Avoiding the Online Impulse Buy

Let’s face it, the Internet has made shopping awesomely easy, and while that can be great it also means it’s easier than ever to buy something you’ll regret.  And that just sucks.  So how does one go about limiting the amount of online shopping when it’s impossible to do things like pay only in cash or try something on (or most of the tips I talked about here)?  It’s not easy, but limiting what you buy online can be done, and you don’t have to stop shopping online!

Stop Browsing When You’re Bored
When you’re online slacking off at work killing time, don’t just shop out of boredom.  In fact, don’t ever shop out of boredom!  Instead, when you’re bored spend some time researching trends (Refinery29 is a great site for that!), creating outfits on Polyvore, or looking for outfit ideas on places like Chictopia or Lookbook.  You’ll feel a lot more accomplished, and your wallet will be thanking you.

Shop Around
For goodness sake, it’s the  Internet!  You have the shopping world at your fingertips and the ability to open multiple tabs in your browser!  Don’t just settle for the first deal you find.  Spend some time browsing other sites, searching for the item you desire.  You might find it cheaper somewhere else, or find a place that has a better deal on shipping, and either way, you would save some money.

Don’t Buy Items You Need Right Away Online
Buying online when you’re in a rush to get an item is a bad idea.  You’re far better off looking for whatever it is you need in stores.  Rush-shipping items is often stupidly expensive, and sometimes, delays can happen at the store itself that causes your packaged to ship out later than expected.  Besides, if it’s for something important, what are you going to do if it doesn’t fit, or the color is wrong?  You’re stuck then, with even less time to find something in-stores, and you have to deal with a return.  Better off to just find what you need in brick-and-mortar stores and save yourself the hassle.

Look For Coupons & Use Them
While you’re shopping around, don’t forget to check for coupons for the various sites you’re thinking of buying from (yay multi-tasking!).  My favorite coupon site is RetailMeNot.  It has both online coupons for nearly every website out there, as well as a slew of printable coupons for brick-and-mortar retailers.  You can also try your hand and Googling “[site name] coupon code” and see what comes up.

When you go to use coupons, make sure your purchase follows any rules or restrictions placed on the coupon, or else it won’t work (though most sites let you know if that’s the case).  It’s also important to check to see if you can use multiple coupon codes at the same time (and if so, do it!).  When you input the coupon code, make sure you click the “apply” button or “update cart” and make sure your coupon has been applied.

Subscribe To Mailing Lists
Along the same line of using coupons, add yourself to the site’s email list.  Even if you don’t open an account, most websites have a place where you can subscribe to their mailing list.  If it’s a place you see yourself buying from often (or even if it’s one you might buy from every once in awhile), get on that list!  Quite often, retailers send out coupons and sale notices via email, and it’s silly to not take advantage of those deals!

Use Wishlists
If the website you’re thinking of buying from has a wishlist feature, use it!  Make an account at the site and put the items you want to buy in your wishlist.  Wishlisting something is sort of like putting it on hold.  It gives you a chance to come back to the item and see if you really want it, or make sure it’s as good of a deal as you thought.  Just remember, adding something to a wishlist often doesn’t hold it in your size or preferred color, so it might be out of stock if it’s a really hot item and you wait too long.

Check Website Reviews
While it might not prevent some things from happening, checking into a website before you buy can help save you time, money, and frustration.  Sometimes, websites with deals that Take some time to Google “[site name] review” and see what comes up.  I’ve certainly saved myself from buying from places that have poor customer support by doing so!

Familiarize Yourself With Return Policies
One of the biggest challenges with buying online, especially when it comes to brands you’re not familiar with, is fit.  Making sure the site you’re buying from has a decent return policy is very important.  You can usually find return policy information on a website’s “about us” or “FAQ” pages, and if you can’t find it, try contacting them for that information.  If the return policy is such that you don’t think it’d be worth buying there, don’t!  Also, make sure you are familiar with how sale items are treated when it comes to returns.  Some places don’t allow sale items to be returned.

Don’t Forget The 3 Questions… They Still Apply!
In my post on hitting the mall, I mentioned asking yourself 3 questions while trying stuff on.  Obviously, you can’t try stuff on if you’re shopping online, but you can still ask yourself the ever-important questions:

  1. Can I wear this with anything I already own?
  2. Do I already own something similar?
  3. Do I have someplace I can wear this?
Answering those will help you figure out whether or not what you’re thinking of buying is really worth it.   And if you can’t answer those questions, perhaps it’s best to wishlist the item and hold off on buying right away.
When You Can, Try On In-Store
Quite often, online stores carry the same brands as brick-and-mortar stores, but the online stores sometimes have better deals (even after you factor in shipping).  But instead of buying-and-returning over and over to make sure you get the right fit, try and find a store that carries the brand (or more specifically, the item) you’re interested in buying and try in on in store.  This way, you can take some time to move around in it, see how it fits, and really decide if it’s the right buy for you.  And if it doesn’t work out, at least all you’ve wasted is a little time.

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