Sense & Centsibility Blog

Online Shopping: How Websites Get Us to Overspend

You can buy almost anything while shopping online these days...from clothes to furniture to food and even vehicles. While it is convenient and sometimes there are cost saving benefits, there are also money traps that you can get caught in which make you overspend. Beware of these overspending lures:


When there are annual sales or flash sales - where everything is 50% off (or maybe even more), buy one/get one free, buy one/get one half off, etc. - deals like this can be hard to pass up.

Free Shipping Offers

It's free shipping...IF you spend $75 or more (as an example). If you're looking to purchase something that's only $30, you will need to more than double what you're  spending just to get the free shipping.

Suggested Items

Some online retailers will provide you a visual list of items you might like because of what you're currently viewing, prompting you to buy more or something else. You may not have even known you wanted the item until it was suggested.

Listing What Others Have Bought

While some sites give you suggestions, other websites will provide a list of items others have purchased. So if you bought a mixing bowl, they would show that others who bought that mixing bowl also got a spatula and cookie sheet. This might make you think: "Yeah, I need that, too."

Shopping Cart Reminders

I'd be willing to bet most of us have "window shopped" online at one point, meaning you've put a couple items in a cart not really intending to buy first. Then you get a notification that you still have those items in your cart and decide now's the time to buy.

New Item Emails

If you've signed up for notification emails, you may receive notices of new inventory or products. And while shiny new things are enticing, paying full price for something that you don't really need can make an unnecessary dent in your budget.

Online retailers are smart; they pay people to figure out how to get people to buy stuff and spend more money.

So the trick is to be as savvy as possible. Don't buy it if you can't afford it; unsubscribe if reminder emails cause you to overspend; and don't buy something just because it's on sale or it looks appealing.

Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.