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Shopping online: how to avoid overspending

Jun 24, 2014

online shoppingAccording to World Wide Worx, which monitors the local e-commerce landscape on an annual basis, in conjunction with MasterCard, online shopping has stayed in line with forecasts over the past few years – slightly surpassing last year’s expectations. A report by the Boston Consulting Group states that online shopping accounts for approximately 1.9% of South Africa’s economy and is anticipated to grow to 2.5% by 2016.

“With the increase in online shopping in South Africa, we are seeing more and more people spending their salaries online and swiping their credit cards to buy clothing, technology and food items,” says Wikus Olivier, debt counselor at DebtSafe.

When you see an email pop up in your inbox alerting you to the 70%-off online sale starting in five minutes, you quickly log in and add that lavish pair of shoes and designer handbag to your virtual cart, realising the deal’s about to end, and — click! — they’re yours.

“Online shopping can be quick and convenient. This is a positive thing should you perhaps not be able to leave the kids alone at home and need to buy some groceries, however, for retail therapy addicts this could be too easy and it leads to a lot of people getting into credit-card debt with the click of a button,” says Olivier.

To avoid spending on unnecessary items, here are a few tips when shopping online:

Set a budget

Work out how much you want to spend and stick to it. Always remember to add in the delivery costs as this can add quite a bit on to your purchase.

Decide what matters

What are your must-have features versus those that are nice to have? For example, if you are purchasing a laptop, is it necessary to purchase the extra storage or is the standard amount that comes with the laptop sufficient?

Compare products

The last thing you want is to receive your product and find it’s not what you thought it would be and now you’re stuck with it. Always read the reviews online and compare prices to make sure you’re not being overcharged. Sometimes the convenience is not worth the extra costs.

Hit “pause” if your dream dress is out of stock

Should you log on for a web-only sample sale and find your favourite item has already been sold, you might be tempted to buy something else instead. Tell yourself, “Try again tomorrow,” and log out.

Don’t keep your credit card on file

By having your credit card details on file you are on the fast track to one-click impulse purchases. Opt to enter your payment info each time you shop online, and use those extra minutes for an Is it really worth it? gut check.

End online buyer’s remorse!

Retailers often use “cookies” – files of your personal data stored by web browsers like Firefox and Safari – to come up with those “If you liked that, you’ll love this” recommendations. Some websites might even use the information to quote you higher prices based on your shopping habits. Delete cookies in your browser’s preferences from time to time and see if you start to get better deals.

“What is important to note is that just because it is easier to shop online it does not mean it will be easier to pay off the credit card debt. Whether you shop online or from the local supermarket, using your credit card and giving into impulse buying needs to be managed carefully,” concludes Olivier.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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