(Shopping at) Home for the Holidays: Frugal Friday

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This past weekend I headed out to Barnes and Noble. I walked into a real bookstore. This used to be a regular things for hubs and me. We’d browse for hours in the bookstore. But, since we typically get our books FREE from the library or cheaper from Amazon, it’s rare that we shop inside the bookstore. Usually, we grab a coffee and just window shop.

But last weekend, I needed a specific item for FishBoy11’s birthday and I didn’t have time to wait for an online order to arrive. And it was so fun! I took a couple kids with me and we had a great time looking through all the new games and children’s books that they’re currently stocking. And I loved the hustle and bustle feel that shorter days, street lights, and Christmas decor added to the experience.

I could almost here Bing singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….”

The trick was, however, not to buy more than I came for. Instead, I jotted down book titles and made mental notes of different items that caught my eye so that I could do some price comparison on the internet. Turns out, I did find some items cheaper in other places and since I’ve had a chance to review the item in person, I feel more confident making the purchase online.

While I love to do shopping in person, I’ve found that online shopping can be a Godsend to the busy family. Let me count the ways:

How You Can Save Money with Online Shopping

1. You save money on gas. And with free shipping that is so easily obtained these days, it’s a wash.

2. You don’t always pay sales tax. This can be a great way to keep a few more pennies in your wallet.

3. You don’t get distracted by other items, well, not as easily anyway.

4. You can get exactly what you want shipped directly to your door, or better yet, directly to the door of the person you’re gifting.

5. You save time because you’re not out gallivanting when you could be home folding laundry.

Now, it’s one thing to say that online shopping can save you money. But, we all know folks who spend alltogether too much money shopping online. So, here are some ideas to help you make the most of shopping online and save more money.

Use an online cash back shopping site.

Sites like Ebates will give you cash back on purchases that you make provided that you order through their portal. Basically, they’re sharing their referral fee with you by giving you some of your cash back. These sites offer referral incentives as well as the cash back feature so that you can save further.

Make use of free shipping.

Unless you’re a loser mom and wait until a few days before your son’s birthday to go buy the last gift and have to walk into the physical store, ahem, plan ahead and make use of the vendor’s free shipping service. Even if you leave items in your cart until you’ve completed your shopping and met the free shipping requirement, do what you can to minimize your shipping expenses.

Amazon regularly offers free Super Saver Shipping, but you can also get free 2-day shipping when you have an Amazon Prime membership. This is typically $79 per year, but there are often free trials available.

Don’t buy more than you need to.

As in all things, don’t overbuy. Rarely does that serve us well. Make a list before you start shopping. Consult it often. And leave items in your cart for an hour or two to make sure they are really items you need or want.

Online shopping can be a boon to the busy mom. Shop at home — in your pajamas! And if you work it right, save big money at the same time.

Join us for Frugal Friday!

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  1. Note that legally, you are supposed to report any out-of-state online (or mail) purchases when you file your taxes, and pay sales tax on those items at that time. Very few people actually do that, which is part of why a lot of the states have been trying to twist the rules to force amazon and other online retailers to collect sales tax in their state.

    There’s actually a law that has been proposed that would cause all internet retailers to collect sales taxes for all states, regardless of whether the company has a physical presence in that state.

  2. I rarely shop online, but perhaps I should change that.

    Mind you, eBay shipping in Canada is outrageous, so I’ll never do that, and thrift shops are good deals around here. So many people get rid of first class things that look brand new, even with the tag on sometimes!

    My post is not specifically about saving money, but if you have the supper prep hour under control, you’ll be less likely to go out for fast food.

    Annie Kate

  3. I prefer shopping online as well a lot of the time because when we’re out as a family, it is too tempting to eat out, and spend a fortune at a restaurant.

  4. Okay, if I had a home like that, I would definitely be shopping at home.

    I’m not too fond of gallivanting myself though it’s nice to get out once in awhile by myself. I’ve been thinking about doing some of my food shopping online now that Peapod is in our area. I already do Amazon’s Subscribe and Save which is wonderful; we don’t run out of coffee anymore. Which is a good thing because it’s not a good thing when we have no coffee.

  5. Online shopping definitely has its advantages. You can also find a book used on Amazon and only pay a fraction of the cost. I’ve driven from bookstore to bookstore looking for a specific book, and then later decided to look online, and it was way easier.

  6. I totally agree that online shopping has its advantages. We live in a smaller city so unless I want to drive 45 min to the nearest shopping mall, going online makes more sense. I spend less on shipping than gas and tolls. I also find that buying children’s clothing on clearance (online) is often cheaper than buying Target. Believe me, I love Target clothing but everyone in my city wears the same exact thing bc it’s what is nearby. It’s just nice to have variety and half the time we can’t find sizes we need anyways. The only drawback I can think of to online shopping is that my credit cards don’t get paid off quickly enough (although I’m working on a better system) and I’m not supporting local businesses/jobs, etc.

  7. Just a few thoughts to broaden the subject: on-line shopping is not gas-free – you are just not using your gas and your car, but you are definitely using energy to have the items come to you. Eventually this will come at a cost as our resources dwindle. As I have tried to become more intentional in my living, this fact has enlightened me – it really costs a lot to have a UPS man bring a little package to my door. Sort of along the lines of the slow food movement… I feel I should try to shop local and save those resources when I can. 2) You are supposed to pay your state tax – if not when you order, then when you do your taxes. Recently South Carolina tried to require Amazon to collect state sales taxes (when they build their next facility here), but instead, Amazon backed out of the agreement to come to our state risking the loss of quite a few jobs. After some tense negotiations, we are back on track to have Amazon come but at the expense of all 50 states who won’t be getting their sales tax collected. So who is the winner here? The big corporation? the future employees? the taxpayers in those states who now will fund projects another way? It makes me think buying books locally puts my dollars and taxes to work here where I live. 3) On line shopping can be just as addictive as any other kind of shopping and maybe more so because it is so easy to click on “pay now”. With budgets stretched to the limit, maybe shopping with cash and making it harder to get those items is a thoughtful way to slow down your spending. Now I do not have children in tow nor do I have any objection to ordering online when it is the best or only way to get the items…. but I do think we need to think about the whole picture when we consider it. It may turn out not to be frugal at all.

  8. I love shopping online. I try to stick with stores close to home so I can return easily if needed. Sometimes if I get free shipping, I don’t mind spending a little postage spending back though. I just use the original bag and re-label, marking out the bar codes. It really, really simplifies my life. Sometimes I enjoy the hustle bustle and the decorations going out but if I’m hurried for a gift it can depress me because I feel like I’m in a rat-race of sorts and I ask myself “Where is Jesus?”

  9. I’m so bad about shopping online. I’m always afraid a deal is too good to be true or that I’ll be disappointed in the item when it arrives. I’m going to really try this year though. Many of our family gifts require shipping anyway.

  10. Shopping online on Black Friday–and really that whole weekend–is AWESOME. Ebates offers double cash back bonuses. There are some things that I use that NEVER go on sale, but if I wait all year to buy it that weekend, I’ll at least get cash back, and often a free shipping deal that weekend as well. In addtion, some stores have holiday bonus items that come for free that weekend as well. I don’t have to get up at 3 am to go to the store. I can shop several stores and compare prices before ordering.

    Plus, since we’re a one-car family, shopping online helps make it easier to not have to have another car. I can go shopping while the children are napping ( and they don’t know what I ordered for them when I’m getting gifts). I can be home cooking dinner, doing laundry, and shopping at the same time!

  11. thanks for the great ideas ive tried the shopathome site no luck so far maybe im not doing it right, i get all the flyers and then go through them and make a list of the deals at each story. get up early and do my online shopping

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