Haven't gotten around to trying online shopping yet? It may be costing you. From wasted gas to impulse buys, here are some of the best reasons you should be giving online retailers a shot.

You Can Still Support Small Business
As more small businesses around the world create personal websites, you can now support your favorite tea shop in Maine or a bakery in Los Angeles without needing to be there in person. Though major online retailers like Amazon and eBay are consumer favorites, these virtual warehouses don't have to be your only stop. Do a quick search for local stores you love, or that boutique you visited on vacation last year. You might be surprised at who has a website, and just how easily you can shop one-of-a-kind businesses from the comfort of home.

You're More Likely to Find the Product You Actually Wanted, at a Good Price
One of the biggest benefits you're likely to see from a switch to online shopping is immediate access to the exact product you want, not simply what happens to be in stock at your local store. Consider for a moment how many times you may have made a specific purchase simply because it was your only available option. Rather than settling for what you can find at the strip mall down the street, online shopping allows you the freedom to only buy what you actually want.

Once you do locate the shirt, handbag, space heater or golf club of your dreams, you're also more likely to find the best price online. Much like product selection, buying in-store can force you into paying more than you'd like, or can afford, simply because there is no other option. You'll not only save cash in the moment, you'll also be far less tempted to replace an item in the future for the one you really wanted.

Online Stores Are Always Open
If you work long hours or consider yourself on the nocturnal side, you've likely noticed that some businesses call it a night before you do, meaning a lunch-hour scramble is the only way to get shopping done. Rather than skipping a meal to snag the perfect holiday present, shop online when you want, for as long as you want. Internet retailers never close, meaning you're free to browse whenever you can find the time.

You Won't Waste Gas
Another great benefit of shopping from home? You won't use any gas. Each trip to the mall or individual stores around town costs you cash, draining your holiday budget before you get the chance to spend it! If you like to do comparison shopping, driving from store to store is not only a hassle, it's a serious drain on your wallet. Skip the gas station for another few days by grabbing your gifts at an online retailer.

You Won't Be Influenced by a Sales Pitch
In-store advice can be great. If you have a question about a particular product on how it could benefit you, or how much it'll cost you in the long run, a handy salesperson can quickly provide you with the answers you need. Unfortunately, that much-needed advice is also coming from someone invested in your immediate purchase of his or her product. If you know you fold under pressure and find yourself succumbing to a great pitch, then in-store shopping has probably cost you more money than necessary. Skip the impulse buys and unnecessary upgrades by going online. User reviews and product guides online are a great way to get practical advice on the things you want, and you'll never have to face the dreaded sales pitch.

If you do want the in-store experience, or want to support a commission-based salesperson, do your research online before heading in. Knowing exactly what you do and don't want - and what you can actually afford - is your best bet to resisting a tempting upgrade or "must-have" accessory.

Online-Only Deals
Some of your favorite retailers may reduce prices on their most popular products, but only online. These web-only deals, most notably seen on "Cyber Monday," are great ways to find hefty price cuts without the hassle of cut-throat Black Friday shopping. Plenty of retailers feature online-only deals throughout the year, so sign up for alerts from your favorite stores to be sure you catch the next sale.

The New Mall
Online-only "stores," where no physical retail location exists, likely have fewer costs to make up for with their product pricing. With no rent to pay on a storefront and no sales staff on the payroll, Internet-based stores can typically afford a moderate price reduction, giving them an edge over traditional retailers. Some online-only stores to check out include:

  • Amazon: Consider this the classic "one stop shop" for apparel, jewelry, electronics, books, beauty and more. Products are sold by third-party companies, though transactions are handled securely by Amazon.

  • Overstock: Similar to a department store's outlet, Overstock features apparel, jewelry, furniture and electronics.

  • Newegg: The go-to site for tech fanatics, this online electronics retailer often features major deals on popular brands, and surprisingly informative user generated product reviews. Also check out ThinkGeek for even more tech gifts and major electronics.

  • Sierra Trading Post: Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers and sheepskin boot lovers, Sierra features serious discounts on clothing, shoes, accessories and more.

The Bottom Line
As the security of online shopping improves and Internet retailers increase their stock while decreasing prices, it's becoming harder to find reasons not to cash in. Shopping online increases the chances you'll find exactly what you're looking for, and you'll probably get a pretty good deal for it too. Along with saving gas, avoiding pushy salespeople and having 24/7 access to any store, it's easy to see why online sales peak in the billions each year. Once you do find a great deal online, always remember to check for shipping costs and any additional fees that may be charged by the retailer. Chances are you'll be thankful you skipped the mall.

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