Ah, the joys and perils of online shopping. Anyone who’s perused a digital store of their favorite clothing or gadget purveyor knows how shopping in the comfort of your own home can easily lead down the rabbit hole of an unwelcome splurge. It’s far too easy to fall into a consumer trap only to spend too much, cave in to the allure of a “too good to pass up” deal, only to experience a bout of regret shortly afterward.
To keep your spending in check, here are five things to remember when shopping online.
1. Give yourself a day before making a purchase
There’s a reason why some sales have a “limited time” offer. Oftentimes the urgency that’s created in these flash sales may spur you to buy something you really don’t need. Instead, stave off impulse buys by waiting at least a day before buying it. It may look awesome online, but is it something you could really use? Does it fit into the context of your everyday life? Or would you rather spend that money on another goal, such as preparing for your baby’s arrival?
Sometimes you may want to buy something because the object represents something you aspire to be, not necessarily who you are at the moment—for instance, buying a projector to host amazing arty movie nights at your place. But the truth is, you might not have a suitable wall to project films on, or you’ve only hosted one party at your place in the past five years, and realistically won’t host another one for another five years. Or maybe you want to be an awesome DJ but are just starting out. Do you need to go full out and get professional-level equipment, or will practicing on your friend’s gear do the trick for now?
Give yourself some breathing room to make sure it’s something that would add value to your life, and that you’ll put it to good use. You can also try visualizing your long-term money goals.
2. Check the refund policy
Before you hit the “Place Order” button, you’ll want to check the store’s refund policy. If overlooked, this could potentially lead to headaches. Ideally the store will offer a generous return policy, free shipping when you need to send it back, and the option of returning the unwanted item to a nearby brick-and-mortar shop if one exists. You’ll also want to check how many days you have to return something, and if you can get a full refund or just store credit.
You’ll want to make sure you’re aware of a store’s refund policy so you can make sure it’s painless enough to return something. If it’s too hard to do, you may let it fall by the wayside, and what you just bought might end up collecting dust in a storage closet.
3. Look for reviews
Reading reviews of something you have your eye on will help you make an informed choice. There are a lot of great consumer review sites written by trusted authorities, so spend some time poking around and seeing what experts are saying about a product. This especially comes in handy for something you personally don’t have a lot of knowledge about, or about pricier items that might be more of a hassle to return, such as computers or gadgets.
Just make sure not to get too deep into the weeds with online reviews. Instead, know what features are most important to you. You can also ask your friends or check out online forums to see what they recommend. In fact, a recent study reveals that you might be happier making a purchase based on popular-opinion likes rather than the experts’ recommendations.
4. Create a separate account for store-related emails
Promotional deals sent to your inbox are designed to entice you to buy stuff you don’t necessarily need or can afford. To avoid such distractions, create an email account just for emails from your online shops. That way, you won’t be constantly flooded with online deals. To avoid temptations, you can even go so far as to unfollow the Instagram accounts of your favorite stores.
5. Use e-coupons
To save money, hunt for e-coupons to save a few bucks. There are plenty of apps and sites where you can load e-coupons or a code to your favorite stores to your phone. Just be careful to stay within budget and buy what you need. If it helps, create a separate Goals fund for discretionary spending for one-time buys for your home digs or office.
While it may be very tempting to splurge when shopping online, keeping these things in mind will protect your budget and accounts.
Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner banks, The Bancorp Bank and BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.