When spending money online is as simple as clicking one button, it's difficult to curb impulse purchases and keep your budget in check. While self-control is always your best bet, it's not easy to trust yourself to make the right choice. Here's how to avoid those careless shopping clicks online.
Shopping online creates challenges because you're usually alone, probably a little bored, and you don't have to walk to the checkout counter to talk yourself out of anything. To start, let's make things easier on ourselves by slowing down the shopping experience.
Stop Storing Your Credit Card (Or Paypal) Data
I don't store my credit card information in online sites. For me to go ahead with a purchase, I have to actually dig out my credit card or other payment information and fill it in manually.
This tactic tends to buy me the "several minutes" that I need to talk myself out of an unnecessary purchase. . . During that process, I'm quite likely to convince myself that I don't really need the item.
This is great for providing yourself with a little extra time, but it's worth mentioning that disabling your browser's Autofill feature accomplishes the same task (here's how to do it: Chrome/Firefox/Safari). This will only slow you down on sites where you're filling out a new registration, but it's helpful nonetheless.
Use Gift Cards For Mobile Devices And Other Small Purchases
One of the easiest ways to blow through a surprising amount of money in a short time is on mobile devices. The price of most apps is usually under $5 which makes impulse purchases far too easy.
Instead of leaving Apple, Google or Microsoft with your credit card info on file, pick up a gift card or prepaid credit card and use it as an app budget plan. When you hit your monthly limit of games and productivity apps, you'll simply have to wait until you get another card. You can apply the same idea to anywhere else you might make small purchases, such as on Xbox Live or on the PlayStation Network. This also avoids any potential security risks (ask around and you'll be surprised how many people have experienced security problems with their iTunes accounts). Photo by 401K 2012.
Use The Checkout Basket As A Wish List
If you frequently purchase random things, then chances are you have a running wish list or two at several online stores. This is great for everything you earnestly plan on purchasing, but when the impulse buy sneaks up on you, you can treat the checkout basket the same way.
It's about self-control, but it's easy to implement. When I get to the checkout stage of an impulse purchase over $50 I close down my browser, stand up and walk away for at least five minutes. This is basically emulating the walk to the checkout counter. If I still want it when I return, I click buy. If not, I leave it in there and let it sit until I go to make another impulse purchase. Now I'm reminded of what happened the last time and I'm given the opportunity to reconsider the purchase. It's essentially a holding bin for potentially bad ideas that get to interact with each other and remind me of what I'm doing.
Block Sites During Your Impulse Prime Time
If you're the type to make impulse purchases at a regular time each week (say your lunch break), then you might also consider setting up a website blocker such as StayFocusd for Chrome or Leechblock for Firefox. Set the extension to block your favourite stores during your prime shopping time and go on your merry way.
The occasional spending splurge is OK, and you shouldn't beat yourself up over it. But if you're consistently overspending on your budget, it's time to take some drastic measures. Do you find yourself more willing to pull the trigger on a big purchase when it's just a click away? How do you keep yourself from doing it? Share your tips in the comments.