One joy of the 21st century is that shopping is easier than it has ever been. You can research products, find great deals, make purchases by clicking a button — all without leaving the house or even changing out of your pajamas! As our lives are often so busy, shopping online can be a big time and money saver, and it is certainly convenient.
However, the downside of internet shopping is that it can become addictive. The ease of the purchase process combined with the fact that you can shop at any time, day or night, makes it very easy to get into a habit of shopping for enjoyment rather than need.
The buying process is also completely detached from your actual money. In a store, you have to get out your wallet and hand over cash or use a credit card. There is a mental connection with the balance in your bank account or on your credit card statement. At that point, you have to make a conscious decision to complete the purchase.
With most websites, once you set up your account and have your credit card information on file, it’s simply a matter of pointing and clicking. There is no moment that makes you pause and consider whether you can really afford the item, or need to purchase it.
It is also a bad habit that is relatively easy to keep secret. Everything happens at home. You can dig yourself into a deep hole, run up your credit card debt, and no one will realize what’s going on except your UPS delivery person. If your credit card debt has risen to alarming totals, or you are running through your paycheck online before you have paid your necessary bills, it’s time to step back and examine your habits.
If it is clear to you that you have an internet shopping addiction, there are positive steps you can take to change harmful habits. Here are some suggestions:
— If you feel like your online spending is out of control, admit it to yourself. Confide in supportive friends and family members, and ask them to support you as you make changes.
–Keep your credit cards for true emergencies only. Put them in a bag of water in the freezer so you have to thaw them out to use them, or close down the accounts. And this step is important: delete your credit card information from your shopping websites. Make it so you have to enter the numbers to make a purchase. Create that moment to decide if you really need to make this purchase.
–Part of the addiction to internet shopping is that it becomes your entertainment. Take up a new hobby, preferably one that keeps you offline. Catch up on reading, or binge watch a new Netflix show you have heard so much about. The adult coloring is very popular, relaxing, and reaches some of those same pleasure centers in your brain that clicking the buy button did. If there is a particular time of day that you are particularly likely to give in to the shopping impulse, make sure you are doing something else at that time.
–Unsubscribe from all the mailing lists from your various shopping sites to remove temptation from your inbox. If it seems overwhelming, try a site like Unroll.Me, which identifies all your subscriptions and gives you the opportunity to unsubscribe or roll them into one email with all your subscriptions that you receive once a day. Keep only the email subscriptions you need and set them to arrive once a day.
–Set a budget for your shopping. Spend as much as you allow yourself for the month and then stop. One way to do this is to remove all other spending options like credit cards from your account and buy yourself a digital gift card for a shopping site like Amazon. When your gift card runs out, you are finished until the next month.
–If you continue to struggle and have a hard time sticking to your plan, you may need to seek out professional help. Sometimes we simply can’t do it alone. Find an understanding counselor who can help you understand your addiction and end it.
You are not alone — Internet shopping is a common addiction. If you know you are shopping online too much, to the point that it is undermining your financial stability, try some of these suggestions to change your ways. Don’t trap yourself in a cycle of guilt and frustration that replaces pleasure with stress and negativity.