Online shopping has put every product at our fingertips. With a smartphone and a credit card, there's basically nothing we can't buy.
Unsurprisingly, that's a recipe for overspending. And the more you buy, the deeper the financial hole you dig.
Get a grip on your finances. Here are eight tips and tricks for keeping online shopping from draining your budget:
1. Track your spending
It can be scary to look at how much money you're spending, but it's a key step to taking control of your budget. Simply seeing all of your online purchases together can motivate you to spend less.
Download an app to track your spending, or check your online bank's dashboard. You should be able to sort by date and category, giving you an idea of how much you're spending online with online retailers each month.
2. Ditch the credit card
Spending a lot of money online is easy when it's someone else's money. The trouble is, credit card debt catches up to you. And thanks to steep interest rates, it can be tough to recover from.
The simplest way to avoid this pitfall is by switching over to a debit card. Some debit cards round up each purchase, transferring spare change to savings with each purchase.
Unlike credit cards, debit cards link directly to your bank account. Because you can't spend money you don't have with a debit card, it's easier to keep your online spending in check.
3. Unsubscribe from newsletters
Online retailers send enticing emails to you about deals. They trigger you to make sudden purchases by implying you'll miss out on the best price if you wait to buy. In reality, the best way to save money is to not make the purchase in the first place.
Minimize the temptation by simply unsubscribing from online stores' mailing lists. Whenever you receive an email, immediately look for the unsubscribe button. You can also look for the link on retailers' sites, if you don't want to rifle through your email's spam folder.
4. Block your favorite websites
If there are particular online stores that you can't resist, go ahead and block them. Force yourself to go through the trouble to de-list a site if you really need to make a purchase.
While blocking a website doesn't necessarily stop you from spending, it does give you a chance to reconsider your purchase decision. If you find yourself unblocking sites you shouldn't, ask a trusted friend or family member to set your password for you. That way, you have to explain your need to them in order to make a purchase.
5. Remove billing information on websites
Many online stores autofill your billing information to make buying more convenient. Not only does that encourage spending, but it increases the risk that your card data is compromised.
You can remove your information and instruct your favorite site not to store it. This forces you to manually add your card every time you want to buy something. Like blocking a site, this gives you more time to consider whether or not you really need to buy something.
6. Implement a waiting period
Buying something is exciting, but most impulse purchases end in buyer's remorse. Avoid making these purchases by training yourself to wait.
Start by inventing a system for yourself, such as:
Whenever you want to buy something, list it in a spreadsheet.
Think about the purchase for 48 hours.
If you still want to buy after the waiting period, feel free to do so.
Log each purchase in the spreadsheet, and look for commonalities.
This is a habit you have to build, so stick with it. If you slip up, focus on how quickly the excitement fades. At the end of the month, reinforce the habit by comparing your online shopping totals to past months.
This tip may seem counterintuitive at first, but getting rid of your belongings will help you with your online shopping habits. Experts point out that getting organized is a great way to boost your self-control.
Eliminating clutter helps you think more clearly. It helps you realize that you prefer a cleaner space, which can only be preserved by buying less. Plus, it's a perfect reminder of the freedoms of minimalism.
8. Get an accountability partner
Peer pressure isn't always a bad thing. In fact, getting an accountability partner is one of the best ways to kick your online shopping habit.
There are a few ways to do this. A "soft" one is to ask a family member to join you when you work on the monthly budget. That way, there's no hiding just how much you're spending online.
Another option is to use the family member's email address for purchasing confirmations. You'll exercise more restraint over your spending when you know someone else is getting a notification about it.
9. Find cheap or free entertainment
Often, the reason we shop online is to experience positive emotions. One of the best ways to curb an online shopping habit is to find a cheaper, healthier way to entertain yourself.
Here are some free or inexpensive ways to have fun instead of shopping online:
Borrowing books and movies from your local library
Developing a new hobby
Cultivating a garden
Joining a club
Taking an online class
Visiting local zoos or museums
Going for a hike
Attending local music or stand-up comedy shows
You may have to try a few things before you find an activity that scratches your online shopping itch. Once you find a couple of alternatives, your guilty pleasure won't even enter your mind.
Many of the tips listed here may seem insignificant, but small changes add up. If you can stop even one $50 purchase per week, you'll save $2,600 per year.
The key is to keep practicing these small habits until they are second nature. You'll have more money, feel more in control of your habits, and make more space in your budget for the things that truly matter to you.