Mobile Shopping: Convenience or Addiction?

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It's 8:30 p.m. and you’re sitting on your couch drinking a glass of wine and reading political Facebook posts, trying to decompress after a long, stressful day at work. When that doesn't work, you open the Amazon app on your mobile phone. After all, you deserve a little treat. Sound familiar?

Over $250 million Americans are using their computers or mobile phones to shop, according to Forrester Research Inc. That's why Amazon's company valuation has grown from $20 billion to $400 billion over the last 10 years! Online shopping is convenient, gives us access to more and different merchandise than we can find locally, and makes it easier to track down bargains.

The science behind online shopping is that it remembers items you searched for or purchased in the past. The next time you sign-in to buy toothpaste, it can entice you with that digital camera you searched for last week. Unsolicited customized advertising may be convenient, but it makes it more challenging than ever to say "no" to unnecessary discretionary spending.

Everywhere you look, you’re bombarded by these unnecessary items. And it's not just with shopping apps. Have you ever been reading a business article and notice an advertisement for the exact item you searched for in a different app? Blame Google for that one!

The dirty little secret about online shopping - and mobile shopping in particular - is that it’s silently addictive. Just because it doesn't obviously disrupt the family dynamic or negatively impact your health, doesn’t mean it's a harmless addiction. When used as a crutch to de-stress or combat boredom, online or mobile shopping can wreak havoc with your finances and your relationships.

The Numbers Don't Lie

Financial issues and differences stress a relationship. How widespread and problematic is it? Here are some eye-opening statistics:

  • According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 75 percent of Americans experience financial stress. Nearly 25 percent of them experience "extreme financial stress."
  • SunTrust recently surveyed financially stressed people and found that 87 percent of them blamed their partners for their financial stress.
  • Given those facts, it’s no wonder finances are currently the primary reason for nearly half of all divorces in the U.S. (The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues).

So, if I told you that the primary reason for divorce in the future would be mobile shopping, would you believe me? It’s not as unlikely as it might seem.  A report from SimiliarWeb indicates that mobile shoppers surpassed desktop shoppers in 2015.  And, mobile shopping continues to rise daily.

Five Ways to Fix Your Fix

Like any addiction, once you’ve fallen into the trap of mobile shopping it's not easy to escape its clutches. It's better to curtail your mobile shopping before it becomes a habit.

Here are five ways to help control or kick the addiction - or to keep you from getting addicted in the first place:

  1. Move your Amazon or shopping app to the second page on your home screen. This way, it doesn't catch your eye every time you use your phone. Better yet, delete the app for a week, and see how it impacts your life. There's power in that old adage: out of sight, out of mind!
  2. Rather than immediately buying an item, put it in your "Wish List." This will help prevent impulse buying and separate your "wants" from your "needs."
  3. Don't assume Amazon is always the less expensive option. Physically walk into a store, find the item of interest, then use the barcode-scan feature on Amazon’s app to find a true price-to-price comparison.
  4. Connect a prepaid card to your Amazon account profile versus your credit card. This will force you to stay within a budget each month.
  5. Just breathe. Stress can cause impulse buying and deep breaths help eliminate stress. If that doesn't help, don't be afraid to talk about it. Counseling is an option. Remember, you’re not alone.

Summary

As our digital world continues to grow, we all need to be conscious of our mobile spending and track it routinely. If it becomes addictive, find out the need it fulfills for you. Is it your way of coping with stress? Are you using mobile shopping to compensate for job dissatisfaction? Is your phone your go-to solution for boredom?

The dopamine thrill your brain receives from buying a new pair of shoes, golf club, or gift for a loved one will always be just one click away. But remember: You are still in control!

Evan D. Bedel, CFP, is a Financial Planner and head of the Generation NeXt services for Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit Bedel Financial’s website at bedelfinancial.com or email Evan at evbedel@bedelfinancial.com.

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