9 Times You Should Never Shop Online

A woman smiles while holding her credit card and shopping online while holding her laptop.
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Shopping without a clear plan and a budget and allowing your emotions to govern your actions can lead to online shopping disasters and unnecessary overspending.

“There are many jokes about retail therapy,” said Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C and psychotherapist with The Avalon Center for Integrative Therapies. “Shopping online or in person gives us a splash of dopamine, one of our feel-good neurotransmitters. It offers us a feeling of temporary escape, a thrill, a sense of accomplishment or even a hopeful belief that ‘These shoes are going to change my life!’

“Of course, these feelings are temporary. We know that the happiness that something new gives us fades — and then we are looking for the next something new.”

To avoid putting yourself into debt or just , here are 10 times you should never shop online.

When You’ve Just Received a Raise or Bonus 

“It can be tempting to squander that extra money on items you don’t necessarily need, so it’s important not to give in to the temptation and impulsively buy something,” said Steve Carleton, LCSW and executive clinical director at Gallus Detox. “Instead, take some time to think about how best to use that extra income — perhaps setting aside some of it for savings or investing.”

When You’re Tired

“Shopping online while tired can also be a dangerous move,” Carleton said. “Due to fatigue, you may be more likely to make hasty decisions without considering all the factors involved in the purchase, such as researching other options or reading reviews about the product. You may also find yourself spending more money than you intended due to exhaustion and lack of focus.”

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When You’re Angry

“Feeling angry and spiteful can make some people prone to spending money when they shouldn’t,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews. “For example, if you’re just had an argument about money with a partner, the last thing you want to do is jump online and go on a spending spree because you feel like you deserve it or to get back at them for their own bad spending habits. This is an easy way to end up spending hundreds of dollars on items you don’t want or need — purely just to make the other person as angry as you.”

When You’re Upset or Depressed

“Many people really take the whole retail therapy excuse seriously and often end up going overboard in a ‘treat yourself’ moment after a hard day,” Ramhold said. “But the truth is we rarely opt to treat ourselves to something affordable or even something that we may want but is also practical. Instead, many shoppers will fill their carts with items they don’t really care about or just things that catch their attention, even if they wouldn’t buy it on an ordinary day or have no idea how they’ll use it.”

When You’re Anxious

“Retail therapy is used for more than just being upset or depressed — some people turn to it when they’re feeling anxious because it’s one thing they can control,” Ramhold said. “But the ironic part is that by giving in to spending when they’re anxious in order to feel some sort of control, they may actually be overspending or purchasing items they can’t afford which then pushes their finances further out of control. It can be a vicious cycle to get into — and one that should be avoided at all costs.”

When You Have Credit Card Debt

“If you already have extreme credit card debt, then you should be avoiding online shopping as much as possible,” said Sean Gilbert, chartered financial planner and founder of Select Wealth Managers. “Shopping online increases our chances of impulse buying, which can really hurt our finances.

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“When we are already in debt, we simply exacerbate the issue, and it can hurt not only our financial situation but also our credit score. It’s best to avoid online shopping until you can get your debt under control and to only spend money in retail locations, as it’s not as easy or convenient, which deters us from spending money we don’t have.”

When You Are With Other People

“Peer pressure is something that we face all of the time,” Gilbert said. “And when we are with people, we tend to spend more money. If you are with friends and are online, you should avoid online shopping as your friends can pressure or influence you into buying something. Especially if your friend is an impulse buyer, they can convince you to buy something they have, which can cause you to spend money you never budgeted for.”

When You’re in a Competitive Mindset

“Another mood to avoid shopping in is when you’re feeling overly competitive,” said Laura Wasser, a family law expert and chief of divorce evolution at Divorce.com. “You know the feeling: You see someone else with a fancy gadget or a new outfit, and suddenly you need it, too. This type of impulse shopping can lead to financial strain and ultimately regret. Instead of competing with others, focus on what you really need and make a plan to buy it when you can afford it.”

When You’re Pressed for Time

“Don’t shop online when you’re in a rush,” Wasser said. “When we’re pressed for time, we’re more likely to make snap decisions and overlook important details, like shipping fees or return policies. Take the time to read through everything carefully before you hit that Buy button.”

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