Online shopping is here to stay.
It feels weird writing this as someone who genuinely did not trust online retailers when they first started up. In my lifetime, I’ve seen things go from: “you can’t have this, this is not even in-store,” to “online shops are dodgy,” to “this deal is too good to pass up,” to “what do you mean, 1 day delivery is not available?” And I’m not alone. According to one site, 76% of U.S. consumers shop online and the market is only expected to grow.
On one hand, that’s great news — greater popularity usually invites greater scrutiny, so consumer protection should be tightened. It also means more choice and greater opportunities for innovation. That’s the theory, anyway.
On the other hand, some countries are already seeing the negative effects of our love for online shopping. Fast fashion is one of the biggest drivers of pollution in the world while the people who make 1 day delivery possible work in impossible conditions. Moreover, in the UK, brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling to make ends meet, despite the fact that there is no faster delivery than going to a shop and immediately picking up the product yourself.
With all this in mind… I decided to spend the month of July not buying a single thing online.
First of all, there are a couple of things to point out: I did actually do a version of this in May of this year. However, I didn’t intend to do it. Hence, I wanted to see what would happen if I made a conscious effort not to shop online for a month. I also didn’t have any massive emotional drivers to spend in May. However, July was just before my birthday month, and my book’s birthday month… so that upped the stakes a little bit.
What I wanted to see, most of all, was whether the assertion that “you can’t NOT shop online” was true. One of the reasons I chose to do it was because I want to support local stores, and I want to reduce my carbon footprint… even if it’s through something as tiny as not having stuff delivered to my actual door instead of picking it up in a shop.
First things first: I did not save any more money than usual.
The last week of June, my online spending can be summed up by one word: “YOLO”. I was intending to get those things anyway, but the thought that I would not be able to order them for four weeks made me push the “buy now” button. Which I hadn’t expected, and which I think is an important lesson to learn.
I also bought stuff during the month.
But instead of dashing to Google to find the cheapest possible deal on an item I wanted, I looked for it in my local stores and only got it if it was there. The only exceptions were music and ebooks, both of which were directly downloaded and (hopefully) did not have such a major carbon footprint.
I didn’t miss online shopping particularly.
The only physical item I got during July was a pre-order, which shipped early August — so, not technically breaking the rules, and a purchase I really did look forward to. It was one which made me very happy. That one item aside, everything else I saw online that I wanted, I found it easy to just… not get. Most of the time, it was something that I could get from the shops, and any difference in price was offset by the cost of delivery. Where I would have filled up my cart to make free shipping, now I was just… getting the thing that I wanted.
Moreover, I didn’t take part in Prime Day… which should have been self-explanatory, but still. Thought I would throw this out there.
It did make a change to the way I shopped afterward.
I’m not gonna lie — I got back to online shopping in August. But my spending habits have changed.
Now, I’m asking myself more if I actually need the item I’m buying. Or is it just a simple want.
I’m asking myself if the shipping cost is worth the discount.
I’m asking myself if there isn’t a brick-and-mortar store nearby where I can get this, for the same money or less.
Sometimes the only place I can get the item is online. Sometimes, that place is a platform like Etsy that has a carbon footprint offsetting program. On the other hand, sometimes that platform is a place for selling second-hand items, which, in turn, saves them and gives them a longer life.
Whichever way you look at it, our online shopping habits have to change soon. Luckily, there are a lot of ways we can do that. Each individual purchase may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it has the potential to add up.