As a natural spender, I love shopping apps and saving money online. I thought technology helped me pay less on groceries and clothing. Until I noticed ‘discounted' online purchases were costing me more than I expected. What gives?
Shopping apps are attractive to the eye and give the shopper the benefit of having a ton of deals right at his or her fingertips. As you scroll through pages of shoes, coats, and the savings connected to them, your frugal mind begins to wander.
Is it really a good deal if you find yourself on a website or app every single day, mindlessly scrolling through the products?
Savings websites work in a similar fashion: hundreds and hundreds of deals are available to the savvy shopper. It's intoxicating, even a high. You receive rebates, accumulate points, and have the ability to share your affiliate link and generate extra cash or credit so that you can … buy more stuff.
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It’s a Bait-and-Switch
During the spectacularly long election season, I found myself compulsively seeking out deals for stuff that I didn’t need. In fact, I was unaware that external situations were triggering my need to shop more. And the more stressed I was about the election, about work, and about life in general, the more I found myself spending.
The ease of access, the saved credit card, and a connected paypal account are a recipe for financial disaster.
Fortunately, I noticed that bad habits were looming, and I've developed some simple strategies to help me be more mindful of spending triggers and truly save money while accessing online tools.
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First, I work hard to fight against boredom. Whenever I was bored, I found myself scrolling through one of my favorite websites on the prowl for something new.
Now when I’m bored, I focus on free activities that will distract me and get me engaged in doing something else. Whenever I’m tempted to go online and look for deals I don’t need, I stop myself with, “Time to wash the dishes!” or, “Time put my garbage out!” Is diverting myself easy? Not always, but it pays off – literally.
Knowing your personal spending triggers matters. For the past year, I was shopping a bit more than usual online. I wasn’t paying a lot for items, as I was using my favorite savings websites and apps. But as the amounts started to pile up, I tried to figure out what was going on. And it was then that I had a “eureka” moment.
The election was a trigger. With each political ad that crossed my screen, I would find myself wanting to escape to the online world of shopping. It didn’t matter which candidate — I just wanted to get away from it all.
Knowing your personal spending triggers is huge.
Fortunately, I discovered – not a moment too soon – that the election is a huge spending trigger for me.
Kill the Habit
Unsubscribe from your favorite app or website, especially if you’re working on a major financial goal. Make it difficult to access the “deals” that these tools offer you. Clear your computer cache and remove any bookmarked websites. That's right, go cold turkey.
Many of us have heard of increased spending when people use credit cards. There is a distinct difference between paying for an item with cash and paying for it with a credit card. Likewise, there is a huge difference between shopping online and shopping in a store. Keep it real and tangible.
Save the Date
Cyber Monday is just around the corner, and I hope you’ll keep these tips in mind. Online shopping and savings apps aren’t bad – just remember that they are meant to save you money, not make you spend more.