The Impulsive Online Shopper's Guide to Better Spending Habits

tips for shopping less

( Stop right there. We see you with dozens of items in your online shopping cart ready to hit check out. Before you do, let’s take a step back. Think back to early 2020 when online shopping boomed exponentially. Now, try to remember all the items you impulsively purchased those first few months of the pandemic. Are you really using that air fryer as often as you thought you would? Were all those scented candles and home-decor pieces really worth the splurge? Did you actually work out after buying all that activewear? Look, we’re not trying to shame you for shopping—we, shopaholics ourselves, love a good splurge as well as an exciting deal—but it’s time we stop spending with our feelings. Sure, those impulsive purchases do provide an iota of (temporary) fulfillment, perhaps a quick burst of serotonin, but in the long run, you may be burning through your wallet for items that will only really make you happy for a few weeks, if that. And hey, we understand that at this point, online shopping for fun has become kind of a habit—one that’s harder to break than it may seem—so if you need a little help changing up your spending behavior, allow us to help.


Below, we’ve got a handy guide that you can follow to help you shop less—or at least shop better. We’re not saying you shouldn’t shop at all and we’ll be the first to marvel about the convenience and sometimes life-saving power of e-commerce. But what we have here is a primer of sorts—a moral compass, if you will—designed to help you make purchases more intentionally and less impulsively. We list useful tips to keep in mind as well as important questions to ask yourself before buying anything. This doesn’t mean that you can’t shop at all or buy things just because you want them. It means that you’ll be thinking more carefully before making any kind of purchase rather than thoughtlessly splurging on something “because you deserve it.” If you can incorporate this guide into your routine each time you shop online, then you’ll be buying less unnecessary finds, minimizing clutter in your home, and ultimately, investing in things that will actually improve your life in the long run.

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These handy online shopping tips will help you spend less impulsively and make wiser purchases:

First things first: Eliminate temptation where possible

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If you’ve got a serious shopping addiction, then we’d suggest getting rid of the apps on your phone that facilitate this behavior. Remember, e-commerce apps and websites make use of the same addictive interface that social media platforms do. Just think about it: You can scroll endlessly through online shopping apps and each new page leads you to algorithm-based recommendations, tempting you with possible purchases that you may not even really need or won’t like after a while.


If that’s a little too extreme for you, you can also turn off those apps’ notifications—so you won't constantly be reminded to open them—or use your phone’s built-in screen-time settings to limit the hours you spend on certain apps. You can also opt to remove your credit card or e-wallet information from selected apps in order to limit your ability to shop 24/7. Plus, you may want to take things out of your online shopping cart if you find yourself unsure about them. Trust us, once they’re gone, you’ll quickly forget about them and worry less about whether or not you should buy them.

Oftentimes impulsive shopping happens when you’re, well, bored. You’ve got nothing else to do and scrolling through your fave e-commerce sites can feel good and ultimately, doing so always leads to more items in your cart. So if you feel an itch to needlessly shop coming on, distract yourself. Read a book, binge a new series, watch a movie, clean your room—whatever you can think of. You’ll often find that once your boredom is cured, the urge to impulsively shop is, too.


Ask yourself: Do you need it?

thinking emoji
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Let’s not lie to each other: Usually, the answer is no. Sure, sometimes we justify it to ourselves and tell ourselves we need something we really don’t. And we get it, it’s hard to decide not to buy something once it’s caught your eye. But it’s time to be honest: You don’t really need most of the items in your cart. And if you don’t need something, then you have much less reason to spend your hard-earned money on it.


Sometimes after buying an item—even one you quickly realize you don’t really need—you may find that you justify the purchase to yourself in order to avoid buyer’s remorse, only further perpetuating the cycle of shopping mindlessly. It’s okay to admit to yourself that sometimes you made the wrong decision and that last purchase just wasn’t right for you. So instead of trying to justify your purchase after it arrives, try to make sure the purchase is right for you before hitting that check-out button.

If you do need it, think about it: Do you need it ASAP?

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Remember, there is a difference between necessary and urgent—and no, flash sales are not urgent. For example, maybe you’ve run out of jeans to wear and now you need a new pair. You spot a pair online for a fairly decent price and you add it to your cart. But do you need it right now? Will anything go wrong if you wait a while before buying? Asking yourself these simple questions before spending allows you to be more thoughtful with each purchase—that split-second of hesitation can make all the difference.

Using the jeans as an example again: Perhaps the style in your cart is not necessarily the best quality in its price range; maybe it’s out of your budget or you’re unsure about the sizing or color. Perhaps it would be wiser to buy jeans elsewhere or even in person where you can try them on. It’s not an urgent purchase, so don’t rush it. Remember, if you buy something now, you’re ruling out alternative possibilities. Take the time to weigh out the options and give yourself the space to look for better (whether in terms of quality or price) alternatives or else spend your monthly budget on more immediate needs. We’re not saying you should procrastinate every purchase you make, but instead, learn to prioritize which purchases need to be done immediately and which can wait. 


If you don’t need it: Wait

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Oftentimes if you just wait a few days or weeks, the items in your shopping cart or that you’ve been fixating on tend to seem less exciting—especially once the rush of a potential impulsive purchase has subsided. We’re sure you’ve experienced it, too: You put those cute tops in your cart and you check back on them weeks later and wonder why you even put them there in the first place; or you realize you could do without it; or would rather not spend on it. Now, if your heart still longs for that one item even weeks after you first spotted it, then you can take that as a sign that it may really be worth the splurge—just make sure it fits your budget.


This practice will help you better incorporate patience into your shopping routine. Trust us, the delayed gratification of waiting before making a purchase that was actually worth the spend is much more fulfilling than the instant (and almost always transitory) excitement that comes with an impulsive buy.

Can you borrow it, rent it, or make it yourself?

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Hear us out: Not everything needs to be bought. Say you’ve got a wedding to go to in a few weeks with a very specific color theme. Your first instinct would be to go out (or check online) to shop for a dress that fits the specifications. Sure, now you’ve got a gorgeous dress for the occasion, but afterwards, you’re stuck with a style that you’ll rarely ever wear again (if at all) and that cost you quite a pretty penny. So before you buy anything, look into alternative options that don’t require spending money like borrowing from a friend, renting out, or even making it yourself. This can apply to clothing, shoes, tools, appliances, books, travel essentials, and anything that you’ll only use a few times. In the end, you’ll be happy you didn’t spend your hard-earned dough on an item that you’ll rarely use and will just take up unnecessary space in your home.


Are you willing to maintain it?

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While we often (delusionally) believe that our purchases can make us happy in the long-term, we must keep in mind that all belongings come with a certain responsibility. Before you buy anything, you have to ask yourself: Are you willing to take on that responsibility? Sure, that new top looks great on you, but are you willing to iron it every time you need to wear it? Will you follow the washing and drying guide on the tag? That portable air cooler sure is handy, but does the added cost to your electricity bill fit your budget? That expensive appliance is pretty nifty, but can you afford to fix it if it breaks? You get the gist. If you’re unwilling to do the work required to take care of the things you buy, then the money you spent on them will go to waste very quickly.


Conversely, while some products don't require any kind of laborious maintenance, it’s also worth asking yourself: Will they last a long time? Is the amount of time that item will last worth the money you spent on it? E-commerce often tricks us with cheap thrills and budget-friendly alternatives, but oftentimes, they break or just don’t last a long time, forcing you to purchase more items instead of treasuring the ones you already own.

Ready to shop?

online shopping

Now that you’ve gone through all of our questions and answered them accordingly, you may be ready to shop. If you’ve answered honestly and followed the tips faithfully, then you can hit add to cart and check out your orders knowing you made those purchases thoughtfully and intentionally. But in case you’re ever unsure or find yourself slipping back into those same old impulsive shopping habits, you can always refer back to this list and ask yourself these same questions over and over. These habits take time to build, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

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