Why spend your afternoon fighting through crowds and fumbling with clothes in a busy changing room when you could be sitting at home, perusing and purchasing with a simple click? This is the question posed by many Britons today, with a 2011 study revealing that a massive 70% of UK shoppers prefer to buy the likes of CDs, DVDs and books online.
Online shopping may have taken off in a big way, but how much do you really save by avoiding the high street?
True View: £3 - £10
One of the main reasons people prefer to shop online is price. Without having to invest in huge stores and armies of sales staff, online retailers can cut their costs and pass these savings on to you. But, while there are plenty of online stores offering free delivery these days, they are often the exception to the rule.
All too often the bargain in your online basket becomes just as costly as heading to the shops when delivery charges are added on. These can be quite modest for smaller items, but once you venture beyond t-shirts and jewellery, the shipping cost starts to rise rapidly. To turn this to your advantage, the key is to shop in bulk - the majority of online shops use a flat-fee for delivery, so fill your basket to the brim to keep your costs down.
True View: 0% - 10%
The beauty of the internet is that you can purchase whatever you like from just about anywhere in the world. However, once you track down your dream DVD player or games console, you might want to consider the potential cost of currency conversion. While it may seem better to buy your items in dollars or yen, online retailers aren't forced to use the same currency conversion rates, meaning you might end up paying more than you expected in pounds.
When you shop in-store, this problem disappears altogether, so while you may pay a slight premium in your local shopping centre, you'll always know exactly how much you're going to pay.
Expectation: 50% off
True View: Free delivery
There are now hundreds of websites dedicated to making online shopping even cheaper, with the likes of Hot UK Deals and Voucher Comparison all promising 50% - 75% off your order, free gifts and other giveaways. The reality rarely lives up to these promises, though, with the overwhelming majority of deals either reserved for new customers, or restricted to free delivery or the odd £5 off. There are some genuinely useful sites out there, but the best vouchers are still to be found in newspapers, magazines and on the street, all for use on the high street.
Whether or not online shopping really is cheaper than the high street depends on what you're looking to buy, and who you're buying it with. Supermarkets are still the champions when it comes to your weekly food shop, but it's important to look a little deeper when buying your next TV or fridge.
For a true view of how much you're really saving, sign up to our free Money Dashboard budget planner, where you can keep track of your outgoings and manage your expenses, all in one convenient place.
Posted by Marc Murphy, Marketing Manager at Money Dashboard.