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How to Avoid Going Over Your Online Shopping Budget

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February 23, 2014 · 732 Views

The convenience online shopping provides is unrivaled, but it can be pretty easy to go over your budget when you’re not actually shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. Using a credit card can make life much easier, but when you see all that money you’ve been spending add up, the credit card bill can be a real shocker at the end of the month. Using plastic instead of actual cash can be a distraction from sticking to any budget, so here are a few tips to help you keep on track:

Actually write out a budget

We know, writing out a budget can be one of the most boring and tedious tasks you can do – why waste time budgeting when you can be shopping, right? Well, that budget is what’s going to keep you from overspending. If you know that you will only have $100 extra to spend this month after paying off all those pesky bills (cable, electric, wifi – ugh!), then you probably shouldn’t be even thinking about looking at that pretty new designer handbag.

Make lists

For some people, making a list is easy and useful. In this case, you may want to make two lists: things you need and things you want. These lists can directly coincide with your budget.  Obviously you’ll want to purchase those things that you really need (toilet paper, contact lens solution) first before looking at your “Wants” list.

Use a debit card

A lot of people get in trouble with online shopping in part because they use a credit card. They know that they can buy as much as they want with a credit card and then simply pay it off at a later date. That’s definitely not the way to go. Here’s your new mantra: if you don’t have the money to pay it off right away, don’t buy it. Using a debit card can be one way to help you with this mantra as most debit cards only let you use the money that you actually have in your account.

Check your balance before shopping online

Whether you use a credit card or a debit card, you should always check your bank account before you search for those running sneakers you’ve been dying to buy. If you know you owe a bunch on your credit card, or if your account is running low in funds, that should be your cue to just log off the computer and read a book or do some exercise (in your old pair of running shoes) instead!

Record all transactions

This goes along with your budgeting. It doesn’t matter what you buy or how little you spend – the best way to keep track of what you have and how much you’ll have left over is by recording everything. It can be on a spreadsheet on the computer or in those little record books that come along with a box of checks.

Only buy items on sale

Yes, Amazon has great prices, but even Amazon items go on sale – and those sale prices will fluctuate, sometimes drastically. So if there’s something you’ve had your eye on but you don’t need it right away, set it aside and check the price every week or so and wait for the best deal.

Save, save, save

Why not start a savings account or two so that you know you’ll have some rainy-day money and cash for major or emergency purchases set aside for the future? If you know you’ve saved up enough money for that special game your son has been begging you for, you’ll be able to breathe easier knowing that you’ve set aside some cash just for him and that you won’t have to overspend to do it.

Online shopping has many benefits – you can shop in your underpants, lying on the sofa and no one would ever know the difference. But it has its dangers, too, and buying items that you don’t actually have to look at those green dollar bills to pay can make it all too easy to overspend. Always think twice about what you’re purchasing and budget for everything.

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Jennifer Eberhart is a freelance writer currently living in New York City. She is a regular contributor to the Arts column on Examiner.com. Jennifer enjoys traveling, reading, art, religion and video. She has a master's in art history and is attempting to make it to all the museums in New York City - a much harder task than it sounds!

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