How to Keep from Overspending Online

Person sitting on floor with several packages nearby

Use these tips to manage your online shopping habit.

With everything going on in the world, unsurprisingly, online shopping is on the rise. (It’s been steadily increasing anyway, but now it’s booming!) In the United States, online sales for September 2020 were up 43% year over year, topping $60 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

And why not? There are tons of benefits to shopping online:

  • You can buy everything in one place without leaving the comfort and safety of your home. (No need to load the kiddos into the car to go buy that shiny new thing!)
  • You can shop with an app no matter where you are
  • Purchases are delivered right to your doorstep, sometimes the same day, depending upon where you live
  • Shipping is often fast and free when you purchase more than a certain dollar amount or subscribe to a program, such as Amazon Prime
  • You can buy online and pick up your items from the store, such as your local Target or Walmart
  • With automatic delivery, you can get expendables that you go through on a regular basis (such as diapers or dog food) delivered to your doorstep at designated intervals, often at a discount

But with all that convenience, online shopping can have its downside. Have you caught yourself buying things you don’t really need? Unfortunately, it’s easy to get a little click-happy and buy on impulse.

Another reason you may find yourself buying more than you need is because shopping gives you an adrenaline rush. Much like a drug, the initial high is followed by a feeling of guilt. (Yikes!) Craving that rush can drive you to overspend, and spending more than you can afford can end up affecting your debt load and credit score.

Thankfully, we have some practical tips to help curb the tendency to overspend online!

Maximize your Amazon Prime membership

If you’re paying for Amazon Prime to get the free, fast shipping, you may feel pressured to buy things more often to make the subscription worthwhile. But Amazon Prime offers more than just shopping and free shipping. (For example, you also get free streaming services and Prime Reading.) If you take advantage of the non-shopping-related benefits of Amazon Prime, you’re more likely to get your money’s worth without buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

Add the item to an online list instead of to your cart

If you’re interested in a certain item, great. Instead of placing it in your online cart right away, consider adding it to your shopping list or wish list. For privacy reasons, it’s safer to add it to your shopping list, which cannot be seen by the public. (Online predators sometimes take advantage of wish lists in order to learn about people and their interests.) Placing your item in one of these “waiting rooms” will give you time to think about your purchase before you spend your hard-earned cash.

Let items sit in your cart

OK, so maybe you put the item on your shopping list… maybe you put it straight into your cart. Either way, you can still let it sit for a while. This gives you more time to think about whether you really need it or not. It can save you money, too. Sometimes when an online retailer notices you have an unpurchased item in your cart, the retailer will offer you a deal, such as a certain percentage off. (Just don’t let that be the reason you buy something you really don’t need!)

Delete the phone app and your credit card information

Make it harder for yourself to shop on a whim. If you have a phone app for shopping, delete it so the temptation to shop isn’t so easily accessible. Deleting (or not saving) credit card information makes it so you have to type it in with each purchase. If shopping isn’t as convenient, you might think twice about going to the trouble. (That’ll save you money in the long run!)

Never use one-click purchasing

As if online shopping isn’t easy enough, many online retailers offer one-click purchasing. More often than not, using one-click purchasing isn’t necessary. Simply add the item to your shopping list so you can think about whether you really need it.

Be wary of special deals and avoid ads

If you’re on an email list to receive special sale alerts, you can unsubscribe so you’re less tempted to consider items you don’t really need. In addition, it pays to be cautious about online bargains. Read the reviews carefully on and off the shopping site. You may decide that the bargain is no bargain after all.

Track your purchases

Create a spreadsheet to keep track of your online purchases. This helps give you a visual way to track your online spending. There are also several cool apps you can use to create a budget and keep track of your spending.

Challenge yourself to a spending fast

Spending as little money as possible for a certain amount of time can actually give you an adrenaline rush just like the one you get when you spend money. Commit to staying under budget by a certain dollar amount or plan to spend money only on absolute necessities for the month. Go ahead and brag a little to your family and friends about all the money you’re saving! Share your challenge on social media! (Some of your friends may even decide to follow your example!)

Look for a better adrenaline rush

If you think you may be addicted to shopping, you’re not doing yourself any favors by trying to stop cold turkey. It’s a noble idea, but the thing is, you need to fill the empty space with something else — something better. Instead of shopping online, get that same adrenaline rush by doing a good deed. Someone you know needs help: elderly neighbors, parents with little ones, families facing a health crisis. If you’ve still got that spending itch, you could pay for the donut and latte ordered by the person behind you in the drive-thru. (Doing good for others gives lasting satisfaction!)

Now you have some tools to help you be a more conscientious online shopper! We hope you find some good deals and have only pleasant online shopping experiences.