Overspending Plagues Online Shoppers

More than 40% have blown their budget in the last six months
An online shopper

If you're serious about trimming down your budget, you might want to spend less time looking for deals online. New research suggests online shoppers are often tempted to spend impulsively, sometimes racking up hefty credit card debt in the process.

Couponing platform CouponFollow surveyed more than 1,700 consumers to determine patterns around online shopping that might lead to excess spending and debt. What they found is that a majority of shoppers regularly visit online storefronts, with almost 55% spending between $25 and $100 per month online, and 25% spending $100 or more each month.

Many consumers are also making multiple online orders per month. Approximately 24% shop online two to three times per month, and just over 14% shop online once a week, while close to 7% shop online three to five times per week, and almost 3% shop online more than five times per week.

Not only are shoppers making a habit out of buying things online, but it’s not uncommon for consumers to spend more money than they planned. In fact, 42% of respondents said they had blown their budgets while shopping online at some point in the last six months.

In terms of online purchases, respondents most commonly defined “splurging” as spending between $100 and $250. Clothes were the item that online shoppers said they were most likely to splurge on, as close to 28% admitted to making purchases to bolster their wardrobe. That was followed by electronics, cited by nearly 17% of respondents as the likely focus of their internet splurging.

It’s one thing to go over budget, but in many cases, consumers are spending money they don’t have. Approximately 29% of respondents said they had charged an online purchase to a credit card even though they knew they didn’t have the cash to pay the bill right away.

Similarly, nearly 28% said they had amassed more than $1,000 in credit card debt resulting from online shopping. But most online shoppers were more cautious with their spending, with the largest percentage of respondents (38%) saying they’d racked up a more modest $100 to $300 in debt due to online shopping. Falling in between, almost 18% said they had incurred $300 to $600 in credit card debt from online purchases, and 16% said they had amassed $600 to $1000 in cybershopping debt.

Though many consumers are spending more than they intended, one finding suggests that some are at least taking measures to ensure that they don’t pay full price. Most respondents — 78% — said they typically search for sales or coupons when shopping online.

Whether you’re shopping online or offline, a budget is a valuable tool for making sure you don’t overspend. If you have a hard time saying “no” to online deals, limit the number of times you visit online storefronts — or set up a separate email account to collect tempting online sales offers, so that you don’t see them as you check your regular mail.

Also, take advantage of credit cards that offer rewards for online shopping — just make sure you pay the balance off each month so you aren’t charged interest.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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