How To Stop Buying Things Online You Don’t Need

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.

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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.

More on frugal and simple living

Do you relate to any of this? Do you have any tricks to stop you from spending?


Click here to subscribe By on November 28th, 2018

13 thoughts on “How To Stop Buying Things Online You Don’t Need”

  1. This is such a great blog. I recently got remarried a few months ago and I’m very fortunate that I can stay home and be a home maker. I absolutely love it! I was raised if you don’t take care of what you have, you will have nothing at all. So I love taking care of our home and family.
    My worst spending habit is groceries. We live in the country and I’m always buying extra just Incase. Trying to break this habit and meal plan.
    The library is a wonderful thing. I was a single mother for a long time and I canceled my cable tv. I friend mentioned you know you can borrow movies from the library for FREE. What?!? I was so thrilled. I don’t watch much tv but was happy to enjoy a free movie occasionally.
    I also change decor out for the seasons. It freshens things up without buying new. Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy it!

    Reply
    • thank you Lori and I totally get what you are saying about stocking up too much and losing track. one thing that helps me is doing a no-spend month to sort of get my stocks back to manageable level!

      Reply
  2. What I dislike about buying online is unless one has a very good idea of the size of the item purchased and quality one cannot always assess every conceivable size or have assurance even if I could pick out the dimension. Example if I ordered a T-Shirt or even shoe sizes on eBay or Amazon XYZ site XL extra large and it arrives and it is something my 7 years old get into This is true of well known stores items that were ordered not according to descriptions as I received newly described items which came with scratches on box of Lego’s at $525 and items dangling about which seemed refurbished and clearly having been opened with scotch tape all around to close.
    This is why I do not like also shipping costs add up fast. One does not have the added time of stress to take it to the store for free exchange. I bet once they have us shopping online without seeing merchandise to purchase the prices will get jacked up. Even vegetables are not always the best for food deliveries. The old fashion way is better since one is left at the disposal of the company shipping. I absolutely agree we lose our footings on solid ground when doing online shopping even when one is trying to be cautious after having to wait on delays and whatever time the parcel does not arrive lost etc. or due to customs also charges and delays for months.

    Reply
    • totally agree with everything you’re saying. I wonder if sometimes retailers send out things they know are wrong, just hoping that people will think its too much of a pain to return

      Reply
  3. Love, Love, Love my Library!
    Sometimes I go in just to browse magazines…it feels so great to have free time to do that…
    We used to go to bookstores and spend too much… we haven’t done that for several years.
    In fact, we have taken to visiting libraries everywhere we travel.
    The best yet was The Long Room, The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The architecture is incredible… I was in awe of the place.
    I really like the things you have shared… so real to our lives…thanks for sharing .

    Reply
  4. Love, Love, Love my Library!
    Sometimes I go in just to browse magazines…it feels so great to have free time to do that…
    We used to go to bookstores and spend too much… we haven’t done that for several years.
    In fact, we have taken to visiting libraries everywhere we travel.
    The best yet was The Long Room, The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The architecture is incredible… I was in awe of the place.
    I really like the things you have shared… so real to our lives…thanks for sharing .

    Reply
  5. The library is key! I have easily close to two thousand dollars since getting my library card in 2016. Also, productive hobbies make all the difference, but you’re right, it’s easy to get caught up in them if you let yourself!

    Reply
    • Thank you Lucy! I am so excited to take out my blue and white pillow covers in January and feel like I have all new stuff.

      Reply
  6. Your tips are really good, and they all work for me, too; especially delaying what I purchase. I worked in a university library (interlibrary loan and cataloging) before my older son came along. I’m always amazed at how many people don’t realize this service exists. I’m looking forward to taking a look around your blog!

    Reply

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