In the third installment on our series on Staying on Track and Avoiding Temptation, Marisa Torrieri Bloom shares how she fights her greatest temptation to shop online and keeps her Financial Freedom front of mind. If you missed the first article in this series, you can find it here.
Not too long ago, I spent about an hour of my day perusing apparel and home decor online. Much of this happened late at night, after I’d worked a long, hard day. What was worse was once I convinced myself I needed something, there was no stopping me from clicking “buy” and opting for 3-day shipping.
This shouldn’t be shocking, considering the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling $16,425, according to one 2016 study.
Having been one of these debtors until eight years ago, when I paid my last credit card statement once and for all, I have absolutely no desire to chisel away at my newfound Freedom from debt. But when I had my first child five years ago, I was spending way too much time online, either buying diapers through a next-day-delivery retailer or reading articles as I nursed my baby in the middle of the night. At some point, I started clicking on ads of my favorite apparel retailers and guitar outlets (my weaknesses!) and fantasizing about buying them.
While my online purchases didn’t put me into additional debt, they did take away funds I could have set aside for activities I truly enjoy like traveling.
This behavior zapped me of all my energy. And worse, when I finally gave in to a few items of clothing that were calling to me, I didn’t feel the surge of excitement I had expected.
Finding My Way Back From Online Shopping Hell
I worked hard to put in place a balanced spending plan that allows me to work toward Financial Freedom, save for my kids’ college and afford a reasonable amount of little luxuries, like holiday gifts for my family.
So after buying a $300 designer purse online last spring, only to feel guilty about it later, I decided I needed to completely revamp my relationship with money and the Internet—and shift my mindset.
Here are six actions I took that worked wonders to help me kick the habit of online shopping and browsing, so I can focus on better things: spending time with my family, playing my guitar and applying the principle of Paying Yourself First to my daily life.
What You Can Do To Avoid Online Shopping
- I stopped checking email a zillion times a day. One of biggest changes you can make to boost productivity is streamlining administrative processes, so you can get more done in less time. Of course, I didn’t want to acknowledge this, even after reading multiple business books that espoused this productivity tip. So when I noticed that Mindshift Money Co-Founder Makaylah Rogers, one of the most productive humans on this planet, was only checking her email once a day, I decided to give it a shot. I made a rule to only check my email three times a day, for 20 minutes at each interval, at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. At first this gave me quite a lot of anxiety—I felt my heart sink every time I picked up my phone to check my email, only to realize I couldn’t check anything. But after a couple of days, it became second nature.
- I deleted Facebook from my mobile device during vacation. When I took time off this past June, I decided not to document it with a million photos, probably for the first time ever. The only way to do this was to actually delete my Facebook app from my phone (I hid other social media apps so they weren’t readily accessible). This was more difficult than I’d anticipated, because I’m so used to checking messages every five minutes. But with every passing hour, I felt a little bit better and more relaxed. By Day 5, I’d forgotten about all of the items I’d yearned for pre-vacation.
- I make lists. Every time I think I need something in a new category, like groceries, clothes or holiday gifts, I make a list in advance. The process of sitting down and writing out what I would like to purchase helps me see, more clearly, what I need—and what I don’t.
- I re-read MS Money Literature. Every time I read a story about an entrepreneur who dug himself (or herself) out of a debt-ridden, overly luxurious lifestyle, I feel inspired not to waste money on things I don’t need. The most precious asset we have is time, and one day I don’t want to exchange my time for money.
- I unsubscribed to promotional emails. In addition to curbing my email-checking behavior, I realized that promotions for stuff I love are only distracting me from achieving my financial dreams. Unsubscribing from all my email lists took about an hour. Some were painful to let go of, but today I don’t miss them.
- I made a rule to never purchase “trigger” items online. For the past three months, I’ve gone to actual brick-and-mortar stores when I needed shoes, clothing for my children or non-essential supplies. I can’t say I’ve followed this rule perfectly (I had to buy shoes for my kids online in August), but having the rule in place hampered my ability to buy things on a whim. It’s also kept me from browsing sample sales online when I’m bored.
For anyone who has a similar tendency to buy unnecessary goods and services, these ideas can be game changers. Whichever you decide to try, remember you’re doing this for the greater good: Financial Freedom.
And if you still feel tempted to splurge, treat yourself to a nice bubble bath or lunch in the park. Some of the best things in life have nothing to do with money or technology.
You can catch the second article in the series here.
image credit: Bigstock/RossHelen
Marisa Torrieri is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer specializing in personal finance, business, healthcare and technology. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and resides in Fairfield, CT. Her work has appeared in dozens of media outlets, including LearnVest, Forbes, The Washington Post, Business Insider, TIME and Health.com.