[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwTZDCXErUg]Black Friday is behind us and we are now faced with the deals and bargains of Cyber Monday. Similar to Black Friday in many ways, Cyber Monday is a chance to knock out some, if not all, of your holiday shopping list at a fraction of the cost.

But there are some basic principles of gift buying that apply especially during times of deep discounts. First, it is critical to do some background research on an item before purchasing it. Is it brand new? Is it last year’s model? These things matter, as they ultimately determine if you are really getting a deal after all.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with finding a deal on an older model item. If it is new or in good working condition, and you don’t need the latest and greatest features, a good price on an older model item can still be a steal. Just make sure you know what you are getting before you make the decision.

However, on the flip side, some of the current, cutting-edge gadgets that have just recently been released are also being sold at deep discounts. Sounds great, right? In many cases it is, but beware of newer items that have gotten less than favorable reviews, or have known problems right out of the box. Retailers may be discounting these items just to move inventory. Again, do your research.

If you are one of the many who like to deal hunt on Amazon, take advantage of the site camelcamelcamel.com. It tracks price history of all items sold by Amazon, letting you know where the currently offered price stands in comparison to the average selling price. A deal isn’t a deal if it is a discount off an inflated price. This site will help you spot the difference.

Also, take a deep look at bundled items before you make a purchase. Often a bundle represents a significant discount, but other times the bundled items cost just as much together as if you purchased them separately. Even worse, bundles often times don’t include discounts that may be offered on individual items if purchased on their own. Again, there is no hard and fast rule for bundle pricing, but either way it pays to do your homework.

Finally, beware of off-brand gadgets. Sure, the prices are great, but you often get what you pay for. Make sure you read product reviews and talk to friends and family to see if someone already owns an item before you make a purchase. You don’t always have to buy top of the line, but buying from the bottom can sometimes leave you disappointed if you don’t pay attention.

Bottom line, do your homework every time you shop. Retailers offer great deals, but they don’t always make everything clear up front. Being an educated consumer is the best defense against getting ripped off. Take advantage of bargains you see, be thorough with your research, and watch the savings add up!