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5 Tips to Curb Online Impulse Purchases

There is a whole genre of articles, conferences, books and workshops dedicated to helping marketers and advertisers reduce the time it takes for you, the consumer, to visit an online store and make a purchase. There are advertising tactics that encourage you to consider that purse you looked at online three weeks ago when you are simply googling how to make banana bread muffins.

Do you ever wonder why or how the ads that come through your Facebook feed, Google search sidebar, or even your favorite online news outlet’s banner sections are so perfectly targeted to you and what you like or what you’ve bought in the past? The endeavor of online retailers (especially the giants like Amazon) is to reduce the amount of time between your arrival at the site and your purchase.

Spending Money Online Is Easy

In the time it takes you to brew your first morning k-cup you could buy anything from an $8 paperback to a $300,000 diamond ring. Fortunately, they offer free shipping for that purchase. What a bargain. But all kidding aside, while Amazon is a very useful, convenient and oftentimes cost effective place to make purchases, it is also a trap for impulse buying at its most extreme. As the holiday season ramps up and we start to think about the perfect gifts we might find for those we care about, it can be easy to get caught up in your excitement and overbuy, overspend and act impulsively.

It used to be that we went out into the world for holiday shopping. While there were plenty of temptations and opportunities to buy on impulse, there were always some things that hindered us a bit more than they do today. At a minimum, we couldn’t complete all of our shopping at one store, in one day, while sitting on the couch in our pajamas. The convenience of online shopping is part of what can make it so attractive and also a bit dangerous.

With the added element of hundreds of computer geniuses working tirelessly to execute the perfect algorithm to make our desires align with our impulses, the road to prudent purchasing choices is sure to be an uphill climb.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid the traps of the online marketplace and find the perfect gifts to fit your lifestyle and budget this holiday season.

1. Take Your Time

The longer you have to wait to fulfill your impulse, the less likely you are to just buy something to scratch that itch.

2. Don’t Store Credit Card Information on Sites

If you have to take out your wallet and type in your credit card information each time you make a purchase, you may give yourself just the right amount of time to reconsider all or part of your purchase list. Plus, it’s safer to protect your credit card information.

3. Remove Your Address from "One-Click” Settings

This is another stalling tactic to give yourself more time to consider your choices.

4. Clear Browsing History

One of the most effective ways that online retailers tempt you to their site is by using your search history cookies to discover what you like, what you might want to purchase, and what you have been searching for online. You will be less tempted by items that you may have decided against on your last visit by clearing your browser’s search history as well as your search history on Amazon itself.

5. Research and Compare Prices

If you're going to buy something on Amazon, make it a requirement for yourself that you research the item elsewhere. Spend some time looking at reviews, evaluate whether it's an item that you need, weigh the cost-benefit of making the purchase and assess if it's worth its price.

Online retailers are working diligently to shift people’s behavior toward impulse buying. This is not a terrible thing for them to do. It is in the nature of retail to be good at getting people to buy things. They shouldn’t be criticized for doing their job really well.

That said, I think it is important, as a consumer to stay ahead of sales tactics in order to avoid getting caught up in the game. The relationship should be one where you are in control of your choices, your impulses and the things that you spend your hard-earned money on. In a world where there is more things to buy than ever before, it’s best to consider quality over quantity and experiences over things.

Recent articles by Kathy Longo: How to Effectively Have Conversations About Money