We live in the age of instant gratification. I know this comes as no surprise to most people, but it bears repeating. Even though my family tries to live differently than the majority, even though we try to use our money in smart and responsible ways, we are not immune to the draw of “have-it-now.”
My family lives in a rural-suburban area of the Pacific Northwest. Our town doesn’t even allow chain restaurants and big box stores (it’s a tourist destination), so our shopping options are a little slim. In order to go to say, Target, we have to travel almost 2 hours. I know, this seems like crazy talk to city dwellers, and trust me, there are times we really wish we could go 3 blocks for a 99 cent taco. But, overall, we love our small town and wouldn’t trade its inconveniences for the world.
Or is it so inconvenient? With the popularity and ease of online shopping, we can have almost anything delivered to our door within days. I hear in the city that it can even be hours. Wow.
So, I can sit on my couch, shop for the “right” item, enter my payment info, and wham! It’s on its way! So wonderful! So revolutionary! So twenty-first century!
Amazon is our drug of choice. We live near Seattle, the epicenter of all things Amazon, so of course it wins our devotion. With Amazon Prime, One-Click shopping, and a myriad of items to choose from, Amazon has made small town living easier.
As remote working has found newfound popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the mass exodus from city living is bound to follow, online shopping will only gain momentum. In fact, 56% of the workforce could potentially work from home in the future.
Now, I think remote work is an awesome option for any person. In fact, that is what I get to do, while also spending time with my kids and homeschooling them. Remote workers gain more flexibility, save time, and spend less money working from home.
Unless you fall into the One-Click trap of couch shopping, that is.
As part of our budget planning, my husband and I recently spent a large amount of time reviewing our Amazon purchases from the last couple years. It was like a trip down memory lane.
“Remember when we had that sushi dinner party? Here are the roller mats we bought!”
“Aww, there’s our daughter’s junior bridesmaid skirt for your brother’s wedding! Wasn’t that a fun night!”
“There’s the kitten’s new bed. He was so cute before he became a holy terror!”
Yes, the memories are sweet. But the overall price tag of our purchases was pretty appalling. The average American spends $1400 a year on Amazon Prime purchases. Let’s just say our total was considerably higher than average.
To be fair, we do use Amazon for some necessities, like motor oil and batteries. It is great to be able to have these items shipped to our door, since in-store shopping truly is difficult for us. The problem lies in the ease with which we dream up ideas, browse the options, giddily click “Buy Now,” and wait impatiently for our free 2-Day Shipment.
This is how we ended up with:
- 3 bathing suits I’ll never wear because I hate to swim
- the entire DVD collection of House, even though we can watch it for free
- diet supplements we’ve never even opened
- imitation Fitbits that broke within 2 months
- an herbal infuser I’ve used once
You get the point. So much of what we purchased was wasteful and shortsighted.
It was shocking and actually embarrassing. We didn’t think we were so careless, but apparently it was just too easy to say “yes” to purchases when we were so comfortable and so accommodated.
We decided we needed to find a way to spend less on Amazon. We couldn’t break up completely; sometimes we really need a necessity quickly, and Amazon is the best price and option for us. And for many Americans, online shopping is replacing in-store retail shopping for items like clothes, food, and electronics, even more so now with COVID-19.
How could we navigate online shopping without breaking the bank, sinking our budget, and ultimately ending up with a bunch of crap we don’t need?
We dropped the One-Click option.
This seems so ridiculously simple, but now we never purchase an item (unless it truly is a necessity, like replacing all of our fancy LED bathroom light bulbs that died at the same time) without allowing it to sit in the cart for at least a week. Back in the days of physical shopping, we at least had the time we wandered the store to contemplate our need for the items in our cart. Sometimes, we even had several days as we compared different stores’ prices before forking over the cash.
So, now our virtual cart acts like the same “holding tank” for stupidity. Often, we find that whim item we thought we needed can just be deleted altogether. What were we thinking? Other times, one of us might decide the item could wait for another day, maybe after we have planned for it in the budget. And sometimes after a week, the purchase happily enters the land of shipping labels and cardboard boxes.
And that’s okay. We don’t toil for money to never enjoy the fruits of our labor. But our financial goals should trump our desire to have “stuff.” Today, we can buy a frivolous item on Amazon, but if we put that money to good use in investments or savings, tomorrow we may be able to not only have financial freedom but a more fulfilling, more meaningful, more lasting lifestyle that hopefully will include a yacht. Just sayin.’
Maybe instant gratification isn’t so awesome after all.
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.
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