Resist Buying When You Should Be Selling

7 tips to help you control the impulse to spend

by Dennis L. Prince
- Dec 15, 2009

During the gift-giving season, it's easy to get caught up in excited buying. Finding the perfect gift for others is so pleasing that oftentimes folks decide to do a bit of shopping for themselves while they're at it. At this time of year, however, profitable sellers need to ensure they'll keep a proper focus on sustaining their sales-based income, rather than spending away their year-end gains.

Impulse buying can befall anyone. Long-time sellers who've maintained a steady and disciplined online presence can nevertheless give into the temptation to look away from their profit statement, wooed by the allure of all those tens of millions of online goodies. While there's nothing wrong with doing a bit of buying for yourself, here are a few tips to help you maintain control during the spending season.

Is it all in your head?

We've all heard of compulsive shoppers and compulsive gamblers. Online bidding and buying has also emerged as an addictive activity, combining the thrill of buying an item and the excitement of doing so in a sort of high-stakes gaming (auction bidding) environment.

Some people actually experience a euphoric sensation when they buy, and definitely when they strive to "win." Psychologists have documented the chemical reactions that take place inside the human brain that provide the euphoria: The chemical dopamine is released during this activity, resulting in a brief euphoric sensation. That feeling can actually become addictive, and is often cited as the reason for some cases of compulsive shopping. Essentially, it's an actual and detectable high. This particularly affects first-time online shoppers and bidders, but can also sneak up on seasoned sellers.

Regulate your buying by establishing a strict spending budget, and sticking to it

Does this mean you have a problem?

It's hard to say, and you certainly shouldn't feel you're being subjected to some amateur psychology here. However, if ever you're wondering whether you're straying a bit out of control in your shopping, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the items you've bought hold little interest to you once they've arrived at your home?
  • Do you love the thrill of winning auctions, yet hate to pay for the items you've won? Has your personal debt increased significantly within a short period of time (especially credit card balances)?
  • Do you keep your online spending a secret from friends and family?
  • Do you ever feel guilty about the amount of money you've spent online?
  • Most important, does it appear your buying activity is surpassing your selling profits?

Though a "yes" answer to any one of these questions isn't necessarily a sign you've developed an online addiction, it could signal the early signs that you're caught up in impulsive bidding and buying—that could mean it's time to take preventive action, quick!

Go ahead—get defensive

Since it's the wellbeing of your business that's at stake here, it's OK to get defensive—that is, take steps to prevent the unwitting siphoning of your profits. Pause a moment and analyze your current shopping habits and, if you feel you're losing self-control, consider these defensive steps:

  • Take control of your time. Consider all the other goals you need (and want) to address in a day, especially those that contribute to your bottom line profits; are you able to get to them all, or are you losing time in surfing and shopping? Many sellers avoid getting caught up in distracting shopping by setting a schedule that includes breaks from business activity, actually stepping away from the computer entirely—not merely surfing elsewhere—to refresh themselves and clearly consider the next "to do" on their business list.
  • When the day is done, log off. It's too easy to plop into the chair and impulsively surf for stuff when the computer is always on and available. In your selling activities, set a start and stop time for your work each day and stick to it. Then, when "quitting time" comes around, log off the computer and tend to other matters, business or pleasure. This way, you'll be out of reach of the computer and unable to fall into a buying binge.
  • Set a dollar limit. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing some shopping (you've worked hard and you deserve a bit of reward). Regulate your buying, though, by establishing a strict spending budget, and sticking to it. You don't have to entirely sign off from online shopping, though you'd benefit from pre-establishing a spending limit that doesn't overtake your profit income.
  • If you ever doubt your control over your online shopping, let someone know

  • Make a shopping list. Determine what it is you really want or need and search specifically for those items.
  • Don't fall for fads. It's all the rage today, but no one will care tomorrow. Try to avoid hype and trends that often lead to impulsive bidding. Ask yourself if you'll still want it a month from now. And, rather than get caught up on the buying side of such trends, take that impulse and turn it into an effort to secure such goods to offer to other buyers who are seeking the latest craze.
  • Do something else for a change. The Internet is still a relatively new and exciting method for shopping, but do you remember what you used to do before you had a computer? Take time to rediscover an old hobby (or an old friend) and balance your online and offline time.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

And, in case you're worried that you've gotten just a bit too caught up in all the buying or bidding, and are losing sight of your selling goals, don't keep it a secret—tell someone. Whether it's your spouse, partner, family members, or friends, if you ever doubt your control over your online shopping, let someone know. You may just need to hear another point of view on your activity, you may need to have someone else point out alternative activities to pursue, or you may need someone to help you get a more professional assessment.

Don't panic, but don't take impulsive buying lightly. Take control instead.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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