How To Get Your Online Shopping Habit Under Control
Being confined at home during the pandemic limits your choices, so it’s no surprise that many people have turned to online shopping. After all, a smartphone, tablet or PC are a mere reach away for many.
According to a Slickdeals study of 2,000 Americans, impulse spending jumped 18% from January 2020 — before the pandemic hit — to April 2020. More specifically, consumers’ monthly spending in this category increased from $155.03 to $182.98 per month.
If you’re wondering why, nearly 3 out of 4 of those surveyed said that buying something on impulse during the pandemic had a positive effect on their mood — a welcome change during a trying time.
As the pandemic persisted throughout 2020, people continued spending more time online. By Oct. 1, 2020, U.S. consumers were spending an average of eight hours per day online — an uptick from the 6.45 hours people spent online before the pandemic, according to data from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study. And more time online means more opportunities for buying things you don’t need.
It’s no doubt the pressures of the pandemic — which have forced staying at home more, and consequently, spending more time online — are largely to blame for the increase in online shopping. But how do you curb your online shopping habit if it’s gotten out of control? Easy. Put saving first and set up some roadblocks to make impulse spending more difficult. Here’s some expert advice to get you started.
Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Is in Place First
Make sure your emergency fund is set before spending on wish-list items, advises John M. Longo, Ph.D., CFA, professor of finance and economics at Rutgers Business School and author of “Buffett’s Tips: A Guide to Financial Literacy and Life.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made most understand that they should have an emergency fund of at least six months living expenses,” Longo said. “If you must shop online for non-necessities, then wait until your emergency fund is fully funded.”
Remove Your Saved Credit Card Information
Because it’s so easy to shop online, it makes it much harder to limit yourself, said Anna Barker, personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar. She believes the key to cutting back is to take steps to make it slightly more difficult to make an online purchase.
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“One simple way to do this is to remove any saved credit card information from your browser and from online stores,” Barker said. “That way, even the act of having to get up to find your wallet and enter your credit card details could give you time to pause and think whether you really need to be spending this money.”
Put a 24-Hour Hold on Your Purchases
Barker recommends this second tip to help you stop impulse purchases or shopping out of boredom, plus a clever way to help you avoid caving.
“By forcing yourself to leave items in your online cart for 24 hours, you’re also giving yourself the time to consider whether you really, truly need whatever it is you’re about to buy,” Barker said. “And if you need some help doing this, there’s a great Chrome extension called Icebox for this exact purpose. It replaces the ‘buy’ button with ‘put it on ice’, allowing you to hold the purchase for up to 30 days and not be able to purchase it until the cooling period is over.”
Set a Budget for Your Online Shopping and Stick To It
You should set a budget for your online “fun” spending, said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews.com. “If you try to deprive yourself, you’re just going to end up feeling like you’re missing out,” Ramhold said. “Instead, set a reasonable budget for your online spending of items you don’t need – and stick to it. This will allow you to still treat yourself, but will keep your spending in check and prevent you from going overboard.”
Find Other Ways To Occupy Your Time
Careless online shopping can stem from being bored at home during the pandemic, said Sarah Carlson, founder of Fulcrum Financial Group. She suggests trying to find other things to pass the time. “Read a book, do a puzzle, organize a closet,” Carlson said. “Think of ways you could make money rather than spend it. Sell your clothes on sites like Poshmark. Put some of your possessions you don’t use on Facebook Market Place or Craigslist. You will feel so much better when this pandemic is over with more money in your bank account and not a bunch of stuff you don’t need.”
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