For most of us, clicking ‘add to cart’ is nothing new, and opening your front door often feels like Christmas morning. But with actual risks of shopping in stores, online shopping is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
While ordering something and getting it the next day or even in a few hours may be the trend, there is actually some benefit to the delayed gratification that comes with waiting for a purchase to arrive. When you click ‘buy,’ there’s a small dopamine kick (the body’s reward system) that makes us excited about our new purchase. But when we have to wait a few days for that item to arrive, we actually get to savor the anticipation and then get excited all over again when it appears on our doorstep.
With all that dopamine, it’s easy to see why clicking ‘buy now’ is so easy. Too easy, especially when your budget starts taking the hits. Here are a few tips to help you avoid purchases you don’t really need and save money on the ones you do when shopping online.
- Shop your house first. Before you buy that hot new item, walk around your house to see if you already own something similar or something that might serve the same purpose. For example, you want to buy a new red shirt, but you find three in your closet; or, you want to tidy up your desk with a fancy new organizer but find a small vase that can hold your pens instead.
- Time purchases based on the season or calendar. While less common in these days of 24/7 retail, certain categories tend to be discounted at certain times of the year. For example, try to pick up a new winter coat in February once all the spring clothes start appearing. Or, look for a TV at the end of January leading up to the Superbowl.
- Shop second-hand sites like eBay or Poshmark. Take advantage of someone else’s impulse purchase! You can often find items that are like new or even ‘new in box’ for a better price because someone bought it (or got it as a gift) and never used it.
- Pause to review your bank accounts and budget. This definitely takes the fun out of online shopping, but it’s an important step. Taking a few minutes to check your accounts can make sure you not only have the funds available, but ensure this purchase won’t take away from something else you want more.
- Set a calendar reminder for a week or even a month later. You are so excited for snowmobiling and a new jacket…but it’s July. Rather than purchase something too soon, set a reminder on your calendar for a more practical date. You won’t worry as much about forgetting, and you can keep an eye out for great deals (or a jacket you like even better!) in the meantime.
- Sign up for store notifications for sales and coupons. Often the first thing you see on a website is a popup encouraging you to ‘sign up and save.’ If you trade your email address for a company’s emails, you’ll be notified of sales and may be sent coupons. Pro tip: set up a separate email address just for promotional emails and don’t check it until you need to make a purchase. This can help you avoid being tempted by sales when you don’t need anything, and avoid cluttering your inbox.
- Abandon your cart. If you leave an item to linger in your cart for a few hours, two things may happen: one, the business may send you a coupon to come back and buy; and two, you may decide you don’t need the item after all. Win-win!
- Look for coupon codes at sites like com. Websites use codes to offer discounts online, and sites like Coupon.com aggregate those codes into one place, so you can always check to see if there’s a sale or discount code out there to help you save on your purchase.
- Search for an item on Google to compare prices at other retailers. Before you click ‘buy,’ search for the item you want on Google to see what comes up. You may find it for sale cheaper at another retailer, or you may spot a similar item for a better price.
- Shop online but pick up in store or curbside. Many stores offer free shipping if you buy a minimum amount, which can lead to adding more to your cart than you really need. These days, to help drive traffic while practicing safe social distancing, retailers are now offering in-store or curbside pickup that lets you skip the shipping (and unneeded purchases) while staying safe.
Another way to avoid the impulse buy is by setting up a Pick Your Payout Savings account with Verve to save for a more expensive item. This account lets you earn a little extra while saving up, and then you set the date when you’ll be ready to buy. You get the delayed gratification dopamine kick and a happy budget!