It’s nearing midnight and you’re feeling restless. You reach for your phone to scroll through your feed. As your eyes strain from the onset of fatigue, an email notification pops up on your screen – “Flash Sale: 50% Off Holiday Favourites.” You gain the sudden impulse to uncover the sale-priced gems behind that flashing banner in your inbox.
You find the perfect stocking stuffer in a curated list of “customer favourites,” but you need to add a few more items to qualify for free shipping. Though you’ve yet to crack open the pile of books on your nightstand, you’re tempted to fill your shelves with some attractive hardcovers to complement your miniature cacti family.
Well, you’re not alone. If cash is king, then online shopping is the supreme ruler of convenience. With just a few simple clicks, you can get custom, engraved cufflinks delivered to your front door within 24 hours. It’s just too easy.
But that kind of convenience comes with a price.
Online shopping is always on. No one’s counting down to closing time over a speaker – forcing you to either drop what you’re holding, or race to the checkout line.
You can browse as long as you’d like, and your items will often remain in your cart while they’re still in stock.
And with the flurry of deals available over the holidays, it’s easy to justify additional gifts here and there, as well as a few items for yourself.
As online retailers find better ways to connect you to the things you want, here are some ways to shop more mindfully with your feet up.
1. Make a list, check it twice, three times and so on ...
Your gift list will be your favourite shopping companion. Keep it handy so you don’t lose sight of who you’re shopping for, what you’re buying and why you’ve landed on a specific site in the first place.
2. Know your numbers.
When you’re shopping online, no one’s reaching through the screen to hand you a receipt at the end of your transaction. Stay on top of your budget by looking out for your purchase confirmation emails right away – not at the end of the week. And if you don’t have one already, create a budget today! It can help you figure out what’s realistic on your list and where you can cut back. If you have a Capital One credit card, you can also set up personalized alerts that notify you when you’ve spent over a certain amount or your available credit dips below an amount you’ve pre-set – here’s how:
3. Shop around before you “add to cart.”
You might think you’ve stumbled across a great deal, but it could be worth pausing before proceeding to checkout. If you’ve signed up to receive an email notification about those limited-edition sneakers from a specific retailer, you might be tempted to jump on them as soon as they’ve been restocked. The beauty of shopping online is that you can browse other sites for similar items that may be available at a reduced price, or take advantage of browser plug-ins that will search the internet for price drops on products you’re interested in. Bookmark them too, because some retailers offer price match guarantees.
4. Update your browser and social settings.
Ever notice that the item you were just viewing mysteriously appears in an ad on one of your social feeds? It’s a really smart way retailers keep you engaged with their products. Although helpful, this kind of customization might be enough to distract you from your shopping goals. When the temptation is too great, you can try clearing your online search history, browsing in private or incognito mode and reviewing your privacy or ad settings in your social media accounts.
5. Take a breather.
If you see something you just have to have, really stop and think about why you need it. You could try closing your laptop, putting down your phone and walking away. A little distance may help you realize you don’t need it after all.
It’s easy to get carried away by the magic of the holidays (and these days, we could all use a little magic). But with the right mindset and just a little planning, you can curb the impulse to overspend.