The rise of online shopping
Amazon.com went live in 1995. The site quickly became the largest online retailer in the world. Bookstores have been decimated by shopping online and ebooks. The war has largely been fought, and the brick and mortar stores are disappearing. Aside from making it difficult to find a book at your local retailer, shopping online can be a tremendous convenience.
The gateway to online shopping starts with your 16-digit credit card (debit, gift card, etc.). After every order, you’ll be required to enter your shipping and billing addresses, contact information, and your payment method. Credit cards are wonderful tools for these online shops, and they’re safer due to complete fraud protection.
There’s just one problem: convenience can wreak havoc on a healthy budget.
Credit card numbers are easy to memorize
They do it. This is aided by websites that save your billing information for later purchases. For instance, Amazon.com — by default — tries to save your credit card details. Then, when you go shopping again, you’ll just be able to select the card. In seconds, you can have your new products. It’s so easy on Amazon.com that they even have a one-click buy button.
You do it. I’ve been shopping online for years, and noticed only quite recently that I memorized a couple of my 16-digit credit card numbers. How? Excessive purchases over the years, but also a training process. Unless you’ve lost your card, had it stolen, and/or suspect fraud, your number generally doesn’t change. If you’ve had a credit card for years, you have more exposure to the same digits. Memorization is made easy and purposeful.
Delay the purchase, reduce the urge
Research shows (and trust me, Amazon is listening to it) that aiding consumers in making impulse buys equals more money. If I can reduce the time and effort to make you spend, you’ll come back and spend more over time and in single sittings. Pretty awesome if you’re a Fortune 500 company with a near-$400 stock price! If you’re an average Joe or frugal Jane, this can mean trouble. Here’s a two-step solution to this problem:
“Lose” your credit card. The first step is to call the credit card company and tell them you can’t find your credit card — you’re worried you lost it. Once you do this, they will issue you a credit card with new numbers. This will restart the number learning process and delay new purchases online, as you’ll be able to think more critically. After all, critical thinking takes time — you owe it to yourself. Note: you won’t be able to use the card anymore — you’ll need a backup card for a week.
Delete your details. If you’re an Amazon.com shopper, delete your billing details off the website. You’ll have to add them again at a future purchase, but having the inconvenience may actually mean less money spent. Give yourself time to think, “Do I really need this?”
Memorizing a credit card number — as the retailer or consumer — is trouble for a delicate budget. This simple psychological trick of slowing your purchase down can significantly reduce your spending and keep you on track for a frugal future.