Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Parity, parity, parity, oi oi oi! OR Be still my throbbing credit card

I'm usually not that excited about economics and finance, but at the moment the Australian dollar's rise-and-rise (or the US dollar's fall-and-fall) has got me captivated. Will it cross the 1:1 "parity" exchange rate?
Why does this interest me? Pure self interest: you see, somehow in the last month or two, I've found that online shopping suits me. It's not that I haven't shopped online before, but suddenly I've found myself shopping online rather than going to a physical shop.

I think it started with discovering The Book Depository. Like Amazon in having way better prices than elsewhere, but with free worldwide shipping. Take the original Railway Series (aka Thomas the Tank Engine; the original Rev W. Awdry books are by far the best written)- I'm looking to get a few for Little Bro's birthday. Borders Online, which now I see has a price guarantee- meaning it should be the cheapest of Australian shops- stocks each of these books for $15.95. The Book Depository price is $7.61- half that. By the bye, while you're checking out The Book Depository, for some mindless entertainment for which the web is legendary, click onto the Live site, where you can watch people buying in real time. Complete time waster, but completely addictive!

Meanwhile, across the pond, The Little Aussie Battler's strength suddenly opens up the world of US online shopping. Never let anyone tell you otherwise: American retailers know how to make you spend. Offer excellent websites. Offer lots of sales. Offer incentives. Offer (almost) unlimited returns. Oh, and offer a huge range of "stuff". And from B's recent shopping expeditions work trips I know which children's brands I like. A friend was taking advantage of the Gymboree sale a month or two ago, and asked if I wanted to share postage. Why not? I thought, as I like Gymboree and I found a few cheap items and a few items that would make nice gifts (like girls' dresses in colours other than pink). All well and good, but then came the Gymbucks. $175 of them, to be used in the first two weeks of October. Suddenly I remembered all the cute Gymboree items I hadn't thought to get first time around, and with $25 off every $50 their value escalated.

And then I wondered whether Old Navy ship to Australia. Well, it turns out that, as of last week, all the Gap family of brands do. Suddenly there are a heap more nice clothes at good prices within my reach. The wonders of online...

Please don't overestimate my shopaholic tendencies. I'm not really that much of a shopper. I was surprised that in five years I've bought fewer than 20 things from eBay. I do what's needed, and that's enough. I certainly don't have the nous to buy clothes online for myself, but when it comes to children's clothes (or books for that matter), wherever I shop the deciding factors are going to be: style (what is it?), size (what format is it?) and price. If you give me a package with those criteria met, then I'll take it. And if it's online, all the better, and I'll spend the afternoon with my kids at the park rather than at the shops. Any day.

Go on, tempt me- I'm hooked: where's your favourite website for spending money?

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