I’m always looking for ways to save money and in a year and a half of scrimping, I’ve found that you always pay more for convenience.
Whether it's a no-scrub kitchen cleaner or shopping at independent retailers instead of the supermarket, we always pay a premium to save time.
But there is one area where I believe the easier option is also the cheapest – and that’s grocery shopping.
Instead of spending an hour or more in the supermarket before lugging the week’s groceries home, I now order my shopping online. And I’m not alone, Yahoo! Finance user Jane Brandon said switching to online grocery shopping was the most profitable New Year's resolution she’d ever made.
I have to pay a delivery charge, usually of around £3, but my overall savings far outstrip that. Here’s why.
[Related feature: How to slash your supermarket delivery costs]
Save money by easier budgeting…
Unless you’re Rain Man, you probably struggle to tally up your shopping as you go. I certainly do, meaning I often have a surprise when I come to pay.
It’s not just the fear that I’ve spent too much; sometimes I’ve overestimated the total, meaning I’ve not added real bargains to my basket.
But by shopping online, I can see exactly how much my groceries cost as I go, allowing me to remain in control of my spending.
Save money on products…
Shopping online allows me to easily compare prices. I use the website Mysupermarket.comto compare the cost of my shopping at Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado, so I can order from the cheapest overall.
The website claims that its shoppers save an average of £17 every time they compare prices and shop through the site. I seem to save at least £10 a go, which adds up to a substantial sum over a year.
Not only that, but online shopping allows me to build up my shopping list gradually throughout the week, allowing me to make carefully considered purchases rather than slinging stuff into my trolley while trying to keep a toddler entertained.
[Related feature: The best-value supermarket for your online shop]
Save money on impulse buys…
Supermarkets have spent decades learning how to make us spend more. Sweets are carefully positioned at the checkout; more expensive products are placed on the middle shelves; stacks of ‘bargains’ are piled at the end of the aisles. It’s all too easy to pick up items that you don’t really need, no matter how savvy a shopper you are.
By shopping online, I avoid that. I can still see the two-for-one offers and the discounts, but I can also simply shop my way through the list without distractions. I don’t have to walk down aisles filled with expensive temptations.
I can also check whether a bargain really is a bargain. Mysupermarket.com shows a graph of each product’s price over the last 12 months, so I can see what’s actually been discounted and what’s just clever marketing.
Save money on repeat visits…
By getting in the habit of doing one big online shop a week, I find it easier to plan my family’s meals and remember everything I need.
That means I don’t end up ‘nipping back’ to the supermarket to pick up something I’ve forgotten. I cannot be the only person who pops in for some shampoo and leaves carrying two full carrier bags.
Save money on the kids…
The supermarket isn’t just filled with impulse-buys for adults, there are loads of child-height temptations too. From “pocket money toys”, to sweets, to Disney-branded food, it’s easy to spend more when you have a child or two in tow.
Even if your children are beautifully behaved and don’t nag, many parents feel they should treat their offspring to something as a reward for putting up with the supermarket. At least, I know I do.
Shopping online avoids this. Your groceries can be ordered in the evening, while you relax in front of the TV and the kids are in bed.
Is it really cheaper?
Perhaps I could save even more by being a bit more determined. I could resolutely ignore anything that’s not on my list, tell my toddler he can’t have a treat and ban myself from visiting the shop more than twice a week.
Or, I could visit my local market more, where high quality, local food often sells for less than in the supermarkets.
But I have to be realistic. There are limited hours in a day – the supermarket is almost always a hectic ordeal and it’s easy to overspend when I’m flustered.
For me and the millions of people like me, online shopping allows more control and that means we save money.
What do you think? Does online shopping save you money or do you prefer to choose your own? Is it cheaper to shop in store as long as you’re more careful? Share your thoughts with other readers in the comments below.