I Can’t Stop Shopping Online Sales. Is It A Problem?

Welcome to Taking Stock, a space where we can take a deep breath and try to figure out what the COVID-19 economy really means for our finances. Every month, personal finance expert Paco de Leon will answer your most difficult, emotionally charged questions about money. This last two years have forced many of us to reprioritize our finances, and there’s no clear road map for getting through the pandemic yet — but Taking Stock is here to help us figure it out together.
Last time, we talked about whether it's actually worth it to take advantage of deals and discounts, especially during the holidays. This week, we heard from Refinery29 readers about their own experiences (both good and bad) handling the hectic holiday sale season.
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Carly, 26 — New York
Like most of us, Carly says she often falls victim to buying things just because they're on sale — especially when she's refilling her fave products. "If I see a beauty product I’m not out of yet but it’s on sale, I will buy at least one," she says. "If there is an incentive, like a free gift or [discount], then I will purchase things and spend more than usual."
Her tip? Wait it out. "I noticed a lot of my Black Friday purchases were on sale even more come Cyber Monday and after," she says. "I contacted the companies and they honored the discount, [it's] definitely something to be aware of and track accordingly."
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Maria, 28 — California
Maria is a small business owner, and has two specific qualifications for items she's going to buy on sale. "I used to think that sale meant buying more for cheaper prices, but as I’m trying to be more mindful of my shopping expenses, I ask myself the following questions: Do I really need this? and will you be using this item for the next three to six months?" she tells Refinery29.
Gift giving in particular is something that stresses Maria out when it comes to shopping sales. "I used to get overwhelmed knowing I had to buy gifts for every single family member, but this year we did Secret Santa with my family and it has lifted so much weight (emotionally and financially) from my holiday shopping list," she says. "I’d like to be more intentional with gift-giving, especially coming from a small business owner's perspective. I try to buy gifts from other business owner friends that I can support."
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"My goal for 2023 is to become more minimalistic with future gifts, my closet, and home decor," she says. "I realized the fewer things we have, the less we need to worry about things. I’m looking to embrace this consciousness by living a simpler life."
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Desola, 39 — Texas
Desola says she often ends up spending outside of her budget and this is even more true come the holidays. But, she has a specific strategy during this time of year. "I put gift-giving first. I make sure to allocate my budget towards the people I want to give gifts to, like my immediate family," she says.
She also aims to buy things only at a discount — no full-priced items here. "I love the holidays because nearly all merchants understand they’ve gotta pony up a discount before Desola will fork over the Amex," she says. "I’m typically looking for things above 20% off regular price."
"I don’t get overwhelmed by the multitude of sale emails and notices I get during the holidays because, as you might already sense, I love shopping," Desola says. "That said, guilt seeps on once the purchases have been made and I see my credit card balances. I always keep my credit cards below 30% utilization, so holiday spending nearly always bucks up to that limit. Rather than doing Dry January about alcohol, I do Dry January for unnecessary spending."
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Jenna, 30 — Oregon
"Like many of my friends, I recognize and analyze the value in getting a good deal and not paying more than something is worth," Jenna tells Refinery29. "I’m not big into shopping in general and do have a budget and do my best to stick to it. I admit I can’t resist a good deal, so sometimes I do stretch my spending in the right situation."
Jenna says she focuses on taking advantage of deals on gifts for friends and family on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday not just for the holidays, but for upcoming birthdays, too. "If there's something that I or my partner could use, I may indulge myself as well," she says.
"I do suffer the immediate guilt for having spent beyond my anticipated holiday budget, but if I can pay off any card balances within a couple of months I find the strategic purchases are worth it when I use my low-interest credit card," she says. "If the price isn’t a considerably better deal than I would find outside the holiday season, I don’t buy it."

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