With coronavirus restrictions closing down non-essential bricks and mortar stores and forcing us to stay within our homes, online shopping has surged.
Analysis from Commonwealth Bank (CBA) shows Aussies are using their time in isolation to spend up big on DIY and home furnishings.
Others are buying workout equipment, ping pong tables, art supplies, cookbooks and those all-essential jigsaw puzzles to keep themselves occupied during isolation.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have kept your job during the crisis, you may have found yourself turning to online shopping for something fun to do. But in these increasingly uncertain economic times and with a recession looming, it may not be wise to go on an online shopping bender.
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Be careful using buy now, pay later platforms
It may be best to steer clear of buy now, pay later platforms like Afterpay and Zip which allow you to purchase something now and worry about paying for it later, particularly if you’ve lost your job or could face that possibility.
Some buy now, pay later providers are even tightening their lending requirements because of the coronavirus crisis. Afterpay is tightening spending limits for higher-risk customers, tightening transaction approvals for new customers, and making customers pay their first instalment upfront rather than in a fortnight.
Payday loans should also be given a very wide berth if you’re in financial distress, as they may make your situation much worse.
Make a budget
Making a budget may not be the fun isolation activity you had in mind, but in these scary economic times, it’s more important than ever to rein in your spending.
Start by listing all your essential expenses such as your rent or mortgage repayments, bills and food. If you’ve recently lost your job or your income has taken a hit, it’s especially important to really knuckle down and eliminate as many non-essential expenses as you can.
You may be able to save money on things like your gym membership now that gyms are closed for the foreseeable future, or even cut back on your car or health insurance if money is especially tight right now.
If you need some inspiration for ways to cut back on your spending during the crisis, here’s how one Australian couple are saving during COVID-19. We’ve also got a guide with more general savings tips during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shop around for a better deal
If you really must flex your online shopping muscles, there are lots of tools and websites that can help you save a bit of extra money.
A good website to search for deals is Catch.com.au. I’ve managed to save hundreds of dollars on Dyson vacuum cleaners and Kitchenaid products by using Catch instead of going directly to the brand or another retailer. It’s still worth shopping around though just in case there’s an even better deal to be had somewhere else.
If you can’t find what you need on Catch.com.au, there’s a handy Chrome extension you can download called Honey. It does the hard work for you by trawling the web for discount codes and automatically applies them to your cart. I normally manage to get a $30 discount off my weekly Youfoodz order when I use Honey, which is a pretty decent saving!
It may also be worth buying refurbished appliances or other electronic goods, as these can usually be a few hundred dollars cheaper and are still in good nick. Some refurbished kitchen appliances have only been used for demonstration or photoshoot purposes, while others have been refurbished because of cosmetic imperfections. They’re often just as good as something brand new out of the box and is still covered by warranty.
Don’t drink and shop
With more of us staying at home (and some of us drinking more in isolation!), the risks of online shopping while drunk could make us spend more than we otherwise would.
According to a national YouGov Galaxy poll, a fifth of Australians have purchased more alcohol since the coronavirus lockdown began. Over 70% of the 1,035 survey respondents said they were drinking more than normal, while one-third are now drinking daily.
Anyone who has ever virtually window-shopped after a few glasses of wine knows that alcohol and online shopping don’t mix. Some people don’t even remember buying anything until the email confirmation lands in their inbox or a ‘mysterious’ package arrives on their doorstep.
Buying from major online stores headquartered overseas will do very little to support local businesses doing it tough right now, not to mention your package will probably get stuck on a plane overseas.
Instead, try buying Australian made goods online from local retailers where you can. Many local cafes and restaurants are also adapting to the crisis by offering online delivery services for the first time. Ordering directly through your local cafe or restaurant is a better way to support the struggling hospitality industry - and your favourite local restaurant - rather than ordering through food delivery apps which take a bigger chunk of commission.
Savings.com.au’s two cents
Controlling the urge to splurge online can already be difficult for some of us, let alone when there’s a worldwide pandemic going on and we’re all stuck inside our homes.
Shopping can be a common way for some people to cope with anxiety and if you already suffer from anxiety, the coronavirus pandemic has probably exacerbated that.
But it’s important to try and resist the temptation to go on an online shopping bender, particularly in these uncertain economic times when job security is shaky. The short-term pleasure of buying something new can have long-term consequences when you have to pay it back - especially if you suddenly lose your job.
Instead, recognise your spending triggers (like stress or anxiety) and come up with more productive things to do to handle those emotions, like going for a walk or calling a friend.
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