Online vs. Offline Shopping

By now, unless you live in a cave, you've had the experience of admiring a friend's new tote, new shoes, new golf clubs, or the latest electronic gadget. Although you hate to be cliche, you find yourself asking the universal question. "Where did you get _____." What's interesting is that the answers to this question are also becoming more and more universal, even among the financially elite. "I got a great deal online" or "I bought it clearance." According to Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, bestselling authors of "The Millionaire Next Door," a distinguishing feature of the truly wealthy is their almost compulsive coupon saving, bargain shopping and purchasing second-hand. The average millionaire never pays full-price, that's why they are millionaires. This is no longer the world where your grandma ran a tab at one of two general stores in town. Thanks to an information and technological revolution, you are doing your shopping in a market that literally circles the globe. Now is the time to learn some of the primary money-saving techniques of shoppers worldwide, techniques that center around savvy use of the internet and the resources it provides.

Factors to be Considered when deciding to shop online, or in person

Urgency-is the purchase planned or unplanned:
Impulse shopping is difficult on the web, because buyer's remorse has usually set in by the time the product actually arrives. However, if you are planning a purchase in advance, whether it's a flat-screen television or a new baby crib, a little time spent searching online can have a big payback.

Type of product:
Online clothes shopping generally works better for men than for women. Men's pants and shirt sizes are generally universal regardless of brand or manufacturer. It becomes a simple matter to order something online that looks good and fits correctly for a man. For a woman, it is virtually impossibly. In addition, online clothing stores have very limited clearance sections, which is where you find some of the best offline bargains on clothes. Grocery and consumable item shopping can be very effective when done online if you are willing to spend the time printing out coupons for items you use consistently in your home or business. It can be even more effective when combined with savings found in mailed circulars and local advertisements for your area stores.

Price of the item:
Usually online shopping and coupon hunting is the best strategy for purchasing big-ticket items or small, regularly consumed items that you purchase more than once. The big-ticket coupons are most effective when you are planning on making a 50-100$ plus purchase. Most non-consumable online coupons are for 15-20% off, or 10$ off when you spend 50$ etc. Do the math and make sure it's worth your time (a 30$ purchase item at 15% off would only save you 4.50$- are those savings worth your online search time?) Make sure you also factor in shipping costs. For a lot of smaller items, the shipping fees will cancel out your savings. If the item is consumable, online coupons can be very effective because you can print them out and save them for the inevitable future purchase of items you use consistently in your home or business.

Opportunity for fraud:
Some things are just easier to fake and/or steal. When buying items like gems, jewelry, software, and video games, be careful to purchase from well-known retailers. Especially if you live in a country where pirating is rampant, you have to consider the probability of what you are purchasing being either a faked name-brand, an illegal copy, or stolen goods. Shop around enough to be aware of the general going price for the item you want, and if you find a price that is too good to be true-it probably is.

Complexity of the product and your personal knowledge base.
There will be some purchases where buying online or offline will be determined solely by your own personal knowledge of the product. Sometimes you need an expert just to explain the details. About three years ago I decided to purchase a desktop computer capable of doing the video-editing that I love. Knowing it could be cheaper, I looked and looked for online computer deals. But when it came right down to it, I just didn't know enough about computers to ensure that an online purchase would have the features I wanted. I needed an expert, someone who knew more about computers than me. In my case, it was much more helpful to go to a local electronics store and tell a computer expert exactly what I wanted in human speak, and have him translate it into computer-speak, and then relay back to me as differing purchase options. Now, I did this at more than one store to compare prices and options-but because I need to purchase a complex product with a limited knowledge base, online shopping was simply not feasible.

Universality of the product.
If you are looking for a very specific product or brand, it will be more difficult to find a sweet deal. Not impossible, but less likely.

The Best Strategy is to Combine Both:
Bottom line is, it is more difficult to get a real feel for exactly what it is you want from a computer than it is in person. In addition, it is often difficult to compare items without seeing them and holding them. Perhaps the best way to ensure that you get the best absolute deal, is to combine both online and personal shopping. Find the exact item you want in person, and then use several online searches to determine the best coupon for it