Desktop Dollars: Be Smart on Cyber Monday

By Rori Harrington | @RoriStories

Perhaps one of the few redeeming results of a down economy is the competition among businesses for customers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers have long known the sweet taste of The Deal. Retailers often open stories in the wee hours, creating a sense of urgency and competition among shoppers looking for deep discounts for holiday gifts.

Social media’s influence on shoppers is growing with companies like Groupon and LivingSocial gaining popularity. Perhaps the prevalence of smart phones and an increasingly impatient consumer is to blame (or to thank, depending on your viewpoint) for a number of retailers and online shops jumping the Black Friday/Cyber Monday gun this year.

For example, Toys “R” Us opened at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night. That’s right. Post turkey dinner naps will probably be necessary to get the hottest deals this year. Best Buy opened at 5 a.m. and handed out tickets as early as 3 a.m., according to U.S. News and World Report.

Those who would rather shop in their pajamas from the warmth of home have several options. Many websites will update for Black Friday as early as 1 a.m. Of course, other may be busy with family and travel in the days following Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Cyber Monday shoppers are -those who shall remain nameless– employees who spend the workday following Thanksgiving grabbing online deals.

There are plenty of deals available for those who can’t wait for Cyber Monday. Groupon has a special holiday shop, Grouponicus, offering at least 50 percent discounts on deals such as two-hour recording sessions, spa treatments, hotel stays and more. Some websites such as gottadeal.com provide leaked deal information.

According to PriceGrabber, 36 percent of consumers will use their cell phones for holiday shopping this year. There are plenty of apps to do the trick. Free apps such as Snaptell and RedLaser, allow users to take photos of products or scan barcodes to compare prices from various stores. ShopKick, another free app, rewards users for checking into stores and offers incredible deals.

A few items the Black Friday shopper should remember to be successful: - Stay informed. Keep that smart phone handy and charged. - Follow favorite brands & stores on Twitter to get new sale scoop directly from the source. - Remember to eat breakfast.  Don't let the power shopping effect your mental game. - If you commute to work, don’t tempt would-be thieves by leaving exposed purchases in a vehicle parked in a parking garage; Hide them in a trunk or cover them with the blanket. - You may not be the Man in a Big Red Suit but make a list. Check it twice.