Online shopping offers much more than credit debt

I recently filled out a survey that asked me to name the Web sites I visit most frequently in my free time. As I pondered the question, I tried to narrow the many sites I

I recently filled out a survey that asked me to name the Web sites I visit most frequently in my free time. As I pondered the question, I tried to narrow the many sites I visit down to my three favorites. I wish. The last time I was there I was reading about Anna Nicole Smith.

Blackboard? It’s a little depressing to think about how much time I spend clicking through scholarly articles my professors post there. Still, I probably wouldn’t rank it among my top three most-visited sites.

Facebook? I’ll be the first to admit to this guilty pleasure, but I have to give myself credit for keeping my hits at a reasonable level. Last year it would have ranked among my favorites, but really, how many times can a person be expected to read about what wonderful parents Brad and Angelina are?

Truth be told, the vast majority of my time online is spent shopping, or at least browsing. I determined that my top three sites are probably, and Not the most respectable answer I suppose, but it could be worse.

For me, shopping is a very relaxing activity. I have seen people who freak out about shopping or consider it a chore, and I just don’t get it. Shopping is the opportunity to look at beautiful clothes, jewelry, shoes, etc., and escape the thoughts and pressures of school, work and petty things.

Online shopping encompasses everything I love about regular shopping, but it generally happens in an even more peaceful environment.

Want to go shopping in your bathrobe? OK! Not interested in driving 40 minutes to King of Prussia? Don’t worry about it! Don’t want to deal with pushy salespeople? Me neither!

Let’s face it: There are days you may feel like shopping, but you just don’t want to leave your bed. That would have been quite a conundrum 10 years ago, but today, it’s all good. Open that browser, surf toward the store or brand of your choice and chances are you’ll find just what you want light-years before it would have happened had you actually gone out.

‘But Mary,’ you ask, ‘doesn’t it bother you to have to wait for your purchases to arrive?’ Not really. Occasionally I get possessed by the spirit of Veruca Salt (my favorite character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but generally I find online shopping to be twice as exciting.

Think of it this way: you can experience that shopping high once when you are browsing, picking and choosing, and again a week later when your order arrives. Or, if you really can’t wait, all you have to do is shell out an extra 20 bucks and the UPS man will be at your door with your picks the next morning.

My biggest rule for online shopping is that I tend to stick to brands I know for clothes and shoes. My experience has taught me, if nothing else, that knowing how things fit you is very important.

Take, for example, my dress-buying binge. I was so floored at the sight of cute dresses for $15 that I bought three. When these “dresses” arrived, they turned out to be not much more than shirts plus two or three inches. Suffice it to say, they didn’t work out too well on my 5’11” frame. Now if I want to wear those ‘whatever they are,’ I have to pair them with leggings. Unfortunately, I’m pretty much over that trend.

So although at first I was thinking “What a deal!,” I now think of that purchase as $50 I’ll never see again.

If you must buy without trying, look for a sizing chart. Most retail sites provide a link to one if you scroll to the bottom of any page. Know your measurements and make your best guess. When in doubt, pick the bigger size – a tailor can bring anything in or up.

Next time you are pinched for time or need a quick pick-me-up, don’t forget about the therapeutic value and convenience of online shopping. But here’s fair warning: Once you try it, you may never want to go to the mall again.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Mary C. Schell can be reached at

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