For some reason, despite it being 2015, I have only recently gotten into online shopping. Part of this is that I love the actual physical activity of shopping, and given that I work at home, it’s one of my few excuses to regularly get out of the house and get some (very moderate) cardio. Whether for groceries or a new shirt, shopping was a regular part of my ritual, and I still very much look forward to heading down the street with my canvas bags to do a lil hunting and gathering.
But it’s undeniable that, for a lot of purchases, not using online shopping to your advantage is just dumb, and is likely costing you some serious money. Once you get over your desire for instant gratification — which I definitely had to get over, because not being able to hold something in my hand the moment I bought it felt wrong at first — you can start shopping much smarter and more efficiently. I’m going to say here that a big part of my move towards a 50/50 split of online and IRL shopping has been getting Amazon Prime, and I know that people like to yell at me when I admit to contributing to Great Overlord Bezos and his malevolent retail empire, but it is what it is. I have Prime, I use it, and I love it.
If you don’t have it, and are looking to make the move to buying some things online — everything from toiletries to home supplies to packs of new underwear — definitely get yourself Prime. It’s 100 bucks a year but pays for itself almost immediately with its speedy and free delivery. Even if you use it strictly for the things you buy regularly, like the aforementioned toiletries or cleaning supplies, it’s definitely worth it. You can get better prices on things, not have to worry about transport, and buy them in bulk to arrive at regular intervals.
But for the less-obvious things (and for me, this includes everything from clothes shopping to beauty sample delivery services), online shopping can be a slippery slope. Now that I’ve personally gotten over the desire/need to have everything in my hands the minute I buy it, I realize that I could easily get addicted to the feeling of clicking “Buy” and having the mailman bring me a nice little package a few days later. It’s like Christmas whenever you want it, and despite the fact that you purchased it for yourself, it somehow manages to be a pleasant little surprise when it turns up at your doorstep. I’ve noticed that the more I do it, the more I want to do it, and that only certain purchases are really justifiable. To prevent myself from getting way too into online shopping (and the thrill its pretty little packages provide), I’ve taken the following steps:
- I don’t sign up for any monthly services, and have cancelled the ones I do have. If I’m already buying stuff semi-frequently online, I don’t need to be receiving extra monthly incentives to buy more things, nor do I need the thrill of the package arriving. I have them already.
- When it comes to clothes/accessories, I use online shopping strictly as a tool to fill a specific need, or to compare prices. Often you can find things on a store’s website for a deeper discount or in a different color, so I always make sure I’m not paying too much if I’m looking at something in-store. And if I have a very specific thing I need — this year it was a certain style of sandal, in a certain color — I’ll find it online, because the prices are generally lower and it prevents me having to go from store to store to find an item they may not have. And particularly with things like sandals, you’re almost sure the item’s going to fit. (I hate having to return things via mail.)
- I don’t save my card info whenever possible. Sometimes just having to get up and get my wallet for something is enough to dissuade me from making a purchase, which can be the difference between a skirt I don’t need and saving 40 dollars.
- I automate the purchases I need to be making regularly, so that I don’t have to fill up my basket with the same stuff each time, and therefore be tempted by all the other items popping up along the way.
- Before I check out on any purchase, I fill my cart up with the items I’d like and set a budget for myself (usually I like to keep it under 100 dollars if I’m buying a couple items at a time, as this really forces me to choose). I go through and remove the stuff I don’t absolutely love, and only when I’ve reached under my budget can I click “buy.” This satisfies both my desire to be cheap, and my need to really reflect before buying things I don’t totally love. Looking at the items next to one another in the basket really helps see what’s worth the money.
- I NEVER shop while drunk, tired, or in a bad mood. Once I bought a comically undersized IKEA couch while drunk at 2 in the morning at a house party, and ever since I am very wary of buying anything online when I am not in a good mood, and of totally sound mind.
- I have an email that is strictly for online shopping I need to sign up for, so that I can totally avoid their spammy emails and not be tempted by their hOt DeAls every time I open my email.
- Above all, I check at least three stores before I’m buying a specific item I’m looking for. During my hunt for a rug for my bedroom, for example, I needed a specific (puppy-safe) material and wanted the right pattern and color scheme. I nearly bought one from the first store I looked at because it was cute and fit exactly what I wanted, and only by chance happened to stumble on the exact same one at a 30 percent discount at another site where I was getting a piece of furniture. It’s always worth it to compare prices and, if you don’t find what you want at your ideal price, wait. The internet is a cave of wonders when it comes to bargain-hunting, and if something isn’t at the right price point now, you can guarantee it will be shortly.
I can officially say that I am now an online shopping convert, but am wary about giving into my worst impulses and shopping myself into oblivion with the click of a mouse. (I have a neighbor who receives packages from J.Crew and Asos literally multiple times a week, every week, and I’m unclear how she is making rent.) But I believe that by being reasonable, and saving yourself from yourself when necessary, you can combat the online shopping demons, and wield their powers for good.