Online Shopping Is Cheaper
Laura Starkey has been given a mission: to prove that shopping online is cheaper than scouring the high street shops. And, boy, did she succeed...
Scouring the high street for treats is a pleasurable pursuit for most die-hard shoppers.
But I'm not one of them.
Don't get me wrong, folks -- I love shopping. But, like many of my fellow Fools, I love shopping online in particular.
It's easy, it's convenient -- and furthermore, I think it's a brilliant way to get better prices on a lot of things.
In fact, it's possible to save so much online that you may start viewing high street retailers merely as rip-off merchants.
When I began this article, my intention was to try and find out how much I could save on 10 specific items.
Below, I share my conclusion -- and also my top tips for super smart, brilliantly bargainous online shopping.
The Big Experiment
On my shopping list are 10 items that I genuinely plan to buy during the next few months -- so you could say I had a vested interest in finding the cheapest deals possible, wherever they might be.
While searching online, I used some of my favourite shopbots. These mighty clever sites scour the web on behalf of users for the cheapest available price on the item required.
Let's see how they fared in comparison to a crowded, sweaty two-hour trawl of the shopping capital of the UK: Oxford Street and Regent Street in London.
(In the interests of fairness, I compared only brand new items, and I have included online prices quoted inclusive of standard or First Class Royal Mail delivery).
1. I'm Not There DVD.
This film hasn't been released yet -- it comes out on 14 July.
Best online price: £11.89 (pre-order price)
Best high street price: £15.99 (guide price) at HMV
Possible saving: £4.10
2. 24, Season 3 DVD box set.
Best online price: £16.99
Successful shopbot(s): Find-dvd.co.uk
Best high street price: £25 at HMV
Possible saving: £8.01
Best online price: £63.98
Best high street price: £99.99 at Currys Digital
Possible saving: £36.01
4. Fur And Gold, the album by Bat For Lashes.
Best online price: £4.99
Successful shopbot(s): Find-cd.co.uk
Best high street price: £7 at HMV
Possible saving: £2.01
5. A History Of Modern Britain (paperback), by Andrew Marr.
Best online price: £4.99
Best high street price: £8.99 at Waterstones and Borders
Possible saving: £4.00
6. Gordon Ramsay's new book, Healthy Appetite.
Best online price: £9.50
Best high street price: £10 at Waterstones
Possible saving: £0.50
Best online price: £183.98
Successful shopbot(s): Pricerunner.co.uk
Best high street price: £184.99 at Dixons
Possible saving: £1.01
8. A 100ml bottle of the fragrance Paul Smith Rose.
Best online price: £30.89
Successful shopbot: None -- Kelkoo's best price was £32.99
Best high street price: £47.50 at The Perfume Shop
Possible saving: £15.56
Best online price: £18.15
Best high street price: £19.50
Possible saving: £1.35
10. Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Eclat concealer.
Best online price: £15.40
Best high street price: £17.99 at Superdrug
Possible saving: £2.59
TOTAL HIGH STREET COST: £436.95
TOTAL ONLINE COST: £361.81
POSSIBLE SAVING: £75.14 - around 17%.
As I suspected when I started my experiment, the web has trounced the high street when it comes to bargain-hunting.
I've discovered that I could save money on all 10 of my items -- and the total possible saving is a whopping £75.
Plus, if you buy through cashback website, you may be able to get further discounts on the amount you spend.
It seems that, sometimes, a retailer's online shop will sell you the same item you could buy in a high street outlet -- but for less. On the items I price-checked, both Waterstones (number 6 on my list) and HMV (number 2) actually offer customers better deals if they don't set foot in their stores.
This is proof positive that, although shopbots are a good place to start searching for a great deal, it's wise to check a selection of favourite online retailers, too.
Finally, the range of possible savings surprised me -- the lowest being a pretty paltry 50p saving on the Gordon Ramsay recipe book, and the biggest a hefty £36.01 on the headphones.
The Best Way To Go
After my experiment, I remain convinced: when buying items like these, shopping online is usually the best way to go.
Familiarising yourself with some shopbots and saving the addresses of discount online retailers like the ones featured here is, in my opinion, the first step towards saving serious money on CDs, books, DVDs, cosmetics and gadgets.
Having said that, there will always be some things people prefer not to buy online. Even I draw the line at clothes, which I rarely risk purchasing via the world wide web.
And of course, there's always the question of convenience. If you want something immediately, getting it online is obviously a not an option.
So are high street shops a rip-off?
They're certainly not the cheapest place for me to buy the consumer goods I'm after.
But that doesn't necessarily mean they are ripping us off. With costs such as staff, heating, lighting, insurance and rent to pay, high street stores don't often stand a chance of beating the best-value online retailers.
What's more, in spite of all those extra costs, high street stores' sales sometimes offer real steals -- as regular readers of our Money Saving Tips might vouch.
In the end, I think a healthy awareness of high street limitations, the power of the web and the general joy of bargain-hunting is the answer to tracking down deals.
These issues are so vast and complex that it's impossible for me to explain everything I'd like to in one article -- and I'm sure there are Fools out there with money saving hints and tips of their own.
If you've got something to offer the discussion, please post it in the comments space below.
Happy (online) shopping!