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12/08/2014

Pros and Cons of Online Shopping

As I mentioned in my blog last week, I was not very good about my budget last month.  This is mostly attributed to one thing: the temptation of early holiday shopping deals for both necessary and unnecessary purchases.  I wanted to spend this blog discussing what I see as the pros and cons of online shopping.

Pro: Convenience and Efficiency of Purchases- I purchased the majority of my holiday gifts on a Saturday morning, all from the convenience of my couch.  It helped that I made a list (and checked it twice) for each of my family members, so I knew what I was looking for. 

For a few gifts, it required a little bit of research to decide which version/brand/model/etc. I wanted to purchase.  But, in total, I only spent about four hours shopping, including this research.  To do this in the non-virtual world, it would take many more hours of travel and standing in lines to accomplish this same set of purchases.

Con: Inconvenience and Inefficiency of Returns- Although purchases are convenient, returns aren't so, no matter how much a website might advertise "hassle-free returns."  I recommend everyone read the fine print of the return policy, especially when purchasing holiday gifts. 

Many have a short return period, thereby possibly eliminating the ability of the gift-recipient to return the gift if it's the wrong size/color/etc.  And, even if a company allows "easy" returns, they may charge a restocking fee, charge for return shipping, or require you to pay for return shipping out of pocket.  I recently made this mistake; I bought a pair of boots online and had to pay nearly $10 for return shipping when the boots didn't fit me.  This was about 1/3 of the cost of the boots in the first place!  So, while they would have been a good deal had they fit, I ultimately paid $10 just to try them on! 

Pro: Excellent Discounts and Incentives- There's no denying that there are some excellent discounts that can be had when shopping online.  While I may have exceeded my November budget, I actually have not exceeded my overall holiday spending budget for gifts. 

In fact, I will likely come well under the amount I budgeted.  I knew early on what I wanted to get for many people in my family and I have been watching prices.  I also bought a number of gifts from Kohl's on Black Friday, which not only resulted in good prices on those items, but also $30 in Kohl's cash , which I used on two additional gifts a few days later.  (On a side note, I went to exchange an item today and the manager had such difficulty with figuring out how the handle the exchange that she gave me an additional $30 in Kohl's Cash for the hassle!)

Con: Discounts and Incentives to Make Unplanned Purchases-  Unfortunately, this is where I am my weakest- succumbing to deals that are "too good to pass up" or making purchases to meet a spending minimum (i.e. "Get free shipping if you spend $50!")  I've been wanting a new pair of boots, but had decided to wait until next year to buy them. 

But, last month, I came across too many "good deals." I spent about $110 to purchase three different pairs (with the intention of keeping only one).  In the end, I didn't keep any of the pairs- all were ill-fitting- and I ended up having to spend gas money to take them back to the post office and, as mentioned previously, $10 in shipping for one particular pair where shipping wasn't included (I didn't realize this until after the purchase). 

My suggestion to reduce unplanned purchases is to keep a want vs. need list on your phone or computer.  This way, you can watch for price drops on more expensive items and also delay gratification, since you may realize after a while that something you "really wanted" isn't something you're interested in any longer.  I also include smaller items on the list that need to be purchased regularly (like filters or pet food), similar to a grocery shopping list.  Then, when I need an additional item to receive free shipping, I add something from this list so that I am not tempted to make unnecessary purchases.

Comments

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Great read, Katie! I've never been one to do a lot of online shopping--but I will certainly keep these tips in mind for my next online quest.

Have you looked into using Ebates? Or my student loan has something called U promise where I can earn a small percentage back on my purchases. U promise goes directly towards my student loans anf even my mom can earn rebates forbme when linled tobmy account. It's a win win thwre! Enjoyed reading your pros and cons about online shopping though!

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