Do You Prefer Online Shopping or Going to a Store?

The way we shop has been changing. More and more people are doing their shopping online and lately, big-box stores have been closing their doors at a rapid rate.

But people are still going to brick-and-mortar stores. Now that I’m no longer working full-time, I thought that shopping at off times would be less crowded, but the stores are still packed with shoppers and the check-out lines are just as long. What’s with that?

For some people, shopping is a hobby or a social event. For others, like me, it’s a chore. Would I be better off doing my shopping in the comfort of my own home? I’m familiar with mail-order shopping from back in the day, and who hasn’t ordered from the Sears catalog? But I still like to shop in an actual store.

Related: Grandparents and Holiday Gifts

Why I prefer to shop in-store

My daughter-in-law phones in her grocery order and her husband (my son) picks it up on his way home from work. With three small children at home, this works out very well for her. But when I’m in the grocery store, I see the picker tossing the produce into the bin any old how, while I’m scrutinizing the apples and tomatoes with my critical eye.

A can of beans is a can of beans, but I’m pretty picky about my fresh food. I check expiry dates and make sure there’s no too much fat on the cuts of meat.

Unless I’m very familiar with the manufacturer, I like to try on new clothes. I’ve been disappointed with the quality and the feel of the fabric when I buy online. Sometimes the colour is not quite right. Some people (me) really need to see an item in person before knowing it will work.

I can take home my purchase and wear the clothing item right away if I want to. Returns are less hassle.

Stores may not have as large a selection as online, but have you ever spent hours sorting through several hundred different shirts trying to decide which one to buy? Online stores may make a substitution if your purchase is out of stock.

Related: Shopping: Too Many Choices!

The advantages of buying online

If I know exactly what I want, I can go to Amazon and find it almost immediately instead of driving all over town searching every store – and the delivery is quick.

You can get great one-of-a-kind items at internet-based shops like Etsy and home décor at Wayfair. When you find an online store you love, follow them on social media and you’ll be alerted to any promotions and sales they offer.

I can compare prices easily to find the best deal.

Online has the convenience aspect. Stores are never closed. There’s no waiting for service, no long lines at the cash register, or worries about parking. You can read online reviews.

I like that you can have gifts delivered directly to the recipients. Sometimes you can have your item delivered to a store (e.g. Walmart, Home Depot) near you for pick up and avoid the delivery charge.

The bottom line

Love it or hate it, we all have to shop. We all need food, clothes, and home supplies.  When it comes to deciding whether to shop online or in the store, consider what you’re buying.

The ability to see, touch and try out products, as well as take items home immediately, are reasons for in-store shopping. But when you walk into a store you might spend more than you planned. Stores know how to target your weaknesses. Impulse items are strategically positioned.

Shopping online is easier and faster. You save money and have a better selection. Nearly everything you want is essentially at your fingertips – but this is incredibly tempting to spenders.

Related: How to Transition from Being a Prudent Saver to a Prudent Spender

Never forget the power of coupons at sites like RetailMeNot or RedFlagDeals. If you shop online a lot sign up for Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and Great Canadian Rebates for cashback on items purchased through hundreds of participating stores.

Be aware of return policies. If the item is not quite right, you’ll be running to the post office and waiting days for your money to be returned to you. You might even have to pay for shipping twice.

Have you changed your shopping habits?

Do you like browsing in an actual store or do you prefer the convenience of online shopping?

How will you shop this holiday season?

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