Keep control of your online spending

Australians love online retail, and if we loved it before the pandemic, we’re mad keen on it now.

The Australian Post 2021 ecommerce report into online shopping shows that the 2020 online retail figures grew by 57 per cent year-on-year and Australians spent a record $50.46 billion online.

“As a percentage of total retail, online sales accounted for 16.3 per cent – a figure we did not expect to see until about 2023,” Australia Post chief financial officer Rodney Boys said.

Read: Australia embraces online shopping

But for all the retail therapy we have indulged in over the past two years, there is downside, because for every bargain purchase the easy nature of the transaction gives rise to the opportunity to overspend.

Financial advice website reports that some of the signs you are spending too much online include hiding your purchases, arguments about spending, a ‘secret’ credit card for spending, feeling guilty after shopping, feeling anxious if you can’t access the internet or your favourite sites and buying things you don’t need just because they are on sale.

So how do you avoid the sugar high of online spending? Here are a few tips to get you primed before you hit the submit button.

Be prepared

Before you head online, slow down. Set a spending limit or budget and ask yourself if you really need the intended purchase. It might even pay to declutter so you have a clear picture of what you need and what you already have. Track how much you have spent online in the past few months. The results might motivate you to cut back.

Don’t rush

Rash spending impulses can often be cured by time. Leave the items in the ‘basket’ and come back to it in 24 hours. Ask the hard questions. Do you still love it? Do you even need it? Proceed with caution.

Read: Online shopping boom hurting your super

Only buy on sale

If there is an item you have an eye on, join email newsletters from the company. When it goes on sale, only then consider buying. Too often buyers are motivated by what appears to be a bargain and impulse shop. 

Examine your motivation

Why are you spending so much time online shopping? Are you bored, does it relieve stress, and do you even really need your next purchase? There’s a vast difference between the desire for swish new pair of shoes and the weekly grocery shop. Think hard about why you clicked on an online shop.

Do something else

Shopping can bring on an adrenaline rush, but what else interests you? Can you spend the time you would normally be online reading a book, enjoying a hobby or catching up with friends or even just scrolling through non-retail sites?

Read: Get your money back online

Set limits

If you think your online shopping has got out of hand, use some online resources to limit your screen time. Unsubscribe or even block access to any sites you think you have been overusing.

Do your research

It’s not just the retail price. It pays to read the fine print as often there are a multitude of hidden fees that can increase your spend. Packaging, postal, international transaction fees, credit card interest and return policies can dramatically escalate the price for your purchase.

And while online ‘buy now, pay later’ platforms can be a useful tool if used with discipline, even more of the more reputable companies – such as Afterpay – have late and missed payment fees that can add up to 25 per cent of the original purchase price.

How do you control your online shopping? Why not share your tips in the comments section below?

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Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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