My clients are all completely different, but most have one thing in common: they buy too much stuff on Amazon. A big chunk of money is going to Mr Bezos each month and they feel as though they’re not in control. I’m not immune to this, either. I absolutely loathe shopping and embrace anything that relieves me of the tedium.
One of the reasons for Amazon’s popularity is that they make it so easy for us to order things. We need only imagine something, then it’s in our hands 24 hours later. The company has invested millions of dollars in making the transaction completely frictionless. We don’t feel any discomfort, at least until the credit card bill arrives.
In the meantime, there’s a dopamine hit from spending the money, followed by anticipation of the item’s arrival, then the excitement of tearing off the packaging and popping those little airbags.
How can we protect ourselves? Well, that depends on your character. Here are five tips for you to try:
1. Go cold turkey
Dr Johnson famously found abstinence easier than temperance, but it’s not for everyone. Even just a week of not buying anything on Amazon might break the spell and make you more aware of your habits. This is harder if you don’t live or work near any shops. Despite living in a city centre and being very self-disciplined, this one doesn’t work for me.
2. Buy yourself a gift certificate
Gift certificates aren’t just for our loved ones – we can buy them for ourselves, too. This way, you can set a specific amount to spend each month. Make sure, though, that you remove other stored payment methods, otherwise it’s easy to accidentally exceed your budget. This approach was moderately successful for me, but it made me feel very frustrated.
3. Remove your stored payment cards
One-click ordering is convenient, but it’s an absolute menace if you’re trying to cut your spending. Typically, we buy stuff when we’re tired, annoyed, or overly refreshed – the lack of any obstacles and reduced cognitive abilities make that big purchase seem like a good idea. Would you still want those novelty oven gloves if you had to go and rummage upstairs for your credit card? Probably not. Make it harder for yourself and see what happens. For many of us, laziness will triumph over acquisitiveness.
To make it even better, pop a sticky note on your credit card to remind yourself what you could be doing with that money instead, e.g. retiring before you’re 93.
This tip drives me mad, but it’s very effective.
4. Keep a list of what you want and only buy them at the end of the month
It’s quite likely you won’t still want all those things. The passage of time is great for a sense of perspective. That sugar thermometer doesn’t seem as vital once The Great British Bake Off has finished. You’re not denying yourself anything, it’s just that you can’t have it immediately.
This technique is the most effective for me, although I really struggle when it comes to anything technology related.
5. Make a rule that you can have those things, but you have to buy them from local shops
You can still have the stuff, but this time you’re forsaking the convenience of Amazon. Of course, this is also the virtuous option, as you’re supporting local businesses. As with Tip 1, its success relies on your having access to decent shops. Although I live in a city famed for its shops, I can seldom find anything I want – but then I usually want complicated microphone stands and ebooks about pension forecasting. I do have a rule about buying music from the local record store, though. It’s always a pleasure to visit Resident Records – the staff are knowledgeable and friendly, and they’ve got everything you could possibly want.
To make this one easier, you could cancel Amazon Prime. If you had to pay for delivery or wait a bit longer, Amazon would lose some of its allure.
We’re all different, so experiment and see what works for you. It might even be a combination of a few tips. Please do let me know how you get on in the comments below.