You hear a lot about the dangers of shopping online: identify theft, scams – these make headlines all the time. But in my view a big risk that you don’t hear people talk about much is the fact that your computer is in your house – that makes it a lot harder to walk away or cool off before making impulse buys. And since you can buy pretty much anything online these days (vacations, cars) you need to exercise a lot of self-control.
I’m on a computer all day. And while I’m not the kind of person to troll eBay in search of big-ticket items, I do love music and books – and in the world of iTunes it’s really tempting to download songs and albums as a quick pick-me-up during the day. One particularly stressful month, I ended up spending about $50 I hadn’t budgeted for on songs and albums – if I’d walked into HMV to make my purchases, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised to see the charges on my Visa bill (and I probably would not have spent so much).
I’m not saying people shouldn’t shop online – you should just exercise caution to make sure you don’t end up spending more than you want to.
A few things I’ve learned to curb my online spending habits (and feel free to add any more in the comments below):
Borrow your books: If you’ve got an e-reader, then check out your local public library – most libraries now have a good catalogue of e-books you can borrow online at no charge!
Stick to radio: Instead of buying albums or songs to shake up your playlist, check out online radio stations and podcasts – iTunes has hundreds of online radio stations featuring just about any music genre you can think of. I use these to avoid the temptation to buy new music.
Beware of customs: When we first started shopping online, my husband discovered a favourite London retailer was having a huge online sale. He ordered a few shirts on the cheap only to get hammered by duty when the package was delivered. Be really careful what you order and make sure you understand the full costs – some retailers will actually help you calculate what the costs will be before you buy.
Don’t drink and click: I have a friend who went out for a few drinks, got home and promptly bought a $700 dress online. Major buyer’s regret in the morning. You can get into all kinds of trouble shopping online with a glass of wine in your hand – if you see something you like, just bookmark it and check back in when you’re a little more “sober.”
FILED UNDER: your-money