This past year, a lot has been done through the comfort of a screen. School moved online for many students. Employees around the world transitioned into a home office. Even how we bought our groceries and clothes became more digitized.
Speaking of online shopping, how many times have you gone to pick up the mail only to find an Amazon package you didn’t remember buying? Online shopping has made the impulse buy even more accessible thanks to the one-click checkout.
For many, this easy online process of buying things, coupled with the tailored ads online, means that the monthly credit card bill climbs higher and higher. Why is online shopping so addictive, and how can you break the habit? I’ll discuss all that in this article.
Like any addiction, we have to look at the brain to discover why online shopping is addictive.
Online shopping provides a rush of dopamine, much like any form of shopping. It feels good to fulfill our perceived “needs.”
The problem with online shopping and shopping with a credit card is that the item purchased and the money used to buy it feel separate. This is referred to as “coupling.” When you buy a shirt with cash, the shirt and the cost of it are directly linked. You physically assign a value to the shirt and weigh if the product is worth the value. With one-click purchasing online, the price feels more irrelevant. We don’t see the impact of the purchase until we look at our credit card statement—sometimes, a month later!
When you feel guilty about buying something, many will remember the hit of dopamine (those gratification hormones) they received when they purchased something. In an attempt to feel better about spending all that money, they’ll spend more money. This is because the shame and stress from the bill aren’t linked to the product or service that’s being purchased.
Another major problem with online shopping is that it’s readily available, private, convenient, and open 24/7. For those using online shopping to feel good, the privacy of being able to shop in their home whenever they need that fix of dopamine can make online shopping so addictive.
For many, online shopping does not become so severe that we classify it as an addiction. Only about 5% of the population is addicted to shopping. For most, online shopping has simply become a bad habit.
What are the signs that a bad habit has become an addiction? Much like any addiction, look for shame or someone hiding evidence of the addiction. If someone is defensive when you bring the topic up, this is a red flag.
If you’re using shopping as a means to soothe yourself and treat anxiety or stress, this is a sign that your online shopping is more than just a bad habit; you’re self-medicating a mental health issue with shopping.
The other thing to look for is compulsive behaviour related to online shopping. If you or someone you know is compelled to buy an entire set of something regardless of need, this is another sign of a shopping addiction. This is especially true if you’re spending more money than you can afford.
If your online shopping has become a full-on addiction, you’ll need to seek out help in the form of a support group, counsellor, or trusted friend. If, however, you’re like the vast majority of people who’ve developed a bad habit of clicking that “add to cart” button a little too frequently, here are some ways to curb the bad habit:
1. Use apps and plug-ins like StayFocused on your browser to block the websites you frequently use to make purchases during certain hours. Many of us make those late-night purchases without even realizing it. Setting time limits and keeping our devices powered off after dinner can help.
2. Delete your credit card information from your browser. Many have saved payment information to big stores like Amazon on their browser. The best way to avoid mindless purchases is to make it harder to click Buy.
3. Unsubscribe from email newsletters that are only trying to sell you things and cluttering up your inbox.
4. Declutter your home! When you take stock of everything you already have, you’ll end up being more mindful about what you bring into your home. Decluttering and organizing also bring an element of mindfulness into your purchasing process.
5.Make goals and lists for the things you want. Instead of just buying something on the spur of the moment, keep a list of the items you want to buy on your phone. This list will allow you to better prioritize your purchases and take the time to decide if you genuinely need it or not.
Technology has helped us enormously throughout this pandemic, and it’s become a significant part of our lives in the modern world. However, when we use technology without conscious awareness, it’s very easy to develop a reliance or an addiction. This addiction could be to scrolling through your Instagram feed, watching YouTube videos, playing a game, or even purchasing things on a whim. No matter what bad habits you’ve developed with technology, you can break them! If you need a little help, get your copy of my new book, The Tech Solution, today.
(Yes, the irony of suggesting you purchase a book online in an article about breaking online shopping habits is not lost on me!)