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Where Did Cyber Monday Come From?

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If the origins of Black Friday are just a little murky, the beginnings of its electronic sibling, Cyber Monday, are crystal-clear: The National Retail Foundation dreamed it up and promoted it. The term was first used in a 2005 press release from shop.org (a division of the National Retail Foundation) that said “Cyber Monday” was becoming one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It was already big shopping day, but the name seemed to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The assumption and hope of marketers was that people had only begun their holiday shopping on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Then on Monday, when they returned to work instead of stores, they could still shop, right from their cubicles. (Or maybe they were thinking people would shop online after work on Monday — yes, that must be it. (Bosses frown on this, and people have been fired for it, so after work on Monday really is the better idea.) According to ComScore, about half of online shopping that day is done from work, but most of the remainder of sales are made from home computers. Also, more of us are shopping with mobile devices.

Now there is even a cybermonday.com from shop.org. The day has been embraced by online retailers, and most years, Cyber Monday has grown by double digits over the previous year. The exception was 2009, when many U.S. consumers were struggling economically. In 2010, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day ever, according to comScore (that has since been eclipsed), and that same year cracked $1 billion in sales. Last year, it passed $2 billion, according to Adobe Digital Index.

It may be riding its own momentum, with the name giving online retailers a certain date to fix on for timing sales, offering free or reduced-price shipping and the like. And shopping with a mouse, near your list of which gifts have been bought and which ones you’re still looking for, can make sense.

In fact, if you’ve done some of your holiday shopping, this can be a good time to take inventory of what you already have — and who you need to stop shopping for — what you still need to buy, and how much you are spending. It’s easy and tempting to turn a blind eye to your splurge and continue to add to your already-large credit card balance. But vigilance can make for a happier new year as well as it can help you spot potential fraud, which is not uncommon during the holidays. Identity theft experts recommend monitoring your accounts regularly anyway, and now’s a great time to get into the habit. Double-check to be sure you’ve set mobile alerts and that you are notified of any “card not present” transactions — you want to be sure you’re the only one using your card to shop online. Checking your credit scores can also be helpful at this time to keep you aware of your standing and any changes — you can see your scores for free on Credit.com.

While you’re at it, be sure you’re making the most of Cyber Monday by taking full advantage of any price guarantees, extended warranties on purchases and similar perks and protections afforded by the credit cards you have.

Just stick with a plan, and definitely try to ignore the special one-hour “flash sales” for items that weren’t on your list but are such screaming deals that… well, you know someone would appreciate. Don’t do it. Stick to your plan. You’ll be glad you did.

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