In-store or online shopping this Christmas: what’s better?

Christmas is nearly here and it's time to either shop in-store or online. We look at both options and which might be better for your bank balance.

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With Christmas just a few weeks away, thoughts of shopping for gifts and Christmas lunch have probably started to creep into your mind.

Although some of us love the buzz of the shops during the festive season, others would be happy to avoid this scene altogether and stick to a virtual store.

Finder research has revealed that the average Aussie will spend a whopping $893 this festive season. So the real question is, is shopping online or in-store better for your wallet?

I’ll run you through a few things to consider when hunting for the best price this Christmas.

Who has the best discounts?

More often than not, online retailers dominate the discount space. Brands that operate purely online don’t have the advantage of a fancy window display or meandering shoppers on their lunch breaks to draw customers to their store. And as a result, discounting can be a huge part of their strategy.

This is why it’s important to remember when choosing between online and in-store that many brands will offer online exclusive deals that are not available in-store. To avoid disappointment when heading to the shops, be sure to check for any fine print to find out where exactly the discount is being offered.

The great thing is, there is an infinite amount of online discount codes available.

Using tools such as Honey to help you find online discount codes can identify any extra savings to be had. Honey works by searching the web for any discount codes that apply to your purchase and then automatically adding them to your cart so that you check out with the best price. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your inbox or social media pages for any incoming deals from the brands that you love.

What will shipping cost?

One obvious positive to shopping in-store is that there are no shipping costs. If you’re looking at an online-only retailer, this additional charge will have to be considered.

If you’ve bagged a great deal from an online store or you just love the convenience of shopping virtually, be sure to factor the time and cost of shipping into your decision. While the product price might be better online, the cost of shipping can bring you back to the original price, with a delivery time tacked onto it as well.

Shipping in Australia can cost anywhere from $8.95 for a small parcel with standard delivery to $25.50 for an extra large package with express shipping. And due to the pandemic, you’re also likely to experience delays.

Using a shipping calculator can help you get an indication of how long you might be waiting for your purchase.

Where will I find the best variety?

The Internet has EVERYTHING, and that’s why we love it. This means that online stores are generally going to offer you more choice.

An unfortunate downside of in-store shopping is that you’re limited by whatever is on the shop floor. And if you don’t live near a major retail hub, this can be really limiting and lead to wasted money on unwanted gifts.

If you figure out what you want to buy people ahead of time, shopping online gives you the flexibility of browsing the different stores, finding exactly what you want and making your order in time for Christmas. You won’t have to settle for buying whatever the shops have left on Christmas Eve.

Does quality vary between online and in-store?

The short answer to this question is no – the products you receive online should be of the same standard as those found in-store from the same brand. However, there are times when this isn’t always the case.

With an online order, you can more or less be sure that your items will be relatively untouched by anyone else. There is less of a chance of the wear and tear that can sometimes befall in-store items that have been held and tried on by a number of different people.

On the other hand, there is the additional risk of your online order being damaged in transit. While most brands will offer a replacement, this could add delays that you don’t have time for. The risk of this really depends on what kind of item you’re ordering. Clothing should be pretty safe, but it might be worth purchasing that tea set that you love in-store.

On price alone, it’s fair to say that you will most likely be able to find a better deal online. However, it’s important to remember other factors that could end up adding to your Christmas costs. Be sure to consider all aspects of your purchase before heading to the checkout.

Bessie Hassan is a money expert at Finder, Australia’s most visited comparison site.

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