Food & Drink

Saving Centsably: How to avoid excessive online shopping

These days it is very easy to shop online. I wrote earlier this year about joining Amazon Prime. Since companies such as Amazon, eBay and other online merchants typically “capture” your method of purchase, the ease of checkout often leads to the ability to spend money quickly.

Without careful diligence, customers can spend a lot of money very quickly. I have a few tips and tricks to help you avoid this pitfall of online shopping.

First, clean out your inbox. Look carefully at all those emails you are receiving. Do they entice you to spend money when the great deals come through? Those blaring subject headings offering free shipping, percentage-off savings and giant sales can certainly be attractive.

However, many times these emails convince us to make impulse purchases -- purchases we would avoid if shopping in the stores. If you find you are receiving way too many emails, unsubscribe from them.

To do so, simply scroll to the bottom of the email message and click “unsubscribe.”

In most cases, that will complete the process of unsubscribing. Sometimes you will be asked to log in to the account that requested the subscription in the first place.

Unsubscribing from these emails should both decrease the number of emails in your inbox and decrease the temptation to buy things you do not need.

Second, remove your payment information from the accounts. Many online merchants “capture” our payment information. By doing so, they create the illusion that they are doing us a favor. “Check out quickly because we have saved your payment information,” they say.

I advise you to remove your payment information. Simply decide that in order to make a purchase, you will have to take the time to get your wallet, pull out your debit or credit card, and enter the information each time.

This extra time and effort may just be what you need as a deterrent to avoid making the purchase.

If neither of these two ideas work to decrease the purchase of unnecessary items online, consider placing the items you want to purchase in your online cart and then leaving the website.

Just as if you were in a store and you saw an item you wanted to purchase, but you enacted a “cooling off period” to avoid making an unnecessary purchase, this would be a reasonable thing to do.

Because the Internet creates a sense of urgency and offers ease and speed in making purchases, most of us have forgotten that sometimes it is better to think about a purchase overnight before spending our money.

I would encourage you to place the item in your cart, examine the total price with tax and shipping fees, and then enact a “cooling off” period. Set a time -- whether it is 12 hours or 24 hours -- that will help you think about your online purchase.

The last idea I can offer today is to remove shopping capabilities from your phone. Removing those apps will make shopping a little more difficult. Take off Paypal, eBay, Groupon, Amazon and others.

Again, the more difficult shopping becomes, the less money you will be spending. Force yourself to be seated at a computer to do online shopping.

This will give you a better ability to compare prices, but should also mean you find less time to do that online shopping. Hopefully, this will also keep you from spending money on unnecessary items.

Online shopping can be fun. Online shopping can certainly save money and time, when done properly. Follow the tips I have mentioned in this article to be sure you are spending your money in the best way possible.

Contact writer Rachael Mercer at savingcentsably@gmail.com.

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