Published in: Credit Cards | Jan. 27, 2020

3 Tips for Shopping Online Without Busting Your Budget

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Here's how to shop online without going overboard.

There's something to be said for the ease and convenience of online shopping. You just point and click your way to the items you need without having to jump in the car or even put on a pair of pants, for that matter. 

But while online shopping may be a lazy person's dream, there's a downside to it: You're not handing over physical cash for the items you buy. Rather, you're using credit cards or, in some cases, sending money electronically from your bank. That can make it harder to limit yourself and create a scenario in which you spend too much and wind up in debt as a result. 

A young couple sitting on their bed with their dog and each shopping online with their laptops.

Image source: Getty Images

If you have a tendency to go overboard when shopping online, the sooner you break the habit, the less your finances will suffer. Here are a few ways to shop online responsibly -- without driving yourself into debt. 

1. Research the items you need before buying them

If you shop smartly, you can actually save money by shopping online versus visiting a brick-and-mortar store.

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Say you’ve dragged yourself out to a store and you notice an item you've been looking for sitting there on the shelf. It's hard to take a step back and remind yourself that the price it's listed at may not be the best deal in town. After all, you drove all that way so you might as well buy the item in question and call it a day.

Now say you’re shopping online. There's no pressure to buy anything on the spot. That means you can take a little extra time to research the item, making sure you’re getting exactly what you need while hunting down the best price. 

So going forward, pledge to do your research before you click on the first offer you see. 

2. Don't shop out of boredom

When you're stuck at home on a rainy weekend, or if you find yourself lying awake at night with insomnia, it can be all too tempting to bust out your phone or open your laptop and start browsing through your favorite online retail sites. But if you shop out of boredom, you're likely to spend money needlessly, and that could really wreak havoc on your budget

Rather than letting that happen, designate specific hours for online shopping during the week -- say, on Wednesday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00. During that time, you're free to browse the internet for the various items you feel you need to buy. But ban shopping outside that window so you don't do it as a means of entertainment. 

3. Wait 24 hours to complete unplanned purchases

Just as it's easy to fall victim to impulse buys when shopping in stores, online shopping poses a similar threat. You log onto a given site to buy household supplies or socks, and you're drawn to the new gadget being advertised on the cheap. However, the problem with unplanned purchases is that they can drive you into credit card debt. 

Rather than letting that happen, institute the 24-hour rule. 

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It goes like this: The next time you're tempted to buy something out of the blue, put that item in your cart, but wait a full 24 hours to actually go through with the purchase. After that time, if you can convince yourself that you have the money to pay for that item and that it's something you really need or want, you go through with it (and hope you weren't lying to yourself about the whole "affording it" part). But chances are, at least sometimes, by making yourself wait, you'll come to your senses and realize that you can easily live without the item in question, or that it's not worth your hard-earned money.

Online shopping may be a popular alternative to in-person shopping, but it can also be a dangerous option. If you like shopping online, follow these tips to avoid going overboard on the spending front. Being more mindful and setting rules could help you avoid unwanted debt and the negative consequences that go along with it.

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