By Paul Morrone, CFP®, CPA/PFS, MSA
In the wake of Black Friday and Cyber Monday it’s hard not to talk about the proliferation of online shopping. I feel like it’s a constant battle between me and the pile of cardboard boxes that accumulates in my basement. Just when I find time to break them all down, there’s another one waiting on my front steps. I know that I’m no exception because when I’m driving home I can see boxes stacked outside my neighbors’ doors just like mine. My friends and I share the same disdain for the continuously growing pile of cardboard and often joke that the FedEx truck is at our houses daily. At first, I felt like it was due to frivolous spending, but after looking at my order history, very little can be explained by impulse purchases.
Having a child makes it even easier to fall victim to the convenience of online shopping. More importantly, it helps to avoids the hassle of packing the car, stroller, car seat, diaper bag, toys, etc, to make even the quickest trip to the store. All of that just to go to Walmart for some paper towels seems like an astronomical amount of effort for one or two items. With the click of a button and two-day shipping you may miss the instant gratification of walking out of the store with your purchases in your shopping cart. However, I’m more than willing to accept that tradeoff for the sheer convenience of the transaction (and it’s pretty cool to be able to most of your shopping in your PJs).
I’ve vowed to become a bit savvier when it comes to online shopping and no longer just click buy on Amazon prime (which, shockingly, does not always have the best prices!). In addition to competitive pricing among different retailers, there are now tools that give you incentives no matter where you buy your goods. A client had previously told me about eBates (now called Rakuten), which I always thought was a hoax. She swore by it and turned me into a believer as well. In addition to simply accumulating cash back (yes actual dollars that are deposited to your bank account quarterly), it also automatically searches for and applies any applicable promo codes that could give you an additional discount on the items you’re shopping for. It sounds too good to be true, but at this point I really haven’t found a downside to using it. I’ve accumulated well over $100 this year alone in cash back on stuff I was going to buy anyway, not to mention the additional savings that Rakuten found for me that I wouldn’t have seen on my own.
I suppose they are making money by accessing my purchase data and seeing my buying history, fortunately, I have nothing to be ashamed of. They will see plenty of mundane household items popping up, with the occasional car part or baby toy thrown in. Nothing fun to see here!