We all have unique spending triggers and different ways we like to spend money. I, for one, have never really enjoyed shopping in a traditional brick and mortar sense. I do however, have a penchant for online shopping. Whether it’s ordering baby diapers on Amazon or shopping for a new dress to wear for a friend’s wedding, online shopping can often be a little too convenient. If you struggle with keeping your online shopping in check, here are a few tips to help you curb your spending habits.
IDENTIFY WHERE & WHY YOU USUALLY SPEND
The first step to breaking a bad habit is identifying it. If you’re spending too much online, take a look back through your past credit card and bank statements to see where you are typically spending money. Is it the same few places over and over again? Are you buying the same things each time (i.e. clothing)? Does your online shopping coincide with times you were bored or upset? Once you’ve identified where and why you are spending online, it’s time to form a plan to tackle the issues.
DELETE YOUR SAVED CREDIT CARD INFORMATION
The first line of defense for online shoppers is to delete your saved credit card information. Maybe your computer saves it for you so you don’t have to enter it in each time, or maybe you have this information saved on individual websites where you frequently shop. Either way it’s time to purge this information. Often just forcing yourself to take the time to enter your credit card information is enough time to let your brain process what you are doing and rethink whether it really is a good idea.
However, sometimes deleting your saved credit card information isn’t enough. For the worst online shopping offenders (myself included), you may have your credit card number memorized so deleting it from your saved payment methods is relatively ineffective. In this case there are two different methods that I recommend. The first is reporting that your credit card was lost or stolen, and requesting that a new one with a different number be mailed to your home. This works well if the number you have memorized is a credit card and you still have access to a debit card if you need it. This doesn’t work well if you typically are using your debit card since you will lose any easy access to cash that you might otherwise have. Another less shocking way to handle this is to purchase preloaded gift cards with only the amount you have budgeted to that vendor for the month allotted to it. Then you have the option to spend with your gift card, but you’ll have to exercise self control beyond that point.
TRY AN ONLINE SPENDING BAN
Spending bans seem to be very fashionable these days, and I have to say I’m a big fan of them. They are a great way of challenging yourself without feeling like you’re sacrificing too much because there is a set time limit. A spending ban can look like whatever you want it to look like, but the most important thing is to set clear rules for yourself up front so that it’s harder for you to break those rules. For instance, challenge yourself to go a whole month without making any online purchases. If there is something you know you will need to purchase online, try to purchase it ahead of time, delay the purchase to the following month if you can, or clearly make an exception for it in your rules. Challenging yourself for a month can have great financial results, and possibly even motivate you to extend your challenge if you are feeling good about how the experiment is going.
LIMIT YOUR ONLINE TIME
Here’s another tip that works for curbing your online spending… take advantage of technology to fight the pitfalls of technology. In other words, you can install programmable apps to limit the amount of time your web browser will allow you to spend on any one website. Try the Waste No Time app. This quick download will let you set time limits for individual sites that seem to be problematic for you. It takes only a few minutes to set up and then it will give you a reminder when you’re spending too much time on a site you’ve chosen to limit and block your access to it once you’ve exceeded that limit. Sure there are ways around it like opening a different internet browser, but a swift reminder of your priorities is usually enough to keep you from fighting the system you put in place.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.