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Whether it's ordering dinner or buying more skin products, our shopping habits changed amid COVID-19

·6 min read

As our lifestyles have changed during the pandemic, so have our shopping habits.

Some of us (motions to self) have been shopping more than ever. PayPal even reported a 34% increase in transactions in its first quarter from the same time last year, Gideon Anstey, spokesperson for the platform, told USA TODAY.

Some people may be saving on expenses that they weren't before while boosting spending on other things. .

"On one hand, folks are spending less in areas such as transportation, eating out and other social activities," Danetha Doe, a financial philosopher and creator of Money & Mimosas, a virtual classroom, told USA TODAY. "On the other hand, I know that folks are spending more in areas that they did not previously spend a lot of money in."

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, some shopping habits that were born during lockdown may stick around as more businesses and states lift restrictions.

►My pandemic obsession: Why some of us have turned to compulsive shopping (and how to stop)

Some are saving more money as a result of lifestyle changes

Kristy Flannery, 32, from New Jersey, said that she hasn't spent as much during the pandemic and has found opportunities to save more than she had prior.

"New clothes were not a high priority during the pandemic as I opted for comfortable attire to work from home," she told USA TODAY. "The pandemic has helped me really buckle down and establish a budget as the pandemic proved material items simply aren’t important."

For her part, Hannah Noyes, 26, moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Newbury, Massachusetts, during the pandemic when her company announced that they would be shifting to a work-from-home model indefinitely. She moved back in with her parents and, as a result, her approach to money management changed.

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"I do believe that the net of these two is showing that folks are spending less overall, and those that have maintained a stable income during this time have been able to save more," said Doe, the financial philosopher.

Noyes is saving more than she was before. She is maxing out contributions to her 401(k) and putting money from rent into her savings, hitting self-assigned savings goals along the way.

With what's left, she's spending on material goods she wouldn't have bought while living in New York.

"(New York City) is so expensive, and when I was in the city I didn't buy myself material things per se," Noyes told USA TODAY. "I'd rather spend the money on dinner, fitness classes, nights out with friends. Now with the extra money, I've definitely treated myself more and thought less about buying."

Noyes is spending her money on things like a new Barbour jacket after watching "The Crown" and is stocking up on Kiehl's products, too. She also resumed horseback riding and is leasing a horse.

Online shopping gaining favor over in-store buying for some

One of the biggest changes Doe has noticed is that during the pandemic a major shift to online shopping occurred, including for grocery and food delivery.

"Moving forward, all businesses will need to invest in e-commerce and digital marketing because online shopping is firmly a part of the shopping experience now," the "Money Sex Power" podcast host told USA TODAY.

According to research from J.P. Morgan, online shopping is gaining traction. During the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce increased by 31.8% quarter over quarter, J.P. Morgan said, citing the U.S. Census Bureau.

That rise could also be related to people choosing to shop online to avoid entering shopping facilities during a global pandemic.

Some people are buying more when shopping online.
Some people are buying more when shopping online.

For Danny Groner and his wife, however, a shopping habit change came in the form of food delivery. He told USA TODAY on Twitter that he and his wife have been ordering dinner once a week to help local restaurants – a ritual he expects to continue.

And Soraya Khineche, 37, who owns an online business called Departure herself, said she became a full digital shopper during the pandemic.

"Now, I go into stores here and there but find myself constantly disappointed with the lack of product available in store vs. online, so it just makes more sense for me to buy online now," Khineche said.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, e-commerce sales were up 32.1% year over year from 2019, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report from February.

Some people are buying more when shopping online

Sabiha Nur, 24, a public relations professional from Chicago, told USA TODAY that while shopping online, she finds that she appreciates the availability of product details and is expanding her array of normal stores online.

During 2020, e-commerce sales accounted for 14% of total retail sales as opposed to accounting for 11% of total retail sales in 2019, according to the Census Bureau.

Khineche, the online shop owner, said she's often encouraged by online return policies to buy more than she typically would.

"The fact that most of the online stores have great return policies makes me lean towards buying something that I might not even be crazy about," she said.

"Because we can't try anything on, ... I buy a lot more and return a lot more than before, but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised with something I wasn’t sure about and I keep it, so I end up keeping most of what I buy," Khineche continued.

What to buy in May 2021: All the best deals to shop this month

And some are spending more while online shopping, too, but their dollars aren't necessarily going to items. For Sydney Sadick, 27, from New York City, shopping is about experiences.

"I craved in-person experiences (before)," she told USA TODAY, noting that she loved to try clothes on and work with sales associates. But COVID-19 changed that. "I no longer feel comfortable browsing and trying like I once did, so everything I purchase is now online."

Sadick recently hired a "virtual personal shopper" to curate links of items that she may be interested in purchasing.

That's not to say in-store shopping is no longer an appealing option. Doe believes that in-person shopping will eventually pick back up, noting that some people have even taken the time to seek out an in-store experience even during the pandemic.

►Store return policies have changed: Due to COVID-19 with some retailers suspending returns

This story was inspired by USA TODAY readers.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shopping online: Our COVID changes for buying will stick with us