The temptation is everywhere to get you to spend your money online at the click of a mouse or button. I’m positive you’ve noticed the interest based ads popping up in your social media feeds like magic and there’s an offer on every few videos you watch. So, how is online shopping affecting your budget?
What makes online shopping so tempting?
Have you ever found yourself automatically adding items to your cart without really thinking about it? Or buying things you wouldn’t buy in person—because they seem like such good deals.
It’s easy to fall into this trap because the internet has conditioned us to think of everything as available at our fingertips. And given how convenient it is to click “buy” and have an item delivered to your door, or stashed away for pick-up at a local store, it’s not surprising that most people acknowledge they spend too much money online.
There are also more significant psychological factors at work that make it difficult for us to budget when shopping online. First, we have a tendency to forget about the time element involved with online purchases; we don’t see the delivery guy taking two weeks before your purchase arrives on your doorstep and then another two weeks for the return (assuming you can even get one).
And then there are shipping costs, which are almost always higher than you expect. We can easily forget that $5 shipping fee, until suddenly our total order ends up being $75 instead of $35.
In fact, most people end up spending considerably more than they had planned on…not only because of hidden fees but also because human beings tend to procrastinate and put off making returns until later—which rarely happens!
Retailers want you to buy what’s popular.
Online retailers want you to spend more money, and they do everything in their power to make that happen. From sending you emails that show which of your friends are shopping on the site to creating a “trending” section that features popular items (and therefore encourages you to buy them), there’s a reason why Amazon has become America’s largest retailer.
When it comes to buying something online, experts agree: always shop with a purpose. In other words, know what it is you’re looking for before logging on. “People who go online without an exact idea of what they want may end up spending more because they will be tempted by all the options,” said consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, PhD. “It’s easy to find yourself falling down the rabbit hole.”
Another thing to avoid? Going onto department store sites— like Macy’s and Nordstrom— for browsing purposes. The problem? Those sites are designed for maximum retail therapy through high-end fashion photos and content from top bloggers, as well as email blasts advertising new products and promotions. What this means for your wallet is that if you’re not careful about keeping track of what you’re buying, you might end up spending more money than you expect.
Online Shopping can be isolating
Online shopping is great because you can shop for designer shoes at amazing prices all day long without ever having to leave your home. You can do it in your pajamas, alone and no one will judge you for it. But the convenience of online shopping comes at a price: social interaction. If you’re someone who loves people-watching or chatting with salespeople, then online shopping might not be for you.
However, social media only makes this problem worse by adding a layer of isolation to an ultimately social activity— shopping! It’s nice to see what your friends are up to and what they’re purchasing, but it’s not the same as going out yourself and trying on clothes or testing out new gadgets with them there in person.
Admittedly, some people get their best ideas from others’ posts on Facebook or Instagram—but other times those posts just lead us down a rabbit hole of impulse buying (who else has fallen prey to targeted ads?). Similarly, some people are motivated by others’ posts to go outside and use their purchased services like gym memberships where they can interact or say hi to members, but what if you spend more time scrolling through social media than actually using that fitness gear you bought online or offline? Well, maybe it was better off left where you found it or in the case of online shopping: you never received it. Right?
Beware the distraction of free gifts and offers
Online retailers understand that the allure of a “free” gift with purchase can motivate you to buy more than you intended. They also know that it’s easier to sell things people need when they’re distracted by a free gift. The free gift gives you something tangible, which is reassuring in a world where online shopping can feel like spending money on nothing but air.
However, these tactics are not always in your best interests. If you start with the intention of buying 1 item and end up buying 3 items because of the offer to get a free bag for spending over $100, then you end up with less money than you could have in your budget. The same goes for getting an extra pair of shoes or two because the first one was on sale for $99 and shipping is free if you spend over $150— these are ideas designed to get your attention and convince you to separate from your money quicker.
Be careful when shopping online if you want to stay in budget and become better at avoiding impulse buying. Shop smart, and you’ll be better off. Stay in budget: You know what’s best for your finances and how much you can spend. So if you’re going to spend money, make sure it’s not more than what your budget allows.
Be careful with credit
If you use a credit card or line of credit to pay for things online, make sure that the retailer is legitimate. Also keep track of when your payments are due so as not to miss them, as this will affect your credit score.
Save receipts and track expenses: Online shopping is convenient because everything arrives at your home without you having to go anywhere, but it’s important to keep track of the receipts sent by retailers so that if there is a discrepancy in the amount paid or a problem with the product delivered, you have proof of payment in case you need an exchange or refund.
Check your credit report regularly: It’s important to check your online statements regularly so that there are no fraudulent charges on your accounts and also stay up-to-date on how much money has been debited from each account. And finally, being aware of these tips will help keep you safe and stay within your budget while shopping online.