Written by Brooke Wagner

I love shopping online. There’s nothing like paying 25 percent less for the Lego set my son wants on Amazon, then having it shipped free to my door. Or finding the unusual T-shirt my dad wants on eBay with free shipping. Fantastic convenience, not to mention savings. That said, buying online isn’t always best.

Let’s start with groceries. Services such as King Soopers Home Shop and Amazon’s membership program have made great strides in selection, price and convenience (check out those available in Colorado at online-grocery-shopping.net).

But as the editors of grocerygame.com point out, coupons and in-store sales still make store prices tough to beat for groceries. This goes for inexpensive items too. A pack of 10 toothbrushes for $5 isn’t a great deal if you have to pay $7 shipping.

Next, Moneysavingmom.com suggests thinking twice about buying big ticket items, and items that are just plain BIG at brick and mortar stores. The low online price may lure you, but shipping often eats up all your savings. Plus, when you’re talking about appliances or furniture, in the store, you can negotiate or even save by buying a floor model.

Obviously, if you need something immediately, you have to get to a store. And if you want to be able to do a simple exchange without repacking, possibly paying a restocking fee, etc., it’s usually easier in person, though some e-retailers have made it super simple (Zappos and Avon, for instance). And of course there’s little chance you’ll get the wrong item if you pick it out yourself.

Online stores are the clear champ when it comes to stocking hard-to-find items. Your favorite discontinued lipstick or out of print book … or the hot holiday toy that’s out of stock everywhere … can usually be had on the Web.

I also love being able to look up coupon codes and finding free shipping deals, and it’s now so easy to search the Web for the best price. If you know exactly what model you want, what color, what size, you can easily order online. But what if you don’t know? It might just be better to jump in the car. This can be particularly true with clothing, shoes, and anything heavy, fragile, and difficult to ship.

If you love the clearance bin or rack, as I do, your eyes light up when you see those bright stickers. And you may well be getting a rock bottom price on end of season cosmetics, clothing, handbags, etc. that would be difficult to find for the same price online, except maybe on eBay. I often find, the prices on at the brick and mortar store are much, much lower than they are online, particularly on clothing, because the store is trying to move out old stock.

If I’ve been eyeing an item in a store, I’ll track prices online and weigh the cost of shipping with ease of returns, possibility of damage, reliability of the .com, etc.

Also it pays to put things in your virtual cart, then watch for markdowns. I will never forget Amazon’s $5/free shipping toy sale several years back. Nor will I forget the look on my husband’s face when about 20 boxes appeared at the door.

Here’s a great article on this topic from Mainstreet.com.

About The Blogger

– In her Brooke’s Bargains blog Brooke Wagner writes about finding bargains and saving money for her family. She calls it one of her favorite hobbies. Blog entries cover everything from the latest steals, deals, and freebies to cheap family activities, saving for college, and what to buy right now. Tweet Brooke your ideas at @BrookeCBS4.


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