Over the last six years, the amount of money Americans spend shopping online has almost doubled, thanks to sites like Gilt and Groupon. But did you know that these discount sites can actually be dangerous for your savings account? This may seem counterintuitive, but websites like HauteLook and LivingSocial may end up costing you more money in the long run by coaxing you into buying that little black dress just because it’s on major sale, not because you like the way it fits. Some things really are too good to be true…
1. Repeat after us: unsubscribe. Your inbox is flooded several times a day with emails from the countless discount shopping sites you’ve signed up for. These flashy, bright-colored messages featuring glamorous vacations or spa treatments would test even the strongest willpower. How can you possibly turn down a luxurious getaway at an infamous resort when it’s HALF OFF? Not only will this constant flow of emails flood your inbox, but it will flood your mind, tricking you into believing you need another pair of dazzling earrings to add to your collection—most of which hasn’t even been worn yet. Plus they’re downright distracting. You open up your email to confirm a dinner reservation with a friend, and the next thing you know you’ve wasted an hour perusing Groupon or Gilt. First step towards saving money: unsubscribe from these websites’ email lists (at least, some of them) to ensure you don’t fall prey to their persuasion tactics.
2. Try it before you buy it. We’re not discouraging you from being a savvy deal finder. In fact, we encourage you to save whenever and wherever you can. But there’s a big difference between snagging that dress you’ve coveted for months for half-off at Bloomingdales, and impulsively purchasing a dress off Gilt simply because it’s on sale. Many of these sites do not accept refunds; instead, you’re stuck with credit which just encourages you to spend there again. Instead of scouring the Internet for deals, shop around at bona fide stores to find something you really love. Then you can search discount-shopping sites to find your favorite items for cheap. Plus, you can actually try an item on to ensure you like how it fits before you take the plunge. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending a bunch of money on things you don’t actually like. And who wants to waste precious closet space on these soon-to-be-forgotten purchases?
3. Learn when to say no. So you want to go out to dinner on a Friday night? Or you really need a massage after moving boxes into your fourth floor walk-up? By all means, seize those Groupons and LivingSocial deals. How else are you going to try the to-die-for escargot at that pricey French bistro? But be careful—don’t get too attached to the luxuries afforded by these deals. Save them for special occasions, or else your deal-hunting habit could cost you your savings. Because you can order something with the click of a button, these discount sites can be dangerous. In fact, studies show that consumers spend 20 to 40 percent more when using a credit card over cash. Make sure you don’t store your credit card number on any website…not just to protect your identity, but also to protect yourself from overspending.
4. Think before you shop. Websites like Gilt Groupe that feature “flash sales,” or a limited time offer, can trick you into impulse shopping. When we see taglines like, “sale ends in 8 hours,” we frantically buy something without thinking all the way through the decision. A recent study showed that shoppers were 47 percent more likely to purchase an item when a similar one was sold out. Don’t succumb to peer-pressure—or in this case, purchasing pressure. You should always evaluate your options, shop around for the best possible price, and see the item with your own eyes before clicking “add to cart.” So what if there’s only one black leather tote bag left? We’re positive you can find plenty more that are similar, if not exactly the same. Also keep in mind that event deals typically have an expiration date. So before you go booking a bunch of spa treatments and dinner reservations in advance, make sure you can actually fit the appointment into your schedule!
5. Don’t go overboard. As a general rule for discount-shopping websites, seek out deals, don’t let them seek you. Don’t capitulate to a Fiji getaway just because it’s on major sale. Instead, turn to these sites when you’re in dire need of a haircut or new suit for work. Yes, discount online-shopping can be risky, but these sites can actually be helpful when you’re looking to treat yourself without going over budget. We all love getting a good deal every now and then, but remember: everything in moderation.