Spending

A simple trick can help you cut down on your online shopping

Twenty/20

If you find yourself overloading your virtual cart, you aren't alone.

Some 24% of all U.S. adults who shop online do so at least once per week, according to a 2018 poll of 1,057 people by Marist College and National Public Radio (NPR).

There's nothing inherently wrong with online shopping, and the internet is full of great deals. But the ability to shop anywhere, at any time, makes it easier to purchase items impulsively or on autopilot. That means you can be more inclined to buy, whether or not you might later wish you hadn't. Indeed, 45% of Americans report regret as a result of impulse spending online, according to a 2017 study conducted by Pureprofile.

To avoid that post-shopping hangover and cut down on your online spending, try browser extensions. They're tools to help you set boundaries by limiting the amount of time spent on a given website or blocking popular online retailers. Browser extensions like StayFocusd and Icebox are free with Google Chrome.

Here's how experts suggest you use extensions to limit impulsive online shopping and stop yourself from making unnecessary purchases.

First, understand your shopping impulses

Many people are quick to click "purchase" because the thrill of online shopping goes beyond scoring a new handbag or gadget. For some, online spending may fill an emotional void, explains Ed Coambs, licensed marriage and family therapist at Carolinas Couples Counseling in Matthews, North Carolina.

"There's a whole field known as neuromarketing where different companies will use images to stir up different pleasure centers in the brain," says Coambs. Clicking "buy" releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating pleasure.

Coambs says a tell-tale sign of impulse spending is an intense physical reaction. If you begin to feel anxious or your heart starts racing after a purchase, he suggests that it could be your body's way of telling you you've made a mistake.

There's a whole field known as neuromarketing where different companies will use images to stir up different pleasure centers in the brain.
Ed Coambs
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

And impulse shopping is not unusual: Some 44% of Americans who shopped online in 2018 made an impulse purchase, and 21% of adults ages 28 to 37 say they made a spontaneous online buy in the previous week.

To figure out if you're an impulse shopper, first ask yourself, "Are you chronically overspent? Do you have accumulating debt?" says Coambs. "If those things are happening, then that's a warning sign that the online shopping may be a contributing factor."

Assess your spending habits

Reviewing your monthly bank statements can help you determine how much you're spending online and what types of purchases you may need to cut down or cut out. When you're about to spend, ask yourself whether you really need the items or if you're just craving the thrill of the buy.

If you're unsure, try the "sleep-on-it" approach: Leave the items in your cart and come back to them later.

Determine if and when your temptation to shop peaks. The most popular online shopping hours of the day are between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., according to data on e-commerce trends.

Then choose a browser extension

Browser extensions can help you fight the urge to spend online. Icebox, for example, helps you make more informed decisions about what you're purchasing by prohibiting you from buying immediately. Instead, you can put an item "on ice" for up to 30 days, giving you time "to chill" and mull over the decision.

StayFocusd allows you to block sites during certain time or limit the time you're allowed to spend on a particular site each day. If you know you're prone to nighttime shopping, you can consider setting up an extension like this one to block sites when you're most vulnerable.

Coambs says that browser extensions are not a solution to impulsive shopping on their own. But combined with conscious effort, the added safeguard they provide can make a real difference in helping you control your online spending.

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