Personal Resource Center

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 — and 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 appliances, you may want to cross-reference that info from people who repair appliances; they often have the best insight into which models will last the longest and cost the least to maintain over their lifetime.

For electronics, sites such as PC Mag, Wired and Cnet usually have up-to-date insights on the latest models and newest releases.

Once you've settled on the exact product you want, you can comparison shop for it online and become familiar with the going prices. That way, when sales come along, you 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 extensions3 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. You may also want to create a separate holiday budget. This can help you avoid overspending.

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.

Important disclosure information

  1. Drew DeSilver, "Data on online shopping and in-store sales as Black Friday begins in U.S.," Pew Research Center. Published November 22, 2023, accessed May 14, 2024 Back
  2. Megan Henney, "Fed's favorite inflation gauge rises faster than expected in March," FoxBusiness, published April 26, 2024. Accessed May 14, 2024. Back
  3. Tom Blake, "My 15 Favorite Cash Back Extensions To Save Money," WebMonkey, updated March 25, 2024. Accessed May 14, 2024. Back