by Maurie Backman | Published on July 24, 2021
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Consumer shopping habits have shifted during the pandemic. And now, some people are paying the price.
The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we do a lot of things. Before the outbreak, working from home was something a lot of people did on an as-needed basis. At this point, it's something many of us have been doing nonstop for 15 months and counting.
The pandemic also changed the way many consumers do their shopping. When COVID-19 cases were climbing and vaccines weren't yet available, a lot of people opted to stay away from stores and instead do their shopping online. But now that so many people are used to making purchases online and enjoy the convenience, they're apt to continue doing so even once the pandemic is behind us. But that could actually lead to a world of financial upheaval.
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In a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs, 41% of U.S. consumers say that the ability to shop online has made it harder for them to stick to a budget. And that's problematic, because going overboard on shopping could easily lead to a pile of debt.
Not only can carrying debt result in a world of interest charges -- charges that make purchases more expensive than they need to be -- but it could also lead to credit score damage. And so it's important to proceed with caution when shopping online, the same way it's important to avoid impulse buys when shopping in stores.
If you've been spending too much money in the course of your online shopping, it's a great time to reverse that trend.
First, if you have your credit card details stored on your phone, tablet, or laptop, delete them. Having that information accessible makes it very easy to complete purchases on the fly. On the other hand, if you have to go dig up your credit card and type in the number every time, that alone might either deter you from certain purchases or at least inspire you to contemplate whether a given item is worth having to get out of bed or off the couch.
Second, don't shop out of boredom. When you sit down to buy things online, have it be because there's a specific item you need.
Finally, check your credit card balance every week. In the aforementioned survey, 39% of consumers said they don't realize the total amount of charges they've racked up until they look at their monthly credit card statement. But a better bet is to check in regularly. That way, if you see by, say, the second week of the month that you've already charged a lot of expenses, you can push yourself to avoid adding to your balance for the rest of the month.
Online shopping may be convenient, and it's something you might choose to continue doing even when there's not a pandemic at play. But be careful. Busting your budget could lead to severe financial consequences, so don't fall into the trap that so many Americans have already landed in.
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