Editorial Policy

Developing a healthy relationship with one-click purchasing

Allie Johnson

December 10, 2013

I have a personal finance confession to make: I love one-click purchasing.

I write about personal finance, so I know that anything that makes spending more mindless typically is a bad thing for consumers. And I know that I definitely spend more when I have the ability to make quick, easy impulse purchases online. In fact, I often check out via PayPal, just so I don’t have to enter my credit card information.

One major guilty pleasure that sometimes eats up my “fun money” rather quickly: one-click impulse purchases of my favorite television shows. (“I Survived” marathon, anyone?)

I find that one-click purchasing makes it easier for me to be less honest with myself about the total amount I’m spending. I’ve told myself, “Just one more episode,” many times and then checked my credit card statement to see that I’ve shelled out more than I would have if I had just bought the whole season at once. But that would have felt, initially, like a bigger purchase, and I might have hesitated about handing over that much cash.

Still, I don’t want to turn off one-click purchasing because it is so convenient. Some personal finance bloggers say the same thing. For example, blogger Daniel Packer, of Sweating the Big Stuff, says he likes using the one-click option to buy books for his Kindle because it allows you to save so much time by bypassing the shopping cart and check-out part of online shopping.

But he also says quick, easy online purchasing can be dangerous for consumers because it encourages impulse shopping. I agree. According to personal finance blog Planting Our Pennies, we should all just turn off one-click purchasing to make buying stuff a little harder for ourselves.

I don’t plan to turn off one-click purchasing, but I do want to be smarter about it. The first step I took was to look at my credit card statement and identify my problem area: $1.99 TV show episodes that add up to big bucks quickly.

Next, I plan to be less impulsive about buying shows. I’ll consider taking a break from a show and waiting for the latest season to get added to Netflix. (I’ve noticed that Netflix sometimes lags a season or two behind on some shows, while Amazon is more likely to have the most recent seasons available at a price.)

If I really want to watch the show now, I’ll admit to myself that I’m going to buy the whole season, and I’ll purchase it upfront at a slight discount rather than buying all the episodes individually. One bonus: That allows me to see exactly how much I’m spending, rather than having to count and add up many small purchases. Overall, it will keep my credit card statement less cluttered.

I also love this tip from Lifehacker: Use gift cards for small purchases made by computer or mobile device. That will simplify your finances, as, instead of a mess of apps, songs and TV show episodes littering your bank statement, you’ll have the single gift card purchase. Gift cards can also help you stick to a budget by providing you with a finite set of funds.

If you really have issues with impulse purchases, Lifehacker also recommends using software like StayFocusd (a Google Chrome app that prevents you from visiting certain time-wasting websites) to block your problem sites during the times you’re most likely to overspend.

I don’t plan to go that far yet, but I think I’ll buy some gift cards to keep handy for the next time I get hooked on a new show.