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8 Ways To Stop Your Online Shopping Habit In Its Tracks

Lindsay Mott  |  July 30, 2020

Feel like you’ve been on an online spending spree but don’t know how to stop? Yeah, us, too. Here's how to bring your shopping back to pre-pandemic levels.

We’re all spending more time at home right now, and what are we doing with that time, other than binging Netflix, whipping up banana bread and trying to (finally) get some work done? Well, the statistics say we are shopping… a lot. In June of this year, online sales in the U.S. hit $73.2 billion, a whopping 76.2% increase over the same time last year, according to research from Adobe Analytics. But of course just because we’re spending more online doesn’t mean we’re completely trashing our budgets. Many of us, in an effort to avoid the coronavirus, are ordering things online that we would have ordinarily bought in stores, like paper towels, canned goods, and all manner of groceries, toiletries, and staples. Since staying safe and staying home are our top priorities right now, shopping online for these items is to be commended. (Go you and your Amazon Prime account!) 

The trouble comes into play when we start throwing three extra pairs of pajamas into our cart along with our toothpaste and tampons, and doing that on a regular basis… And then we really have the potential to get into the danger zone when we don’t scale back on our online shopping habits as we start to trickle back into stores for in-person shopping. Think about it this way: Your $200 worth of online purchases from Target may be well within your budget if you haven’t darkened the door of a Walmart or a Marshalls or a Sephora in the last six weeks, but if you’re out shopping in the real world AND getting lured in by Instagram ads AND not scaling back on all your typical monthly deliveries, your budget could end up in the red real quick.

If you’re feeling the need to scale back, check out these eight ways to start spending less online. 

Watch stress spending

Instead of spending when you feel stressed (as we have basically all been feeling, literally all the time), walk away and find something else that can make you feel good: A walk, a long bath, a good book, an online yoga or meditation course, whatever works for you. Stress shopping may make you feel better for now, but in the long run, it can cause you even more stress if it takes you over budget.

Give yourself an allowance

Shopping is fun and enjoyable, so there’s no need to deny yourself that little joy completely. Just set a dedicated budget so you can still spend without worrying about it.  Having a dedicated budget “helps people from a psychological perspective to make smarter decisions,” says Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae.com.

Pro tip: Set a weekly budget. If you don’t spend it all this week, save it and buy something bigger next week. 

Establish set shopping times

We’re spending more time at home, so the urge to scroll through enticing merchandise on our laptops, tablets, and phones is essentially constant. But if we’re never really not shopping when we’re online, then does that mean we’re always shopping? No need for an existential crisis here. The point is that maybe you should consider limiting yourself to shopping only at certain times or on certain days. For example, maybe it’s Wednesday nights when you have a chance to see what you need for meal-prep over the weekend, or maybe you reward yourself with a shopping sesh on Saturday night. The goal is that you cut down on impulse purchases throughout the week. 

Only buy items that are on sale

If you really want it, and you’ve thought the purchase through, then wait for the item to go on sale. Challenging yourself to buy only sale items can help you save money on the things you really want to buy. 

For this, Bodge recommends (all the time, not just during a pandemic!) using a deal site or a browser extension such as couponcabin.com or slickdeals.net that will alert you to sales. Specifically, CouponCabin.com is waiving their commissions during the pandemic, so you stand to earn more cash back than usual, according to Bodge. “It’s worth taking 30 seconds to look and see if there is a cash back opportunity or a coupon,” she says.

Pro tip: If you’re a fan of luxury brands, Bodge says many of them are having sales right now, which rarely happens. If you’ve been eyeing something special, this could be an opportunity to get it for less.

Walk away and re-visit

If you see something you want to buy, take some time to consider it without just adding to your cart immediately. Come back to it the next day, or later in the week. If you can’t stop thinking about it, then that’s a point in the favor of making it yours. If you lose interest, then move on without it.

Switch to debit

Spending money that you see immediately leaving your bank account can be a game changer. When we use credit cards, it’s easy to think we’ll “pay later” or that we can buy more than we can really truly afford in the moment. According to Bodge, when you use debit, you’re forced to stop and consider whether or not you have that money in your bank account, and what else you might need it for. Smarter decisions ensue.  

Every time you buy something, sell or donate something

Do you really need that pair of new shoes? How about that great new shirt? If the answer is yes, then what are you willing to part with? Setting a rule for yourself that your closet must be one-in, one-out, can really make you stop and think before adding new things to your wardrobe. Also, if you’re able to sell some unwanted items, you can get the dual benefit of being able to recoup some money for new wardrobe pieces. It can be a tough decision, but it can also be a win-win.

Consider your new reality

The world has drastically changed for most of us in terms of how we work, how we school, how we travel, and the type of things we really need day-to-day. In other words, do you even think you’ll need a new blazer for another year? Or two? 

“Think really hard about what life is going to be like for the foreseeable future, considering that we really do not have Covid-19 under control in the US, and decide if you actually need that item,” says Dan Frommer, founder and editor in chief of The New Consumer.

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