From the closing days of Beast Wars, through to Classics, I bought in brick and mortar shops. In fact, it wasn't until 2010 that I ordered my first TF online (Henkei Megatron) and it was a slippery slope from there. I still like to buy things from actual humans in actual shops. Sadly, it seems that the stores and the companies supplying the products to the stores are unable to put the things I want on the shelves.
Price is rarely the issue. Although I am more likely to pick up a single figure on a whim if I see it in front of me, than I am to order it. I tend to try and buy a few TFs at once, to cut down on shipping costs, since the online stores are rarely much cheaper than the products would theoretically be if a physical shop had them on the shelves. Usually, the online stores, and ebay especially, are much more expensive. There are bargains now and then, but in general, I pay more buying online. However, I am at least given some variety in things I can buy. If I go to a brick and mortar shop, I can buy Bumblebee, or maybe Optimus Prime.
Having branched out into buying 3rd Party items has encouraged my shopping online as well, as you're not going to see the latest FP or iGear stuff in a supermarket or Toys R Us. That and the abundance of exclusives, either by store, or by region, mean that it is usually the only way to get the things I want.
The one thing I'm still reluctant to do is pre-order too many things. Uncertain release dates mean that I might find myself getting $400 worth of stuff come out all within a couple weeks of each other, or I might get one item every few months. It IS the only way to guarantee getting some things, but I grudge paying up front for stuff that I may not see for 6months or more, and paying when it's released runs me the risk of getting stung for loads of stuff at the same time and ending up completely broke at the start of a month or going overdrawn if it's at the end of a month.
assembling a Neo-G1/TF:TM cast. Please PM if you have (or know of) the following at a reasonable price: Classics or Henkei Prowl, Astrotrain, Ramjet, Skywarp, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Blurr, Perceptor, GDO Wheelie and Springer, or 3rd Party Motobot Arcee, FP Springer, iGear Ratchet and Ironhide, City Commander (and/or Ultra Magnus), Starscream (deluxe) Coronation add-on, or Spike and Daniel in their Exo-Suits.