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Think Twice, Click Once: When to Buy Online and At Stores

Online shopping is ubiquitous in the U.S. and across the world. We can buy nearly anything with the click of a button and a credit card number. Sometimes, the purchases are great deals. Other times, well, they’re not. Here’s a guideline:

Never Buy Online

  • Groceries: Food and sundries are cheaper in stores because of coupons, sales and markdowns. Buy these in person using TheKrazyCouponLady.com techniques!
  • Expensive Fabrics/Curtains: It is notoriously difficult to determine fabric quality from a photograph. Those sumptuous draperies you just ordered might turn out to be threadbare duds. If you must, first order a swatch (which you might have to pay for.)
  • Clothes and Shoes: Most jeans, tees and sweaters are much less expensive during sales and at discount stores (with coupons). Store-bought clothes come with two added bonuses: trying things on and no shipping fees.
  • Scented Household Products: Candles, room sprays and air fresheners may sound appealing online. Who doesn’t want their home to smell like sandalwood and lemon verbena. When you open the box, though, it could smell like garden weeds and mildew. The truth is, you don’t know how alluring that scent might be unless you test it in person.
  • Used Cars: Any vehicle you purchase should be inspected by your own mechanic before you plunk down the cash. Save the headaches and cash by avoiding major repair bills.
  • Major Appliances: Never buy large appliances like refrigerators, washers or dishwashers online. You can’t haggle with the sales person over the internet. Also, it is much cheaper to ask for and buy out-of-box, floor models and discontinued lines at steep discounts.

Always Buy Online

  • Prescriptions: Shopping online is one of the best ways to compare prices on prescription drugs. Consumer groups report 35 percent savings from regular price. This is an especially good option for filling prescriptions for a chronic condition like depression or high cholesterol. One caution: use only U.S. websites with the VIPPS seal.
  • Designer clothes and Shoes: Wander into a designer boutique and soak in the ambiance and luxury. But be prepared for a fit if you peek at a price tag. If you have royal taste on a serf’s budget, consider buying high-end luxury items from online bargain outlets like www.ideeli.comoverstock.comasos.com or bluefly.com. Because the items may be a season or two out of cycle and sometimes the sizes and colors are limited, the deals are so much better. The quality is exactly the same as the chichi shops but at discounts ranging from 30 to 85 percent. Track down a coupon or special code to increase the savings.
  • Music, Books and Movies: With digital music players, PCs, tablets and eReaders, there is never a need to pay for brick-and-mortar overhead at bookstores (or the gas to get there). Retailers like Barnes & Noble even offer free ebooks. Don’t have an expensive eReader? No problem. Sites like Open Library offer more than 1 million free book titles with online formats like PDF and Daisy. Project Gutenberg hosts more than 30,000 titles. DVDs are even cheaper online than you’ll find in the jumbled bargain bin at a big box retailer. Movie buffs can find gems for as little as $2 online. Check out Overstock.com and Amazon.com. Don’t forget digital downloads and free movies online at sites like Hulu.com and inexpensive subscription sites like Netflix.com. It is cheaper to buy music online at $1 a song you love, rather than paying $9 – $13 for an entire album. Look for coupons for the iTunes store. Many sites offer free and less expensive downloads. The Internet Archive’s Audio Archive hosts over 50,000 recordings, all for free download.
  • Travel and Tickets:  Vacation packages, airline tickets, hotel rooms and transportation are all cheaper and easier to book online. Use sites like Groupon.com, Yuupon.com, Tripadvisor.com, Kayak.com and Travelocity.com, Hotels.com and Priceline.com. Online travel newbies should know that most U.S. airlines offer last-minute deals at significant savings. The very best time to buy airline tickets is about 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Tuesdays, but you have to act fast because those screaming good deals sell out fast. Hotels also offer their “leftover” rooms online. That’s where you’ll find the best savings, as much as 40 – 50 percent. These are not roach-filled flophouses, rather top-quality hotel chains and good motels.  Book in off-peak months for even better deals.
  • Training and Meetings: There is no reason to rent room space for group meetings or one-on-one training. Innovative sites like Yuuguu allow users to share computer screens for easy sharing and training. Hold virtual, real-time interactive meetings with sites like www.watchitoo.com and cut hotel and travel costs for your business.
  • Cloth Diapers: Cloth diapering babies is a movement that is (re)gaining steam. Today’s moms don’t use droopy cloths with safety pins and sweaty plastic pants. They use fitted, reusable, easy-to-clean diapers that are cheaper than disposable pants and much better for the environment. Check out sites like www.jilliansdrawers.com.

 

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7 thoughts on “Think Twice, Click Once: When to Buy Online and At Stores”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I don’t care for articles like this that are presented as authoritative when they are in fact one persons opinion. We aren’t given the qualifications of the author that makes him/her an expert on the topic. Not sure if this was written by one of the KCL staff or a guest writer.

    I enjoy KCL a lot but have had concerns with a number of their user contributed articles. They don’t seem to be fact checked.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Half.com is also a really great place to buy movies, books, textbooks and video games for a discount.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I usually do not think it is a good idea to use terms like “always” and “never”. I think there are times when it is a good idea to buy groceries online. For instance, I always buy maple syrup online with an Abe’s Market deal. The price of the stuff at the store is very high and I have never seen a coupon for it. Although I would agree with the car one.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree.  Deals for organic foods that rarely have coupons or sales are good through Abe’s and Vitacost.  I also love shopping for clearance kid clothing through Target.com.  I stick with my “$4 or less” philosophy just like I would in the store, and score great deals.  And paying with my Target card makes shipping FREE!  If it doesn’t work, I just return it to the store when I’m doing my other deals. 

  4. sully says:

    i agree that buying books online is much cheaper a book at a barnes and nobles store sometimes is $5 dollars more that if you buy it at their site.

  5. Laura says:

    I’m surprised groceries are listed as a “never buy online” option.  Lots of coupon blogs post deals where the poster has received oodles of free groceries from sites like amazon warehouse using their free gift cards received from using swagbucks.

  6. Cejlifer30 says:

    I have to buy shoes online at dsw,, cheaper because I have wide feet