One direct impact of the lockdown that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic was that non-essential shops were forced to close.
Whatever your personal circumstances, it’s almost certain that you found yourself needing to buy things more frequently from online stores. With many people also finding that they’ve had more time on their hands, for some this has exposed an overindulgence in online shopping. This can be harmful for our budgets, and ultimately prevent us scoring our personal finance goals 🥅
There’s no denying the fact that buying from online retailers is very convenient. Who doesn’t appreciate the fact that we can fill our Amazon or ebay shopping cart while wearing our PJs... with no fear of judgement!
Why can online shopping be a problem? 🤔
Online shoppers can make a purchase in less time and still have their items delivered the very next day. And with modern e-commerce sites adept at luring us into spending money, it’s no surprise that many of us may be feeling that they’ve developed a shopping problem.
In extreme cases a shopping habit can be a serious behavioural problem, with a shopping addiction every bit as challenging as say gambling, or over-eating.
Signs that online shopping is a problem 😬
Just like the behaviours referenced above, there is no shame in admitting that things are getting out of hand. The ease and convenience of online shopping means that most of us have probably observed compulsive behavior patterns in ourselves to some degree. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- You regularly compromise your budget due to impulse buys
- You find yourself racking up debt due to overspending online (either in the form of credit card debt or a bank account overdraft)
- You have a ‘secret’ funding source for your online spending
- You’re living space is getting cluttered with your online purchases
- The amount you spend causes arguments with your partner or spouse
- You feel regret or shame after you make an online purchase
As shopping sites ramp up their marketing activities to stimulate spending during these challenging economic times, many of us are looking for ways to help us control the time and money we spend online.
5 practical tips for curbing online shopping 👇
Tip 1: Love what you have 🤗
Many people who struggle to rein-in the amount they spend online admit that they sometimes lose track of the things they even buy (if you have items of clothing with the labels still attached or packages unopened, then you know what we’re talking about here).
Step one is all about creating a fresh start. A chance to familiarise yourself with your possessions, and think with a rational, clear mind about what you actually NEED in your daily life to make you happy 🧘
You may even find that the simple act of decluttering your living space can result in an entirely new perspective. This can be an especially cathartic experience if you feel haunted by some of your previous purchases 👻
As you clear space and get rid of the things you don’t need, you’ll hopefully feel less inclined to simply refill the gaps again. This could also be a great time to regulate your future spend by applying the ‘one-in-one-out rule’?!
Tip 2: Know your limits ✋
Whatever your personal finance goals, the process always starts with a clear and considered budget. This is especially true when it comes to controlling your spending to avoid making impulse purchases.
Ultimately you’ll need to get to grips with how much you have available to spend safely, by accounting for any regular payments due before your next payday. There are personal finance apps that can help you do this in real time, but the most important thing is to have an accurate handle before you pay a visit to your favourite online shopping site!
A very useful technique when allocating your shopping budget, is to think of any potential purchases in terms of the amount of time that you’d need to work in order to earn the same amount of money 🤓
If you take home £10 per hour and you’re considering an item that costs £10, then ask yourself if you feel the item is worth an hour of your working life.
Tip 3: Let yourself cool down 🥶
This section could just as easily have been titled, ‘perspective is everything’. If you’re aware that your purchasing decisions made in the heat of the moment have been questionable in the past... then simply make a conscious effort to remove yourself from the situation when something catches your eye 👀
By waiting for 24 hours before making a purchase (if you want to be really strict with yourself, you could wait for anything up to 30 days!), you’ll allow yourself some breathing space to figure out whether you genuinely want the item, or if you simply got caught up in the moment!
Online stores are notorious for using FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) tactics. By playing it cool and adding an item to your wish list for a set period of time before buying it, you’re less likely to regret your decision later.
Tip 4: Take a tech detox 😰
Plum is founded on the principle that technology can help people be better with money, by automating aspects of finance that we’d all rather not have to think about. We use technology to try and make the world a better place, but in other applications, increased convenience is not always a good thing.
If you feel a total online shopping detox is in order, you can start by deleting the apps that most test your willpower from your phone 📱
A more sustainable trick is to simply remove saved passwords and credit card information. Doing so will mean that you physically have to enter your credit card numbers each time you buy something 💳 This simple act in itself can slow down the overall process, and ensure you have time to think about your actions before committing in a moment of impulse shopping weakness.
Another neat suggestion is to clear out your internet cache and stored cookies 🍪 This cuts out the targeted adverts that stalk you as you innocently peruse the internet, and ensure your resolve is not continually tested after you’ve already walked away from something you’ve previously viewed.
Tip 5: Time to unsubscribe 🙅
Having deliberately made it more inconvenient for yourself to shop online in the previous step, this next tip is all about removing further temptation 😈
We’ve all become accustomed to getting bombarded with promotional emails as a result of previous purchases 📧 But in the same way that you wouldn’t browse a physical store where you have a habit of overspending, you can also reduce your exposure to this digital marketing too.
Take a look through your inbox and unsubscribe from any mail outs from retailers that you feel you ought to avoid. In the world of modern day e-commerce, the presentation of flash sales and limited offers has become an art-form, but you can take back control of when you choose to shop.
This same principle can also be applied to social media. So unfollow any brands or influencers that don’t contribute any meaningful value to your life!
Advice to beat a shopping addiction 🎁
If you’re reading this article because you feel the amount you spend shopping online is a problem for you, then the thought of denying yourself the undeniable pleasure that it can bring may seem quite bleak.
Getting your personal finances sorted can be challenging, but as with many things in life, it’s more about how you choose to frame that challenge in your mind 🤯
There’s no escaping the fact that you’ll need to change behaviours which could have been formed over many years. But instead of focusing on the things you need to restrain yourself from doing, think instead about the newfound time and money you’ll have to achieve other things in your life.
Why not use this opportunity to pick a life-goal and work towards that instead. If shopping is truly a passion of yours, then why not save for a getaway to New York or Paris and do the job properly 🛩 That way you can also have an incredible experience… and be assured that anything you buy during the trip will remind you of the great time you had, and make you feel proud that the items were financed by money that you could afford to spend 😌
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