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Shopping sales: Tips for discretionary spending

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Browser extensions can help you save while you shop online, even during the biggest sales of the year.

Try decluttering

Taking inventory of what you already own can make for powerful defense against overspending online. When you know what you have, it's easier to resist the urge to buy.

To refresh your memory on your current holdings, start with your kitchen, clothing, and linens. Spend an afternoon sorting through everything you own in those spaces. By going through each of these three key areas, you can gain a clear picture of what's hiding in the backs of drawers and cabinets. You can also rediscover old favorites you'd forgotten about and make a donations pile for items that have lost their luster. Whatever the outcome, you'll have a cleaner, more organized home and a firm grasp on what you don't need to buy.

Do your research

If you're considering a more expensive purchase, like an appliance or electronics, take the time to research the purchase. You can compare different models using product reviews and trusted third-party review sites, like Consumer Reports. For electronics, sites such as PC Mag, Wired, and Cnet usually have up-to-date insights on the latest models and newest releases. These sites can give you a good idea of which specific make and model will best suit your needs, and give you an idea of what a reasonable price should be. Then, when sales come along, you already know what you want and will be able to recognize a good deal.

Try a browser extension for savings

If your goal is to save money when you shop, why not make it effortless? There are several browser extensions2 you can use in your preferred internet browser to help you save while shopping online. These easy-to-install tools can do everything from giving you coupon codes to alerting you when you can buy the same item for less at another retailer. Some also have built-in rewards programs that you can use for cash back or points that can be redeemed for gift cards.

Set a budget

There's nothing like a budget to hold you accountable for all your online shopping purchases. Every time you want to buy something, check your budget and see if you have the money to make the purchase happen. You can even try limiting your purchases to a single debit or credit card, making expenditures easier to track at month's end. Budgets are also helpful for major shopping seasons, like the holidays or semi-annual sales. This can help you avoid overspending during these times.

Of course, there's always room for a treat with your "fun money." Your budget can motivate you to be more selective in your discretionary spending while still giving you room to treat yourself.

Avoid opening new lines of credit

Retailers are great about giving you several ways to pay, including branded credit cards or in-house financing. But just because you can finance a purchase doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Opening new credit lines for an impulse buy can ring-up inquiries on your credit reports and lower your score. Plus, every pay-over-time installment contract you enter into is just one more line item added to your expenses each month.

Unsubscribe from sale emails

This may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to rein in your online spending, consider unsubscribing from promotional emails. Temptation arrives with every offer that lands in your inbox from your favorite retailers.

Unsubscribing from select email lists can help you curb spending and avoid falling into the "but it's on sale!" trap. The truth is that something you like will always be on sale and unsubscribing from sales emails can help you save your budget (and your inbox) until there's something you need.

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. "Quarterly Retail e-Commerce Sales 2nd Quarter 2020," U.S. Census Bureau News, August 18, 2020, accessed October 18, 2020. Back
  2. Amy Livingston, "11 Best Browser Extensions to Save Money While Shopping Online," Moneycrashers, accessed October 18, 2020. Back