Nowadays, almost anything can be done online – banking, booking plane tickets, connecting to family and friends in other parts of the globe, and shopping. With everything possible to be accomplished with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen, the internet has indeed made life much more efficient for us.
But then, with this great power that the internet offers comes a serious responsibility. Particularly when it comes to buying things online, as it is easy to lose track of our expenses because of how everything is made accessible on our fingertips. We can shop from one online store to another and make our purchases too easily without realising that we have thousands of dollar charged to our credit card already. Next thing we know, we are staring at the credit card statement with our mouths hanging open, unsure of how to get every single dollar paid off – if it is even possible to pay off in one go all that money!
For people who cannot control their craving for shopping, it is not surprising for them to take out one loan after another. They may even resort to approaching a licensed money lender that are legally authorised by the Ministry of Law if they no longer qualify for a bank loan due to a less-than-perfect credit rating.
With debts and loans accumulating, expenses increasing, and the monthly income in a stagnant mode, how can you possibly get yourself out of a sticky financial situation? This is why we need to get to the root of the problem instead of be in a constant state of denial that online shopping CAN ruin one’s credit without any discipline or budget set. It is even more detrimental to your financial health, as compared to buying at brick and mortar stores since you can just do your shopping anywhere you may be – even if you are in bed, and in your Pjs. No need to drive through traffic or stand in line at the check-out counter. Thus, it is easy for people to get hooked on online shopping and a mountain of debts at the same time.
With all these things in mind, it is important to be aware of the financial traps we get into because of uncontrolled online shopping. According to researchers, about $2.4 trillion was spent by people worldwide in online shopping in 2017, and the numbers are expected to skyrocket in the years to come. So, before you grab your phone or computer and go on an online shopping spree, you may want to check out these factors that get you hooked on buying things online, as well as the dangers these can do to your bank account.
1. Online shopping can save you so much money.
There is no doubt that some items are much cheaper online than in retail stores. And if you factor in the time and energy you need to exert to get to the mall, it is true that you will save more if you just leave your car parked at home and do the shopping right in your room. So, what does this mentality lead to? Some people are aware that they get discounts online, which causes them to rationalise their decision to keep buying more.
It is a fact that you have all those savings by going online instead of checking out a retail shop to buy items. But at the same time, you end up not saving anything anymore once this so-called “free money” has been used up. If you can just stick to buying the necessities and save what you believe you would have saved by shopping online, then it’s all good.
2. There is a tendency to buy the non-essential when you shop online.
Since online shopping is very convenient, it is easy to go from one page to another and find hundreds of items that can catch you eye. Want to buy a pair of shoes? Just click on the color you want, select the size that fits you, and chances are, the store has it. The same goes for clothes, and you will find it even more enticing to buy because the color and style options are endless. It’s almost impossible to not find something you like. If you want, you may even click on the models to make it turn around and view how the clothes appear from various angles. It is much like being in front of a mannequin at the mall and visualising yourself wearing the exact same outfit.
However, along with convenience comes the temptation to buy more than you should. The seller sometimes have product suggestions or recommendations that will entice you to make another purchase even when these things are not even in your list of what to buy. So, you accumulate more items and debts until you are officially in a financial trap.
3. You will receive notifications in your email about new items available and hot deals.
After making your first purchase at the online store, you are bound to receive in your email some notifications about the latest products available or flash sale and promos. In fact, even when you are just browsing, you may come across ads on the side or top of the website that are related to the items you have previously bought. With constant bombardment with these ads, you may end up buying more again – even if you have no plans of doing so.
But what you can do is once you realise that you are not interested in receiving these ads, you can simply label these emails as spam. This way, they will go straight to your junk mail and not bother you anymore. Just remember that you are still in control here, and you can always choose to ignore and direct these ads to your trash instead of bearing the consequences of opening them and acting on your desire to make a purchase.
4. You may find yourself hooked on returning to the online store when you have nothing to do.
Boredom can do a lot of things to people. But if there is one major destructive thing it can do, it would be to ruin our finances. Since you already have an access to a number of online stores where you shopped in the past, you may find yourself going back to these sites and browsing through their latest product offerings. As it is expected that every item featured is eye-catching and appealing to you, there is a huge chance for you to make impulse purchases.
If you are bored and there is the craving to shop, the best thing to do is to find a fun and worthwhile activity to focus more on. Go out, do some gardening, dip in the pool, or hang out with your girl friends. There are several more wholesome and meaningful ways to spend your lazy afternoon than to go online and shop for things you don’t really need. It just takes discipline to shut the computer down or leave the site.
5. There are always hidden charges to think about.
Yes, prices have been marked down. But you have to be aware that there is ALWAYS a catch. Behind these cheap prices are expensive shipping fees and foreign currency exchanges that are much higher than you think. Once you get your total bill, it is not exactly as cheap as what you think it would be.
With this in mind, it is a smart and practical move to just stick to the basics, or at least what’s in your list, and forget about the non-essentials. Sure, the internet can lure you pretty well into buying more and more things, but in the end, you still have the choice to make a purchase or not. Set a budget, go back to your financial plan, and make sure every action you make is aligned towards the attainment of your goals.