4 tips for shopping online without breaking your budget

By UK CreditCards.com

Online shoppers beware: It is easier than ever to get financially sidetracked by flashy online offers and simple click-to-buy services. In fact, if you are armed with a credit or debit card and a computer, you could do some serious damage to your bank account in just a few minutes.


The number of people turning to the internet to do their shopping is on the rise, according to figures supplied by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG). 19% more shoppers went online to buy goods or services in the first six months of 2011 than in 2010, according to TMRG, and online shoppers spent a whopping £31.5bn during that time.

Understandably, the uptick in online shoppers has likely led to an increase in the number of people accidentally overspending too. If you too are struggling to stay within your budget, here are a few online shopping tips to help you avoid overspending the next time you shop online.

1. Avoid one-click shopping.
A major problem with one-click shopping is that once you have entered a few card details online, it is easy to forget that each time you click, it is charging your account. 

When you enter a physical store, in contrast, the act of taking the card out of your purse and using the chip and PIN machine forces you to pause and think about how much you're spending.

Avoid the dangerous simplicity of one-click shopping by making sure that the website does not save your card details. That way, you have to enter your card information every time you buy and spend more time thinking about your purchase.

It also might be worthwhile to avoid using PayPal too often as this offers a quick and easy way to make your online transaction.

Alternatively, you could keep track of your spending in an Excel spreadsheet, or just jot it down on a piece of paper. Your spending totals might surprise you.

2. Beware of target marketing.
Have you ever noticed when you're cruising online that you often see advertisements that directly relate to things you are interested in? Just a coincidence? Think again.

Online marketers know what ads are more likely to make you click because they follow your online activity. For example, Facebook advertising places adverts on your pages in relation to the things you have said you "like." The same applies to Google. If you have pages in your search history that relate to a specific item, such as an Apple iPad, you will start seeing relevant advertisements. 

3. Budget for your online shopping.
It is important that you learn how to budget for your online spending and ensure that if you haven't budgeted for it, you don't buy it.

Many people remember to budget for their monthly outgoings, such as gas, electricity, food and petrol. However, if you plan to shop online each month, it is important that you estimate how much you are likely to spend and budget for this too. Even if you don't plan to shop online regularly, set a monthly spending maximum for yourself, and make sure you stick to it.  

4. Use credit cards wisely.
Using a credit card for your online shopping is a good idea since it gives you more protection than using a debit card. However, you need to use it wisely.

Consider designating a credit card solely for internet shopping and set yourself a monthly spending limit on the card. By using just one card for your online shopping, you will be able to see how much you have spent much easier and avoid racking up a credit card balance that you can't repay in full. However, make sure that the spending limit that you set for the card is small enough that you can pay it off at the end of each month and avoid any interest charges. 

See related: Average Brit saves £1,196 a year with vouchers; Consumers using smartphones to shop

Published: 31 August 2011