Do You Do More of Your Shopping Online?

Reflecting on my holiday shopping this year, it’s hard not to notice that a giant switch has been flipped – I do the majority of my shopping online now, and it really isn’t even much of a contest.  In fact, holidays have almost nothing to do with it – I spend way more discretionary money online than at brick and mortar stores.

How Things Have Changed

It’s funny to reflect on now, but a few short years ago the Internet didn’t even have a commercial side (short of then-cutting-edge commercial spam).  1992 saw the passing of the Scientific and Advanced Technology Act, which allowed NSFNet (and later others) to connect to commercial networks.

My first experiences with the internet started in 1994, and I mainly stuck to Usenet (ha!).  Still, I witnessed the flip – from a network dedicated to research and, yes, a redundant communication network in case of the destruction of many nodes to the commercial powerhouse we see today.  And guess what – it’s helped you a lot, especially in the wallet area.

A Fatter Wallet

That’s right – the internet has had huge implications for how we shop in America, and it was evident even before stores started complaining about showrooming.  It’s not even just retail which has been revolutionized by the internet – cost comparisons and easy to find information has completely revolutionized c0nsumer finance and insurance.

The big benefit, of course, is in normal retail purchases.  A few years ago, as our friends at Control Your Cash have pointed out, brick and mortar booksellers Borders and Barnes and Noble were retail darlings.  Today?  Who doesn’t at least check Amazon for book prices when looking to buy a book?

Brick and Mortar inventions have even moved online – you can buy online with promo codes now and skip the coupon binder.  Every purchase I make nowadays starts with a search for discounts and coupons – even if I can’t find a specific thread for what I want on discount forums like SlickDeals and FatWallet.  That goes for any type of product – whether I’m trying to find coupons for Kmart or Sears to grab cheap appliances (my house has become a Kenmore showroom), or TigerDirect and Newegg to buy computer products.  List price is only the final price if you’re lazy.

Gentlemen, Start Your Searches

It has come to the point where even if you buy something in store, you should start your research online.  Easy price comparisons mixed with honest reviews and coupons (and easy reference on rewards programs and credit card cash-back) has made buying anything a buyer’s market.

And the future?  Even though online taxation will probably go through a period of flux, I don’t see how traditional retailers can compete.  The difference between opening a web browser and driving to a strip mall is half a tank of gas and thirty minutes.  I can’t even imagine the new commercial innovations we’ll see in the next few years… but my wallet is waiting.


  1. says

    We still do most of our normal shopping in local stores – it seems like we get better deals paying a little attention to sales and coupons than we would if we just bought that kind of stuff from Amazon. But I love how easy it is to get specialty items online. Mr. PoP was just gifted an antique amplifier, and he was able to find a guy who had purchased the amp company’s assets out of bankruptcy and was selling manuals for this 50+ year old amp.

    • says

      Big National Behemoths or true locals? I’ve seen some local stroes go both ways – have ridiculously good deals or unique items, or seriously overpriced. With the web I know lots of other people are watching too so it’s sometimes hard to grab a deal before something sells out.

      Will the amp he got replace the $2k tube amp? I tried to email you guys using your contact page but I probably got sent to spam (happens a lot – I blame my acronym).

      • says

        We’ve been told a couple times recently that they were sent to spam… hmm. I’ll have to try and dig it out.

        But yes, this amp does replace the $2K one he wanted. Part of the fun for him was going to be building it, since the $2K one was a kit. But over the holidays a friend was cleaning out some storage space and offered people to come over and take what they wanted. Mr. PoP ended up with a non-functioning 1953 stereomatic sound system. There’s a tube amp inside that he wants to rebuild – I think the theory is that everything else should work. So this should scratch his tube amp itch for a while even if it’s not going to be connected to the speakers he built himself.

  2. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    I do virtually all of my shopping online. I hate shopping in stores and it saves me time from having to go out. I think the only thing I bought at a store this year was some special coffee my wife wanted. I am sure taxes will come into play for all of us with Amazon at some point. But, I think it won’t be much of an issue as they have so much stuff and can demand lower prices just like Wal-Mart.

    • says

      California already levies tax on Amazon – I didn’t want to push a Cali-centric view on the rest of my readers, though, haha.

      Sometimes I do find Amazon is a bit more expensive though – since they have to bake shipping into everything using algorithms other sites can undercut them on some individual items.

  3. Brick By Brick Investing says

    There is absolutely no incentive for me to step into a store ever again. There are lower prices online, I don’t have to deal with nasty people, spend time or resources getting to the store. It’s simpler by almost every measure. The one thing I will say though, is big furniture purchases such as couches or beds are the exception.

    • says

      I know – I got kind of scared when I saw places like Overstock has decent prices on furniture. I’ve also dipped my toe in on a few risks – we got our master bath’s vanity on eBay(!). Could be a sign of things to come.

  4. says

    Even with the new taxes (i.e. Amazon), it’s still so much more convenient to shop online than to buy in person. I started online shopping back in 1997, and have never looked back. I used to wonder why more and more people weren’t doing it, and still sticking to the b&m stores.

    Now with all the new smartphones and the ability to scan bar codes and price on Amazon, it seems like technology has started to convince the masses to migrate more towards online shopping. Most of the Barnes and Nobles and Borders bookstores have closed down in my area these past few years. It’s kind of sad to see them go, but the prices were usually 2x more than what you could find online. To me, it always just seemed like a matter of time…

    • says

      I’m interested to see if some of the B&M stores eventually successfully find digital success (as opposed to the reverse, a la Apple). Sears, anyone? Seriously – I have a ton of Kenmore appliances now.

  5. says

    Shop nearly online for most things. I still prefer to buy clothes in person and if I’m buying electronics I’ll always check in store first, so yeah showrooming there.

    I’ll also never hit the checkout without a cheeky search for a voucher code

    • says

      I’ve started buying more shoes online, even though I’m with you on the clothing. Shoes are great – the majors offer free shipping back and forth until you find your size, and the reviews are generally accurate with sizing (runs large, runs small, etc).

      However, until I’m as adept as my tailor at measuring my proportions, a lot of clothing purchases will have to wait. Alternatively, I have bought online and tailored after – that’s an option if you’re hard to fit off the rack like yours truly.