Examining why we shop online for things we don’t need, with some practical solutions to stop the mindless spending.
Do you find yourself really drawn to online shopping? I don’t want to exactly call it an addiction, but definitely a compulsion. There is something about it that is so hard to resist. But it can be so, so damaging, leading to credit card debt, clutter, and stress. Today I want to share some practical ways to stop buying things online that you don’t need.
Why is buying things online so appealing?
There is something so exciting about searching for just the right item online, doing the research, and anticipating buying it. Then you get to place the order, track it online, and enjoy the excitement of when it arrives.
At first, every item you buy is amazing. How did you live without it? Your friends hear all about it and you even watch videos of how to use it. It’s just what you needed.
And then over time, it just becomes background. You have some new pressing need. It’s time to research a new widget.
And bit by bit, your house is over taken with clutter. You don’t seem to have any extra money. You are throwing out bags of things that no longer spark joy.
Sound familiar at all?
Okay, so how can we stop buying things online that we don’t need?
Well, a lot of people will say that excessive shopping is a result of a deep personal problem. I don’t really believe that. I think that most people struggle with this, and many don’t have to confront their issue because they have enough money to just keep spending.
So instead of addressing the deeper issues that are causing you to over-shop, I want to give you some practical alternatives for when you feel like buying something you just don’t really need.
1. Interlibrary loan
Going to the library and picking something out on the shelf is not the same. Something about requesting a hold is very exciting. You go through all the motions of putting it in the cart and getting the email that it is ready to be picked up. It’s delightful, and feels like something you should be paying a lot of money for, yet it is free.
I also like Kindle Unlimited. It fills in some gaps of what your library doesn’t offer, and allows you to buy ebooks with abandon. You can get a free trial here and decide if it’s worth it to you.
2. Rotating belongings
This is old advice for children’s toys, but it really works on adults. Isn’t it amazing how when you decorate for christmas, the house feels new? Even if you don’t have new decorations? Well, it works for other seasons too. Things like pillow covers, throw blankets, kitchen towels, mugs, and other practical items can be switched out at the start of each season. Make sure you are packing up stuff that you actually like. Otherwise you are just putting a bunch of junk in the basement. If your seasonal boxes are filled with things that are still your favorites, opening the box in the spring feels like going shopping.
3. A productive hobby
This can be dangerous and can lead to buying a lot of hobby related clutter. But if you are careful, it can give you the feeling of buying something without buying it. Gardening, baking, and sewing, will provide you with new items at the end, as well as occupying your time.
4. Try a no spend month or week
The worst. But! There is something about the first week or so of it that is novel and exciting. It quickly wears off. But it resets expectations for a while, and even the grocery shopping feels indulgent after it ends. Living Well Spending Less is a good resource for these.
5. Delay getting what you want
Sometimes none of these tricks work, and you just really, really want something. Instead of getting it right away, just wait. Buying it resets the countdown to wanting the next thing. Instead tell yourself, yes, you can have it. And then wait a while. Maybe tell someone you want it for your birthday, so you have to wait to see if it appears.
So now you know I am crazy. But I suspect I am in good company, based on the number of people who watch videos online of other people opening boxes.