Your Cash: Gone in 60 Seconds – Learn to Control Online Shopping

By Ali Luke

October 7, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Online Shopping
Written on 10/07/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: mattfred


Maybe you read the article on how to stop your impulse spending with a certain smug glee. Perhaps you don’t fall prey to those high-street offers – you’re never tempted by the candy bars by the checkout because buy your groceries, and everything else, online.

But you could be spending far more than you realize on things you don’t need or really want very much. It’s even easier to spend money online than in a shop: no handing over your cash or plastic, your favorite websites probably have all your card details ready saved and you can spend, spend, spend without a second thought.

From Impulse to Purchase in Sixty Seconds
Usually, impulse online buys go something like this. You read a review of a DVD or book that you like the sound of, you click onto Amazon or, you search, select, checkout, pay… you can go from the initial “That sounds cool!” impulse to handing over money in under 60 seconds (if you type fast).

This is where online shopping opens up a whole new impulse-driven world for shopaholics. Before the internet, you’d at least have to be near an open store too, or you’d have to go to the hassle of making a phone call and ordering it. But online, you can buy anything at any time of day – whenever you get the urge to shop.

It’s Not Pretend Money
Since you can spend money just with a few clicks of your mouse, shopping online feels just like web surfing. The money is all virtual, flying around the internet without you having to dig your hand into your pocket for the cash – or even for your card.

Remind yourself, every time you buy something online, that you’re not spending pretend money; it’s coming out of your bank account. And when you look at your statement at the end of the month, it can be surprising how a few online shopping sessions add up.

Break the Click Click Checkout Habit
Next time you’re about to order a new book, DVD, shirt, etc – stop! At least check whether it’s cheaper anywhere else. I’ve never found a price comparison site that seems to search everywhere so perhaps the easiest way is just to check your favorite few stores – compare Amazon’s price for a CD with’s, for instance, or Amazon and Barnes and Noble for books. Ebay is also worth a look, especially if it’s something you don’t mind buying used.

Even when you’ve found the best deal around – don’t buy. Write down the item you want, and wait at least 24 hours before you consider purchasing it. This is a great discipline to get into, as once a day has gone past, you might find that “hilarious” slogan T-Shirt doesn’t sound quite so funny any more.

Don’t Shop When Drunk
I suspect that rather a lot of late night crazy ebay purchases are made by people who’ve had a drink or three. If you’ve been drinking, stay away from any sort of online shopping site – your self-control and will-power are likely to be hugely diminished.

(Obviously, shopping in high-street stores whilst drunk is a bad idea too … but they aren’t usually open at midnight on a Friday, so your opportunity to do so is rather limited. Maybe all those big corporations wanting to encourage our impulse-buying urges should be giving out free beer…)

Ban Yourself From Sites
This is a bit of a drastic solution but if you find yourself constantly buying things when you’ve just gone online to “browse” – ban those problem sites. I did this with ebay one January and it definitely curbed my clothes habit! If you really lack willpower, you could use security software to block certain sites entirely.

A variation on this is to only allow yourself to shop online at certain times: perhaps one particular day of the week. The advantage of this is that you can think about your purchases in advance, and you’ll also waste less time if you buy everything in one go.

Do you find yourself spending too much online? Do you tend to click mindlessly through sites until you’ve gone past the “checkout” and “pay now” buttons, only to regret it at the end of the month? Share your experiences and tips in the comments…


Supplementary photos by: garethjmsaunders, Jug Jones

Ali Luke

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