You can search for coupon codes til you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t really need whatever you’re putting in your virtual cart, is it really such a bargain? “I signed up for Amazon one-click ordering, and it became too easy to shop,” says Emily Guy Birken, author of Choose Your Retirement. “The amount of stuff that was showing up was just ridiculous.”
If your impulse shopping has you nervous every time you’re within range of an internet connection, fear not. There are some sneaky ways you can curtail your own spending:
1. MAKE IT HARDER TO PAY.
Disable one-click shopping and clear any saved credit cards from your favorite online retailers. Won’t that make it more annoying to check out? Yes, and that’s the point, says Guy Birken. “That little barrier becomes a moment to reconsider if you really want it,” she says. “And for some purchases, you’ll get to check-out, realize you have to walk to get your wallet, and decide to skip it instead.”
2. GIVE FREE SHIPPING THE SIDE EYE.
Most retailers offer free shipping if you spend enough money, but lobbing extra items into your cart can quickly backfire. “If you’re spending $10 to save $10 in shipping, that’s a win,” says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “But if you’re spending $30 on stuff you don’t need just to save $10, that doesn’t make any sense.” Sometimes shelling out a few bucks for shipping can actually save you money.
3. TIDY UP AHEAD OF TIME.
Could a cluttered environment trigger impulse shopping? Research suggests so. For a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, participants were divided into three environments (one disorganized, one tidy, one barren) and then asked how much they’d spend on certain items. Shoppers who sat in the chaotic environment were more likely to purchase items—and willing to spend more money on them. So do your clutter and your wallet a favor by picking up a bit before you head online.
4. FILTER RETAIL NEWSLETTERS.
Unsubscribe from those retail e-newsletters, and you risk missing out on special promos that could save you money. But if you let them stream into your main inbox, you’ll get a steady reminder of tantalizing sales. And those subject lines that stress urgency (Limited time offer! Sale ends soon!) are carefully designed to suggest scarcity. “That makes you more likely to shop and to want to stock up,” says Woroch. One way to stay on mailing lists without letting them sway you is to create a separate email address just for e-newsletters or filter those emails into a separate folder that you only check when you're in the market for something specific.
5. SET A WAITING PERIOD.
We bet you’re a seasoned pro at flexing your patience for big-ticket purchases. (When’s the last time you bought a laptop in five minutes or less?) Yet when we’re shopping online for smaller items (or shoes...), the time between wanting a $30 sweater and buying it might be mere seconds. To spare yourself from impulse items that can quickly gobble up your budget, consider setting a mandatory cooling-off period, suggests Woroch. Waiting 24 hours before you follow through on a purchase means you’ll be sure that sweater still appeals, and wasn’t a bought-today-worn-never waste of money.