For years, shopaholics had to battle against the ease and convenience of late-night TV ads. Their classic pitches led thousands of people to buy items that they did not need, all available with a simple phone call. The advent of 24-hour shopping channels like QVC and the Home Shopping Network made it even easier to spend yourself into bankruptcy. Then, the Internet arrived.
Internet shopping allows you to search for any item you can think of and purchase it online with a simple click of the button and entry of a credit card — or just the simple click if your payment information is already on record. Even browsing the Internet with no intention to buy can turn into a shopping spree if you run across items that you "simply cannot do without." What's a shopaholic to do?
The first order of business is to admit that you have a problem with impulse shopping on the Internet. After that, it is a matter of setting up minor roadblocks to make Internet shopping more difficult without taking drastic measures like closing your credit card accounts. Consider these measures that will slow down the process and give you time to reconsider whether or not you really need that customized bowling ball or package of thirty smartphone covers.
- Do not Store Information – Most sites encourage you to store your basic information so that they can expedite the checkout process — especially your shipping and credit card information. Your browser is probably set to autofill the information into most forms. Disable the autofill capability of your browser and decline to store credit cards and other information online. It will take you several minutes to enter that information, which may be enough time to talk yourself out of the purchase.
- Budget your Small Purchases – Apps for mobile devices are so cheap that it is easy to make impulse buys without thinking how quickly small purchases add up. That is also true for music purchases through iTunes, or other similarly inexpensive downloadable items.
Set yourself a budget by using a prepaid gift/credit card and use it to budget small app and download purchases. Load it at the beginning of the month with your budgeted amount and track the balance during the month. You may run out in the first month, but with time, you will learn to track your spending and get in the habit of controlling your purchases throughout the month.
- Pause Before Checkout – Websites give you the opportunity to review your basket before purchase to make sure that all the details are correct. Take a set amount of time (perhaps five to 10 minutes) to leave the items in your checkout basket and simply walk away from the computer. If you still want the items when you return to the computer, go ahead — but at least you will have had some time to think about it.
- Block Sites – If nothing else works, try blocking sites at various times during the day when you are most vulnerable to impulse purchases. Programs like StayFocusd or Leechblock can allow you to block websites temporarily and save you from draining out your bank account.
We hope that these tips can help you from maxing out your credit cards with Internet impulse buys. If not, you may want to shop exclusively at stores with liberal return policies. At least, then there’s a chance you’ll have come to your senses by the time the now-unwanted purchase arrives.
If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.