An online shopping addiction can be a real problem for your finances. Actually, ANY kind of shopping addiction can be a real problem for your finances, but online shopping is SO easy, it can get out of hand very quickly. All it takes is a few clicks and you can really blow your budget for a whole payday. What a depressing feeling!
I struggle with impulse shopping myself as do many women. Actually, I think I come by it naturally – I inherited it from my Mom. After she passed, we cleared out shelves full of unread books and boxes of unopened craft supplies. So these tips I’m sharing with you are ones I’ve HAD to implement in my own life.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely solved my problem, but let’s say I’m a recovering online shopping addict. I hope these tips will help you on the path to your own recovery.
Tip #1 – Be Aware of your Triggers for online shopping.
Online shopping doesn’t just happen out of the blue. There are triggers that get the snowball rolling. You’ll have to do some detective work to define what your own triggers are, but I’m happy to share mine. I have three main triggers that get me going:
Boredom – this is a big one for me, especially if I am feeling bored AND lonely. If you think about it, you probably have a similar issue. It’s not a good feeling to be sitting around on a weekend and not have anything fun to do or have someone to do it with. So, you resolve that negative feeling with a new pair of jeans or some shoes, when really you’d be happier to do something with a friend.
Solution: There are several solutions to this. Widen your circle of friends and activities so you have more options if your best friends are busy. Join a dance class or take up a new hobby (a LOW-COST hobby). Join some online groups so you can chat with your online friends if you can’t get out and do something. Even playing a game or reading a book will distract you from the temptation to shop. Even better: Start a side hustle like selling on Ebay or selling essential oils – it will earn extra money to pay off your debts and also keep you too busy to be bored.
Seeing the Sale Ads – this can be a HUGE problem for most shoppers. I have the soul of a magpie and when I see the shiny new thing, I can’t help but want it. You probably do too. Then when we go to the site, there’s even MORE shiny new temptations. And before you know it, there’s a big box headed your way and a big ding on your credit card.
Solution: Focus on what you can control – because there’s a lot you can do about it. Immediately unsubscribe from ALL shopping Emails. No, seriously – ALL of them. They are a huge daily temptation you don’t need. Fast-forward through commercials on TV. Sing along with the radio so you don’t notice the billboards. Or you could imagine that cute clothing model with a big bushy mustache! Stop taking the newspaper, or if you can’t do that, ask your husband or someone to strip out the ads and dump them.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy – This one is a little bit harder. We all know people who have nicer things than we have. And it’s just human nature to get a little envious sometimes. I think we’ve all envied someone’s new car, or pretty outfit, or fancy kitchen gadgets. It’s not a great feeling and it does make us unsatisfied with the things we DO have.
Solution: Part of the solution is to count your blessings. Look around and value the nice things you DO have. But another idea to look at it in hard dollars and cents. Let’s say your friend has a $200 Kitchenaide Mixer in a gorgeous red color. You want one too – but think about that figure. If you earn $10 an hour, that’s 20 hours worth of work. That might be your grocery budget for the week, or your car payment. How long would it take you to save up $200? All of a sudden, you don’t want that mixer quite as badly. And if you do, you can always start saving up for it. It will take a while, but then you’ll REALLY appreciate it.
It’s like when you see those women who are really skinny. You get jealous about it, but try thinking about all the hours they spend in the gym to get that way. That’s when I find I’m OK with a few extra pounds…
Tip #2 – Only Spend REAL Money Online
This one has helped me a LOT. Part of the lure of online shopping is the credit card. It feels FREE – until you get the bill! So you have no natural sense of how much money you are spending.
I do most of my only shopping on Amazon, so I set up an Amazon Prime card (that gives me a 5% rebate!). It has a ridiculous 26% interest rate, so there is NO WAY I am going to carry a balance on that baby.
So every time I make a purchase, I go straight to my banking app and set up a payment to that card to cover what I spent. That makes it seem very real, very quickly. It does take a little discipline, but if you’re serious about getting this under control, you’ve got to put on your big girl panties and deal with it. Imaginary money is just that, in your imagination. If you are putting it on a credit card, it has to be paid at some point.
Tip #3 – Enlist a Coach
We are talking about an addiction here. It is very easy to get addicted to that little emotional “high” you get when you make a new purchase. So, let’s treat it like an addition. Alcoholics and drug users have support groups and sponsors. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to enlist someone you trust to help you. Could be a friend, someone from church, a relative, even an online group. I made a declaration in one of my Facebook groups that I was NOT going to buy any more blogging courses. They applauded me and I haven’t bought one since. Well, one little one, but it was like $7 bucks.
The important thing is that you have to choose someone who will genuinely hold you accountable. The worst thing to do is if you would call someone and tell her you’ve put a new purse (that you don’t need) in your online shopping cart, and she asks you what style and color it is! That’s an accomplice, not a coach. Maybe pair up with a friend who is working on her own shopping issues.
I’ve done this and it’s VERY effective. If you know you’re going to have to explain your extra purchases to a friend, you will definitely think twice about it, I promise! Also, and I don’t mean to be all Judgey Judy here, DON’T LIE to your spouse about your purchases. Seriously. Cuz I’ve been on the other end of that and it’s HURTFUL. My husband once bought a $500 camera (that he doesn’t even use) and hid the bills for months. That’s not fair to do to your spouse. I’m very proud to say that I’ve never lied to HIM in 35 years of marriage. If he wants to see what I’ve bought, I will trot the receipts right out and tell him how I plan to pay for them.
Tip # 4 – Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
I’m can’t remember where I learned this technique, but it’s been a very helpful one for me. You can create a virtual fence around things you need to stay away from.
For instance, did you know if you put the potato chips at the back of your lowest cupboard, you are unlikely to get down on your knees to get to them? When I find myself checking my phone too much at work, I build a fence. I have a little .99 cent plastic pencil box and sometimes the phone has to go there for a time out. It’s surprisingly helpful. I will even put a post-it-note on my computer sometimes – “Adrian is not allowed to be on this computer until 6 PM”. It’s just a little piece of paper, but it WORKS!
How can you build some virtual fences for your online shopping?
- Removing the shopping apps from your phone is a good start.
- Blacklist your favorite sites with your virus checker?
- Set up bank alerts when you spend. I have a great post called “Teach Your Bank to YELL at You“. You set up automated alerts to go to yourself, your coach, or even your husband when a purchase is made. (I hate to say it, but I have one of those on my husband. He thinks credit cards are free money, so I get an Email every time he uses our credit card).
- This is the biggest one – STAY OUT OF THE STORES! If money is tight, I will stay AWAY from the stores, even if I have to give my husband a list and send him. I know if I go in to get a tube of toothpaste, I will be coming out with at least $50 of stuff. Although sometimes I will outwit myself by only bringing cash into the store. That’s a strong fence!
I hope these tips have helped you. If you have additional tips that are working for you, I’d love it if you’d leave them in the comments. It’s a tough thing to beat, so we all have to stick together!
Here are some other posts you may enjoy:
The Best Way to Help Adult Kids Manage Their Money
6 Ways to Overcome Your Shopping Addiction
Why I Can NOT Be Trusted at COSTCO