How To Stop Online Shopping Splurges

Online shopping is easy — so easy that you often spend far more than you intended. If you need to cut back on your shopping habits, there are some simple strategies to follow. Plus: the surprising list of suburbs in Australia that do the most mobile shopping.

Picture by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The impetus for this story was slightly unusual. I went to a briefing at eBay Australia yesterday covering trends in shopping via mobile phones and tablets. We’re spending a lot of money that way (eBay’s sales from mobile devices have gone up 60 per cent year-on-year, and it’s the largest part of the business). Knowing how people spend their money is also a useful guide to how you can spend less: don’t do the things that people most commonly do when they spend money online.

While the trends I quote below will largely be specific to eBay, the advice applies equally to any other online shopping platform, mobile or not. While you might think of eBay as largely an auction site, 64 per cent its sales are of fixed-price goods. In Australia, 83 per cent of items listed locally are at a fixed price, and eBay is continuing to push to change from an auction-oriented site to one that’s essentially a hub for other retailers.

Don’t use your mobile

“We do know that people who use mobile buy more and spend more,” Tom Butler, group product manager core products and mobile at eBay Australia, told Lifehacker at the briefing. That fact makes Tom happy (it’s his job to flog as much product via mobile platforms as possible), but it also provides an important clue on how to curb your spending. Rather than casually hitting the shops on your phone every time you’ve got a spare second, set yourself a rule: online shopping is for the desktop only.

Don’t install shopping apps

Installing a specific app for your favourite online store makes it simpler to shop — which is exactly what you don’t want if you’re trying to save money. Not having an app won’t completely stop you, especially if you have a relatively modern smartphone with a decent browser, but it will make the task more difficult.

Incidentally, it will also save you a lot of updates. eBay locally releases an app update every five weeks, though that’s in large part because it covers so many platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry, though the last has been largely untouched for two years).

Stay away from clothes, gadgets and cars

The biggest-selling categories for eBay on mobile are fashion, electronics and auto parts. You won’t find us arguing that there’s anywhere better to buy electronics than online, but that doesn’t mean you should regularly be browsing as a daily habit. Similarly, resist clothes shopping unless you’re planning a wardrobe reboot.

Move suburbs

According to eBay, these are the 10 suburbs in Australia which do the most mobile shopping online:

  • Werribee
  • Liverpool
  • East Mackay
  • Truganina
  • Cranbourne
  • Charlton
  • Campbelltown
  • Narre Warren
  • Burnside
  • Mickleham

If you live in one of these areas, consider either moving or getting rid of your mobile phone. OK, I’m being slightly facetious here: for all I know, the good citizens of Truganina are shopping ninjas who only buy stuff they need at the best possible price. But their volume of shopping suggests otherwise.

Avoid the danger zones: lunchtime, weekends, couches

eBay’s figures show three clear periods where shopping volume is higher than expected on mobile devices: at lunchtimes (especially on Mondays), between midnight and 4am on Friday and Saturday nights (alcohol is almost certainly involved), and in the evenings when people are lounging around in front of their TVs with tablets. In all three cases you’re tired and vulnerable and more likely to make impulse purchases.


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