This business expert gave us her best Cyber Monday tips (including how not to get scammed)

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Americans will spend more than $720 billions on presents during the 2019 holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. And they’ll be doing a large share of that spending this weekend – during Black Friday and its online component Cyber Monday.

Those two mega-shopping days have become so big that they’re all about strategy while you plot out a way to get the best bargains. And they’ve also become about watching your back, should you get duped by dubious retailers peddling subpar deals.

Ladders spoke to Cheryl Casone, the co-host of FBN: am on Fox Business, who gave the rundown on what’s up and what’s down during these two days of sales, common traps to watch out for – and most importantly, when to buy on Friday and when to wait until Monday.

The consumer has more power this year, Casone said, because it’s a shorter shopping season this year. Thanksgiving is late in November, making Cyber Monday even later.

“If you are on a listserv through a retailer, whether it’s Express or Splendid, you probably noticed they’ve already started emailing you very early,” Cason said. “The reason is is because they’re really worried about this year [because of the shortened shopping season].”

This year’s deals

Where to find the deals this year: where you’ve been finding them the last few years: electronics – especially on Cyber Monday.”I’m waiting to buy my Apple TV on Monday,” Casone said. “I don’t actually even think it’s going to go on sale, but I’m just going to wait just in case.” The hot categories are electronics and TVs, she said.

Also look for bargains on toys, especially given the shorter holiday shopping schedule. “All those retailers are stocked up on toys,” Casone said. “They’re already getting nervous. I would expect some really good deals on toys.” She added that another hot category would be home goods – blankets, pillows, throws, and the like.

Before they bust down the doors of their closest Wal-Mart for that new 60-inch or Frozen doll, Casone urged shoppers to be strategic, and she shared with Ladders a few notes from her own crib sheet for tackling the two most important shopping days of the year.

Tip #1: Wait ’til Cyber Monday to do your serious shopping

The good deals come to those to wait, Casone said. Waiting is the better idea “because that’s where the really great deals are because that’s the traditional Cyber Monday. That’s the one that’s the most mass-marketed. Don’t worry about waiting. Be patient.”

Tip #2: Make a list of what you want and stick to it

“You want to make a list and really know what you absolutely need,” said Casone. “Have a list of who you want to buy for if there are things that you need for yourself. Write that all down.” Otherwise, you can end up wheeling who-knows-what out of the store in your cart, another victim of Black Friday madness. Therefore, Casone advised, “Try to stick to it as best you can.”

Tip #3: Make a budget

It seems obvious, but some people go starry-eyed in the face of one good deal after the other – and you’re not really saving money on doorbuster deals if you end up spending three times what you planned on. “Have an idea about your budget,” Casone said. “You want to keep that budget.”

Tip #4: Ask questions

Like, ‘Is this returnable?’ “Definitely check before you check out,” Casone said. “Final sale means you’re not sending this back to us. That especially pertains to clothes.”

Tip #5: Watch out for pitfalls and traps

There are newly emerging traps to watch out for as you try to claim your deal, Casone said. Here are some she says she’s seeing the most.

  • The first one she’s seeing is that if the sale price comes with conditions. “I’m seeing it’s more on phones,” she said. “They say, okay, you can only get this deal if you download our app. I don’t like that. I don’t like that… Unless it’s a trusted app, like Saks Fifth Avenue, I don’t like that plan.”
  • Another shenanigan involves the customer being denied the sale price unless they sign up with a credit card with that retailer first. “I don’t like that either because those interest rates interest rates are so high,” said Cason. “They’re 18, 19, 20%. I tell people never get a [store card, like a] Saks card or a Nordstrom’s card or a Target card.”

Casone’s final advice: “I think the biggest thing is just to watch out for scams,” she said. “I hate to say that, but it’s just gotten so bad out there.” Her final bits of advice involved Cyber Monday – “Cybercriminals, they love Cyber Monday.”

  • She advised that people do their shopping from a safe computer; “I wouldn’t do Cyber Monday shopping with your credit card from a public computer.”
  • Casone recommended that people type in the URL right to the retail site; don’t go through Google. “If you can, try to go to the actual retail site because search engines… sometimes those links can be changed. Look at the website URL on top.”
  • “Then just keep an eye on your credit card statement” a few weeks or more after Cyber Monday to make sure everything’s OK and every charge on there is your own. “That’s just a normal, great, rule to have,” she said.

Don’t forget the small, good things

If you have a tiny website or an independent brand you follow, don’t forget them on Cyber Monday. Chances are they’re running sales too. Even small, niche websites will be getting in on the game for Cyber Monday. Nobody wants to be left out. “I think anybody that’s got a website is going to try to get in on Cyber Monday,” said Casone.

And she was right: as early as Wednesday, handmade crafts site Etsy was already featured discounting items from many of their users.

Now that you know before you go, happy shopping!