Remember when you basically had two options for shopping? Before the internet, you would either head to the mall or make a purchase through a mail-order catalog. Times certainly have changed. With the evolution of online shopping, purchasing items is as easy as the click of a mouse. As online shopping has advanced, so have the techniques that companies use to influence you to make a purchase. There’s a science behind what sways people to purchase products. Just like a store’s layout and product placement can encourage you to put an item in your cart, a retailer’s website can too.
More and more retailers, marketers and ad agencies are using neuromarketing (marketing techniques developed from brain-science studies) to influence your feelings about their products, what you’ll buy and how much you’ll spend. This makes it harder to resist impulse purchases and can put a big dent on your finances.
For example, you may not realize how the colors, location of objects and text, or the order of prices on your screen influence your decision-making, but the people who put them there do.
What’s more, unlike brick-and-mortar stores, which often have times they’re closed, online shopping is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from your computer or any mobile device. So, if you have a late-night urge to splurge, it’s easy to do so.
Here are six tips to keep you in check when shopping online:
1. Determine what you are going to buy before you go online — Make a list of the items you need and then stick to it. Avoid clicking on other related items or recommendations such as “People who bought this item also purchased …” to limit the temptation to buy more than you’d planned.
2. Limit your shopping time so you are focused and efficient — Just like you can only put so much in your cart at a brick-and-mortar store during a quick stop, you are less likely to load up on items you don’t need online when time is of the essence.
3. Set an online shopping budget and don’t waver — Then comparison shop to get the most bang for your buck. Also, perform a quick search to see if there are any active coupon codes for the site you’re purchasing from. Whether it’s a percentage off an item or an entire purchase, or an offer for free shipping, coupon codes can add up quickly and help you save big.
4. Be wary of online auction sites — Online sellers know how to exploit the adrenaline rush and excitement of online bidding, which means you could end up paying more for an item than it’s actually worth if winning the auction outweighs the value of the item. If you do shop them, be sure to know an item’s true value and commit to not spending more than that amount.
5. Don’t shop when you aren’t at your best — Just like you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, you shouldn’t shop online when you are stressed or in an urgent need to buy something. Doing so might make you more vulnerable to purchasing items you may not really want or need.
6. Track your spending — Whether you’re buying smaller-ticket items — such as an app, music or movies — or larger-ticket ones, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent. Make a list or track your spending on a spreadsheet. Also, there are several free personal finance websites that can help you log your online — and offline — spending to help you stay on top of these expenses.
For more information on how to set a budget, consult your financial professional. A financial adviser can help you develop a strategy to help you to meet your financial goals.