“Time is money.” – Benjamin Franklin

Shopping OnlineTIME.com recently reported that visits to online shopping sites are increasing. You would think people would be buying less these days. But wait – it makes sense that consumers are searching progressively more online instead of driving around, looking for deals and ultimately wasting time, money and gasoline.

In the column, Bill Tancer, an online search expert at Hitwise, points out:

When I draw a chart, I start with a hypothesis. In studying online shopping’s relationship to our shaky economy – from high oil prices to the housing crisis and talks of recession – I expected that a chart of visits to online retailers would show a precipitous decline. According to the latest Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Index, consumer confidence has reached the lowest level in 28 years. Yet the facts show that my hypothesis is completely wrong: Visits to online shopping sites are up compared to the previous year.

What are you buying online these days that you didn’t buy online a year or two ago?

1. Home-delivered entertainment items like DVD’s (e.g. have you made the switch to Netflix, instead of driving to Blockbuster?), CD’s, books, etc.
2. Computers and electronics
3. Clothing and accessories
4. Health items like vitamins and prescription drugs
5. Groceries (if you live in Seattle, now there’s AmazonFresh, otherwise, I’m not sure what healthy, organic options you have.)
6. Any item that can be bought used.

The Time.com article continues:

Online comparison shopping engines such as Shopzilla, Shopping.com and Pricegrabber, have, as a category, increased at a rate of 59.9% over the previous year… The online classifieds website Craigslist.org is up 93.4% comparing the week ending May 31, 2008 to the same time period in 2007.

It appears more people are shopping online looking for deals and buying second-hand items too. But PC Magazine suggests that you can even find the best gas prices on the Web:

A site like GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com lets you search by ZIP code or city and state to find the cheapest per-gallon price in your neck of the woods. If you’re already on the road you can access GasBuddyToGo.com from your phone’s browser, or send a text message or e-mail with your city, state, and ZIP to gas@gasbuddy.com and you’ll get a reply quoting the five lowest-cost locations in that area.

Or instead of the cheapest, why not pre-pay at today’s prices… kind of like the USPS “Forever Stamp” version of gas. Mashable reports:

MyGallons.com is a new web site offering you the ability to pre-pay for gas at today’s prices, under the assumption that prices will continue to rise. For example, if you buy 20 gallons at today’s price of $4.10 on MyGallons and the price is up to $4.50 next time you fill up, using your MyGallons card would save you $8.

But be careful. MyGallons received some recent bad press. Although they’ve announced a new payment network because of it… still, proceed cautiously if you decide to sign up.

Finally, whatever you’re buying, just make sure you’re a happy online shopper… as it’s been reported that sad shoppers spend 4 times as much money.

So what are you buying these days online? And are you saving money and gas because of it? Please feel free to comment below.