Our Best Advice For Curbing Excessive Online Shopping

With the advent of the internet and e-commerce comes the ease of purchasing items online and having them arrive at your door without the hassle of going to a store. As the digital age advances, so do online stores and shopping platforms. Take Amazon for example, which is perhaps the best-known e-commerce site. With third-party sellers on the site plus products the company sells directly to customers, Amazon has over 350 million products on their site, per LandingCube. Through the use of one-step purchasing options and the sheer ease of buying items via your phone or computer, online shopping can be a slippery slope that can quickly go from a convenient way to buy items to excessive digital shopping.

The Coronavirus pandemic instigated a rise in online purchasing, especially when people were under quarantine orders, and in the year 2021, the amount of money made through e-commerce increased to over $800 billion, per a report by Insider Intelligence. While this staggering amount of money is a cumulative sum of what all online shoppers spent, if you have a digital shopping habit that's a little too intense then the money you spend online probably isn't making your bank account very happy. Not to mention that online shopping translates into physical items being delivered to your door, in turn creating clutter that can be overwhelming. Here's how you can curb excessive online shopping.

Determine what drives your excessive online shopping

To curb excessive online shopping, you first have to play detective and figure out what is driving you to make numerous digital purchases that may have damaging effects on your bank account, clutter buildup, and even your relationships. Sometimes an online purchase may be made out of boredom, a perceived necessity for something, or an underlying mental health condition. According to Healthline, online shopping that's compulsive, meaning that you don't feel like you can stop, can be rooted in depression, anxiety, and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorders. Excessive online shopping, particularly when it's impulsive, can also be caused by substance use, such as alcohol or other substances that can cause a decrease in executive functioning management. You may have heard the phrase "Don't drink and Prime" in reference to a colloquial saying alluding to Amazon's Prime membership that allows for one-click buying, which can be used excessively if a person has been drinking alcohol (via Memegine). If you think that your excessive online shopping could be a result of an underlying condition, you can work with a mental health practitioner like a therapist to discuss healthy management skills to redirect your compulsion to shop online.

Sometimes shopping is pursued for the dopamine release it can bring, reports Cleveland Clinic. The anticipation of receiving rewards in the form of packages leads to happier moods, which can combat anxiety, stress, loneliness, and other negative emotions. Shopping for a dopamine release is likely subconscious.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Change your thought patterns

For someone whose purchases are compulsive or excessive, changing the cognitive response to online shopping can curb exorbitant spending. It's important to note that these same principles apply to in-person shopping, too. The concept of retail therapy comes from the mood-boosting response the brain has when shopping which leads to a perceived therapeutic effect but seeking the feel-good effects of dopamine through excessive online shopping is an unhealthy coping mechanism and ultimately not therapeutic. Easing into curbing excessive online shopping can be achieved by easing into new thought patterns and implementing habits to stop impulsive buying in its tracks. The next time you find yourself logging onto a website or app to shop, write down the items you're drawn to instead of buying them, then make a budget for yourself and save up for the items you truly want. You'll still get a dopamine release by anticipating receiving the items you desire, but you'll also be protecting your bank account in the process.

You can ask yourself questions about why you want an item or feel like you need it, why you're drawn to the item, and what void the item may be filling (via 365 Less Things). Designer items may fill voids of inadequacy or a desire to feel elegant, while sporting gear may fulfill a desire to become more physically active.

Set electronic devices aside

Healthline advises that some of the most influential habits come in the form of setting boundaries with your electronic devices. When you're not actively using your phone, computer, or any device with access to online shopping outlets, setting the electronics aside in a spot out of easy access can create a physical barrier to prevent you from shopping online out of boredom, anxiety, loneliness, or for the thrill of dopamine. Have books, crafts, or other activities available to focus on when you put your electronics away. 

For someone with an excessive online shopping habit, not having your electronic devices in close reach may leave you feeling uncomfortable or uneasy, especially if you've been using online shopping to fill an emotional void. If your lavish spending has become a coping mechanism for negative emotions, then you're likely to feel discomfort because you will have to face those emotions in another way. To help navigate this experience, reach out to supportive friends and make plans to do non-electronic activities together as you suffuse the void online shopping has been filling. This is also a time to reach out to a therapist or mental health professional to process the negative feelings you've been avoiding.

Block access to shopping sites, apps, and influencers

During times when you can't avoid electronic devices, such as when you need to use them for work or school, you can create virtual barriers to keep temptations to shop online at bay. Keep in mind that avoiding e-commerce outlets while using a device that has access to the internet won't be as easy as having a physical barrier to your electronic devices, but if you're committed to curbing excessive online shopping then you can be successful if you stick to maintaining your digital distance from opportunities to shop. 

Start by unsubscribing from all email lists and text messages sent by stores, coupon sites, and any entity that advertises online shopping. Make certain that you check the spam folder of your inbox for any lurking advertisements, and if your email inbox has a promotions folder definitely make certain to wipe it clean. Remove all apps for stores or shopping-related content from your phone, tablet, and other devices. Install an ad blocker on your search browsers so that marketing materials for online retailers don't pop up on your screen. Using a web-filtering service can allow you to select settings that will prevent your device from accessing specific websites. Be mindful of social media advertisements, and unfollow influencers who participate in paid partnerships and market products through their content. The golden rule here is to have online shopping methods out of sight and out of mind.

Acknowledge the progress you make

First and foremost, it's imperative to note that like changing any other type of habit, you won't see total results overnight nor will you be perfect in your journey. As you work to curb excessive online shopping, you will make progress but it might also feel like sometimes you take one step forward and two steps back. That's likely to be expected and it's absolutely okay because you're human and changing a major behavior takes time. 

As you make progress, even if it's something that feels small like creating a budget for an item you want to buy online or deleting a marketing email, each step is larger than you may think and you should find ways to reward and acknowledge yourself for the positive changes you're making to eliminate impulsive buying from your repertoire. You may even gain unexpected rewards as you work to curb unbridled online shopping, like developing deeper connections by spending more time with friends, per Happier Human. One way to fill your free time so you aren't tempted to shop online is to pick up a group hobby like attending an art class or joining a sports league, through which a reward could be cultivating new friendships. Treat yourself by trying new things, but be aware that if you need to purchase materials or gear for a newfound hobby, choose a physical store and pay in cash instead of credit so that you don't fall into an online shopping binge. 

Practice self-care and self-compassion

As you acknowledge your progress in curbing unhealthy online purchasing, you should also acknowledge your authentic feelings throughout the process. Insider reports that because emotions are frequently behind online shopping and other money matters, being honest with yourself about how you're doing and what emotions you're experiencing is critical in changing your spending habits. Chances are that you'll continue to feel compulsions and urges to shop online as you break away from the habit, which is to be expected. Try not to feel guilty for these urges, but instead use these moments as opportunities to better understand yourself and why you're trying to turn to online shopping as a coping mechanism. 

Keep a journal of how you feel each time you find yourself being pulled onto the internet to shop. For instance, during moments of shopping compulsions, you may find that you're really searching for a change to your daily life or your surroundings instead of new clothing. When you find yourself craving dopamine-inducing anticipation, make plans with friends or find a show you can't wait to watch instead of waiting for packages to arrive post-online shopping. It's alright to buy yourself a gift for self-care because even though you're on the road to curbing excessive online spending, you'll still need to purchase essential items and you can throw in a little treat for yourself, too. Just don't go overboard and remember to keep track of your spending so your bank account doesn't plummet.