiving. You survived the holiday weekend and you kept your sanity by opting out of the Black Friday shopping mania. You’ve decided Cyber Monday -- as the big online sale day is known -- is right for you. And it sounds so civilized in comparison, doesn’t it?

Well it certainly can be -- if you know what you’re doing.

As a first step, take some time to filter your inbox effectively. At this time of year, our email is cluttered with so many special offers that it’s hard to keep track of what’s valuable both in terms of gift ideas and discounts. To help you stay on top of it are resources like Spreadsave.com, a new social shopping website that aims to aggregate the best online deals in one place -- and it pays you cash back on every purchase to boot. If you want to be sure you’re getting the best price on something, give search engines like pricegrabber.com or shopstyle.com a try.

Another tip: Make the most of the big shopping day by buying in bulk, says Recessionista.com founder Nicole Lapin. Many online retailers offer discounts for quantities of items, and the discounts often get deeper the more you add. Take care of several people on your list at once, Lapin says, by scooping up gift cards, fun finds like hats and mittens, or technology accessories.

After all the hard work of scoring the best deals online, don’t forget to mind the details that make your presents perfect. For instance, make sure you write an electronic note so your recipient knows who sent the gift. And take advantage of bonuses like free samples some retailers may even throw in at checkout.

So what’s hot for shoppers this Cyber Monday? Nearly six in 10 will splurge on fashion and apparel items and other accessories, and about the same number will buy gift cards -- which are also the most requested gift item, according to the just-released National Retail Federation’s holiday consumer spending survey Close to half say they will buy toys, and nearly a quarter plan to splurge on jewelry -- the highest number since 2007.

Other popular gifts will be books, CDs, DVDs, video games, electronics, beauty items, and food and candy.

And wouldn’t you know? Those who plan to shop for bargains on Cyber Monday also say they find their gift inspiration online as well. They’ll research product specs and ads, yes -- but more than 13 percent will also head to Facebook for gift ideas and nearly 6 percent will look to Pinterest, according to the study.

To find out what kinds of discounts major retailers are offering, do your homework at CyberMonday.com, CyberMondayDeals.com or CyberMonday2012.com.

But you may have to wait until Saturday to determine exactly what deals will be offered by your favorite retailers on Monday: Many hold out releasing that news to avoid competing with their own Black Friday sales.

“Our database of retail emails shows us that retailers are holding off on releasing Cyber Monday promotions until after shoppers have done their Black Friday shopping,” says MaryAnn Bekkedahl, president of the deal-finding service and email organizer theSwizzle.com. “Often the online deals are similar in product focus and value as the Friday deals, but with the added twist relevant to online shopping, namely free shipping. Consumers should stay in touch with their favorite brands with as much frequency as possible in order to benefit from the holiday's special offers."

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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