Online shopping getting the better of you?

We’re shopping online more than ever before, and while no-one will dispute the convenience of shopping from home, it’s easy to overspend. In fact, a review by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has found that 1 in 6 consumers struggle with credit card debt and that households are spending more than they’re earning. And much of this can be attributed to our online spending.

Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve been house-bound recently, and the closure of shops and malls has helped drive a monumental shift towards online shopping. 

The convenience of shopping from your sofa is a big attraction, with impulsive buying made even easier by swift and seamless payment methods. Unfortunately, online shopping is getting the better of many of us …

The psychological drivers for online shopping

There’s been a lot of research into the psychology behind online shopping – findings show that:

  • online shopping has become a form of entertainment (particularly during COVID-19 lockdown), with many people reporting that online shopping alleviates boredom
  • online shopping has also been described as a way of relieving stress
  • the ‘pain of paying’ is avoided when shopping online, compared to shopping in-store. In other words, handing out physical cash ‘hurts’ more than ‘tap-and-go’ and ‘buy it now’ buttons
  • as humans, we’re not naturally hardwired to delay gratification, and instant gratification is an impulse which goes hand-in-hand with online shopping

Did you know?

Choosi’s Alternative Payments Report has found that our spending behaviours have changed markedly as a result of online shopping and not having to physically hand over cash.

According to the report, over 2/3 of Australians use alternative payment technology for over 60% of all routine purchases, making our spending much harder to keep track of. 

More worrying is that 71.3% of respondents think that alternative payment methods make it easier to spend money that they would not otherwise spend, and that almost 35% of respondents using these alternative payment methods believe that they overspend.

Social media and online shopping

It’s reported that over 18 million Australians are active on social media and unfortunately, we can’t even escape the temptations of shopping while on social media! 

According to ING Bank, social media spending has soared to over $16 billion a year, and much of this is driven by wanting to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, the ‘fear of missing out’ and social media influencers. As a result, the average person spends $860 through their social media account. Furthermore, ING also found that nearly 25% of those who shop via social media do not have separate savings and spending accounts, and do not keep track of their online spending. This poses a real threat to savings and everyday budgeting.

Tips to manage your online spending

  • Keep a separate savings and everyday spending account, and don’t touch the money in your savings for online shopping!
  • Delete your credit card details from online stores – make it more of a ‘chore’ to pay for things online. Having to complete online form fields can act as a deterrent to shopping online
  • Wait a few days before committing to an item – you’d be surprised at how much the urge to purchase something goes away after a day or so
  • Stick to a budget and always think about your long-term financial goals
  • As much as possible, avoid buy now, pay later services
  • Hide ads in your social media feed to remove the temptation to spend on things you don’t need.
  • Try to always pay in cash to control spending – we’re less likely to overspend when it comes out of our wallet (as opposed to electronically paying for items). We’re also more like to keep track of cash payments


The information on this page has been issued by Maritime Financial Services Pty Limited (MFS). It contains general information that doesn’t take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It’s important to consider how appropriate this general information is in relation to your situation before making an investment decision. We recommend that you seek financial advice before making any decisions regarding your super or investments. The information on this page is current at the time of publishing.