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The Harsh Truth About Pandemic Online Shopping and How to Limit It

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

What causes you to impulse buy? A lot of things really. Impulse purchases trick us into believing we need that one specific item. Even if you have three others like it at home.

This pandemic changed the way we do a lot of things. Host birthday parties, eat, live, communicate, and shop. Shopping was one of the biggest things impacted.

Take a look at some of these facts:

  • Since the pandemic, US consumers spent an average of 25 more minutes on mobile devices. [1]

  • Digital media and streaming services like Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, and more saw their biggest increase in 2020. [2]

  • 75% of buys and sellers in 2020 prefer digital options over face-to-face interaction. [3]

  • Since the pandemic, eCommerce grew 18% and the ratio of customer interaction in 2020 was 60% online vs. 40% offline. [4]

This isn’t to say once the pandemic is over people won’t return to in-person shopping. But I don’t think those numbers will decrease anytime soon.

There’s nothing easier than online shopping. And while it’s fine to do on occasion, the danger lies in impulse purchases.

How to limit online impulse buying

I won’t lie to you, you’ll probably never stop impulse buying. If you do manage to go cold turkey, please share with us how you did so in the comments below. But the truth is, most of us will continue to buy things we don’t need.

Rather than try — and fail — to quit, let’s work on limiting how much you spend online.

Don’t save credit card information

I know, it’s super easy to store your credit card information on sites you shop on the most. But this is part of the problem. By having your information saved, you’re more inclined to keep adding items to your cart.

Imagine you found a new site with some amazing handbags. You want to buy one for yourself and one for your mom. You have one like it, but not in this color. You get to the payment part of checkout. Since this is your first time, your credit card isn’t saved.

Where is your card?

In the purse you love and use every day, which is in the other room. You’re too comfy. You don’t want to get up and get it. You decide to hold off on buying the bags. Money saved.

When you have to physically get up to get your card, you're giving yourself time to think. Is this item something I really need? That short walk can save you a lot of money. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

Create a wishlist and share it with friends and family

How many times have people asked you what you want for your birthday or holidays and you say, “I don’t know?” How many times have people given you that answer?

Truth is, there’s always something we want. But it always seems to happen that when someone asks us we can’t remember.

That’s why I recommend creating a shareable wishlist. You can create specific lists for birthdays, holidays, or special celebrations. Two of the top wishlist making sites are DreamList and My Wishlist. Share them with friends and family. Never get asked that question again.

Unsubscribe from email lists

Is your inbox flooding with emails from online stores? When you buy something from a site, you’re giving them permission to update you on sales, new products, and more. Most of the time this can be avoided by unchecking the box that says they’ll send you updates.

Too often we skip over this step because we just want to get to the “Complete Purchase” button.

If you really want to limit your online shopping, you need to limit the number of temptations. This includes emails that promote sales. The next time you receive an email from a store, open it. Scroll all the way down and click the “Unsubscribe” button.

Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. Most companies only deal with a 1% loss of email subscribers every day. But they’re always getting new ones.

Try a no buying challenge

There’s a lot of viral challenges. Dry January, No Shave November, Walking Challenges, and more. Why not try a no buying challenge?

Lengthen the time between hair cuts and nail appointments. Instead of buying new books, read the ones you have. Make coffee at home rather than go to Starbucks. Only buy essential food and other items.

Start small. Try it for a week. If you find that was too easy, go for two weeks. Then a month. If you need to, create a list of rules. Write down the things you’ll allow yourself to buy. Create a list of things you want to avoid buying.

Read the reviews

Believe it or not, the star rating system and reviews are there for a reason. Don’t overlook them!

When looking to buy something, read the reviews. Switch the settings to show the most recent ones. Read at least five. If the majority of the reviews make you second guess yourself, it might be best to leave the site.

Trust your instincts. Trust other people. If there’s one bad review among tons of good ones, chances are that person had a bad buying experience. If there are more bad than good reviews, chances are the item is not the best investment.

Reading reviews will give you an insight you didn’t know you needed. Take the extra time to look through them.

Consider long term need

When thinking about buying an item, there’s a few questions you should ask yourself.

  • Do I really need this?

  • Is there a place for it?

  • Is there a need for it?

  • Will I need this three months from now?

Answer these questions honestly. You don’t want your purchases taking up space you don’t have. Always approach impulse buying from an organizational mindset. Do you have something like it? If you do, is it old and you’re looking to replace it?

By taking the time to answer these questions you’ll limit the number of impulse purchases in no time.

Online shopping to destress

It’s safe to say this pandemic — besides changing the way we live — has taken its toll on our mental state. Months of being cooped up in your home wasn’t the ideal situation you thought it might be.

The fear of this virus impacted a lot of us, mentally, and it became tough to find ways to cope. One method was online shopping.

On its COVID-19 page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes a section dedicated to “Stress & Coping.” Among their list of ways to protect your mental health include:

  • Taking a break from watching the news.

  • Get moving and exercise regularly.

  • Talk to family and friends.

How you deal with the stress of these last several months is up to you. We all handle stress in different ways. But the recommendations of the CDC are a pretty good starting point.

For more information about coping with stress during the pandemic, check out the CDC website.

If you discovered a ton of online purchases laying around the house and need help with what to do with them, contact me today. I offer both organizing and downsizing services. Together, we can pair down your stuff and make sure what you’re keeping is stuff you’ll need.


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