Can you remember a time your best intentions went awry? That’s how you could describe Megan Montague’s previous online shopping behavior.

Montague, a newlywed, identifies herself as the spender in her relationship, but says that she shops online because she’s “always trying to do a lot with a little bit.” Amazon is one of her favorite retailers since it offers lower prices than other merchants and discounts on items when you sign up for its “Subscribe & Save” program.

“It’s so cheap! Especially on things for the house like toilet paper and cleaning supplies or dog treats for our dogs Izzo and Wyatt, you want to make sure you’re getting a good deal. With just a couple clicks of a mouse, you can price compare with brick-and-mortar stores and know you’re getting a really good deal, so you have to have it,” she says.

In addition to frequently hitting up Amazon, Montague also makes online purchases from retailers she sees on Instagram and the beauty brand Sephora.

“Sephora gets me every time, because I have its app on my phone,” says Montague. “It will ding at me with a coupon or a product recommendation.”

Indulge Your Online Shopping Fantasies — Only Do It Smarter

Those discount offers made Montague feel like she was being mindful with her money. But in reality, she was just shopping more and more.

Hoping to get her online shopping habit in check, Montague signed up for the “Step Away From the Internet” portion of the Ally Bank 4-Week Unconscious Spending Financial Fitness Challenge.

“I was buying something online multiple times a week,” she admits. “In recent months, if there wasn’t a package on the front porch, it was like, ‘Wait, what’s going on? Did the mail not come today?’”

Montague estimates she was spending $200 to $300 unnecessarily each month.

The self-described “Queen of Subscribe & Save” says that her husband repeatedly asked why she ordered products they already had. For example, Montague recently bought a set of measuring spoons online. Upon delivery, her husband opened a drawer and pulled out the exact same set. She had already purchased them a couple of months prior.

“It’s stressful when your husband points it out and says, ‘Why did you order this item when you literally ordered it two months ago?’” she reveals.

“Alright, oops, this is a problem,” Montague recalls saying to her husband.

See How to Talk Finances With Your Fiancé (Or Partner) Without Freaking Out.

Rather than signing off the internet completely, Montague, a development director for an Indianapolis nonprofit, committed to modifying her behavior for one month as part of the Ally Bank challenge.

“Instead of just saying, ‘Oh, that looks like a cute sweater, buy,’ I would put it on a wish list, bookmark it in a folder, or put it in the shopping cart and leave the website,” Montague explains.

This gave her the instant gratification feeling that she normally got while shopping online — but without the expense. (Or the regret.)

Later, Montague thought about the item she didn’t buy and asked herself if she “really, really, really needed it.” Since it was still in a shopping cart or on a wish list, she could hop online and buy it if she really wanted.

In a month’s time, she only went back once or twice and made a purchase.

Turn Shopaholic Tendencies into Savvy Online Shopping

Oftentimes, online merchants attempted to thwart Montague’s good behavior. When she walked away from a purchase, she’d receive automated emails saying she forgot something in her shopping cart in an attempt to woo her back.

Montague says she was “pretty good” at deleting the messages, but to eliminate the temptation, she downloaded the browser extension Unroll.me. The free digital tool automatically files emails from retailers in a separate folder so you can keep them out of sight and out of mind. Then once a day, it sends an email combining all your merchant messages into a single mailing.

“I found it particularly helpful to step away from those emails saying, ‘You left this in your cart, so here’s X percentage off,’” says Montague. “I kept reminding myself it’s not really a good deal if you are spending money you shouldn’t be.”

Another digital tactic used by Montague to curtail her spending? Instead of deleting merchant apps downloaded on her phone (which she often uses to price check various products), she became diligent about turning off push notifications.

“If I’m not seeking it out, it’s not in my face, and I’m not thinking about it,” she explains.

She also compared the products she already had with her Amazon subscriptions and delayed deliveries she didn’t need, saving about $50 in one month.

For more online shopping tips and tricks, check out how Social Media Affects Your Finances and 10 Tips for Smarter and Safer Online Shopping During the Holidays and Beyond.

Online Shopping Without the Guilt

Montague isn’t about to give up her shopping online — but discovered she doesn’t need to.

“It’s nice to know that I could really fall in love with something super cute online and wait 24 hours. It’s usually still there if I really, really want it. And if it’s not, who cares? That’s okay,” Montague says about her new online shopping behavior.

“It’s a relief and empowering to be able to say, ‘Ah, I guess I don’t need it,’ and take a step back without imploding. I learned that I can still enjoy things that I enjoy and have nice things and make fun purchases without totally going overboard and putting some thought and intention behind what I’m doing when I’m spending money on it.”

Montague continues, “Someone can tell you something a million times, but when you come to that realization yourself, it’s different.”

The money she’s saving is an added boon, too.

“It’s like, whoa!”

Discussion questions:

  • How do you keep from spending too much money when shopping online?
  • What items do you most frequently buy online?
  • What types of online discounts and deals do you find most enticing?

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