Budgeting Smart Spending

8 Things to Buy Online Instead of in Stores

Written by Beth Trach

Whether you love shopping or hate it, having the internet at your fingertips can definitely help you score a good deal on the things you need. Before you buy anything, think of Google as your personal bargain-shopping assistant — you can research the specs on the stuff you want and check out reviews from people who already own it. Once you’ve chosen exactly what you plan to buy, you can then scour the planet to find the absolute lowest price on the thing you picked out.

There are even a slew of excellent websites and apps to help you find the lowest prices on anything you could possible want to purchase.

So why wouldn’t you shop online? It’s a bargain-hunter’s paradise, and there are certain things that almost always cost less from electronic retailers than they do in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Here’s what you should by via laptop:

  1. Computers

Buy your computer with your computer? That just makes sense. The most important information about your next laptop isn’t how it fits or — unless you’re a diehard Apple fanboy — what it looks like. For computers and their peripherals, you’re almost always shopping by comparing specs — and this is actually much easier to do online than it is in person, because you can do side-by-side comparisons all at once by keeping a bunch of browning tabs open on your desktop. Once you know what you want, it’s a snap to find a low price online by typing the exact model number into Google Shopping and sorting the results by price.

  1. Pet Food and Supplies

Buying pet food in bulk is a great way to cut costs, but lugging those bags home is a giant pain. Shopping online allows you to skip the backbreaking hassle of loading your car with kibble, and as long as you choose a place that offer free shipping, this is a real lifesaver. Fancy pet food also tends to be cheaper when you buy from a big supplier online, and you’ll also find deals on medications from online pet pharmacies.

  1. Mattresses

There’s a whole new industry dedicated to keeping costs low on mattresses by shipping them to you directly from a warehouse, and these “bed in a box” companies are much more transparent about their pricing than the big names you see at traditional furniture stores. If you’re nervous about buying a mattress that you’ve never tested out in person, you’ll sleep easier knowing that these new players in the industry often offer a testing period and a money back guarantee if you decide a mattress isn’t right for you.

  1. Tickets

Whether you want to hit the ballpark, take in a Broadway show, or are planning the ultimate family vacation to Disney World, you need tickets to get in. Standing in line at the box office or ticket counter when you arrive is a big pain, and you could find yourself out of luck if you’re trying to catch a popular event. Plan ahead and buy your tickets online from vendors like Ticketmaster or StubHub. For things like shows and sporting events, you have the insurance of knowing your tickets are authentic, and there are rules in place against price gouging if you’re getting resale tickets. For amusement parks, Expedia often offers good deals on admissions to the fun stuff.

  1. Winter Gear

A good winter coat is an essential item, especially if you live in the northern half of the country. Technical gear gets pricey, but you can get a good deal on winter coats and other outerwear by shopping online. To get the best deal, try shopping for your winter gear in February, when it’s most likely to be discounted. You should also check out L. L. Bean, since everything they sell comes with a lifetime guarantee. If it wears out, they’ll replace it for free, so you may never need to buy another parka again.

  1. Printer Ink

Shopping for new printer cartridges is likely to make you feel like you’ve been robbed at gunpoint. They’re crazy expensive, and it seems like you always need them when you don’t have time to spare shopping for a deal. Fortunately, it’s possible to buy a refurbished cartridge that’s been refilled with ink instead of paying top dollar for a brand new one. This is a good environmental choice, and you’ll get your printer ink for way less. Check online reviews and make sure the place you shop has a good support and refund policy in case your printer freaks out (it’s been known to happen, since many are programmed to do just that if you use a used cartridge).

  1. Cars

You’ll almost certainly want to test drive a car in person, of course, but once you know what you want, you can skip the hassle of haggling in person and use the internet to your advantage. Research the factory invoice price of the car online so you know what the dealerships likely paid, then send emails to every dealership in your area offering a little bit above that amount. You can compare their counteroffers before you leave the house to know you’re getting the best deal — and walking in with an offer in writing will save you a ton of time on the paperwork.

  1. Cellphone Service

Comparison shopping for rates is way easier online, and walking into the Verizon or AT&T store is just asking to get hoodwinked into buying a fancier phone and bigger data plan than you actually need. Separate the phone from the service by doing a price comparison online — and don’t forget to look at Tier 2 carriers, which offer the same service you expect at rock-bottom rates. If you can BYO phone to the table, you’ll save a bunch. Even if you want to get your phone subsidized by one of the Big Four carriers, comparison shopping, ordering your phone and setting up your plan is all much easier online.

Before you get too cozy with your online purchases, remember to always check for free shipping and online coupon codes before you finalize any purchase to squeeze every last dime of savings out of your computer.

What’s your favorite thing to buy online? Share your best buys in the comments!

About the author

Beth Trach

Elizabeth Trach is a writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. She also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in frugal living and extreme gardening at Port Potager.


  • I agree with you, There are number of excellent websites and apps to help you find the lowest prices on anything you could possible want to purchase. There are certain things that almost always cost less from electronic retailers. Thanks for the information..!!

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