More than a third (37%) of UK adults have regretted buying online on impulse, and that number jumps to more than half (55%) for people who’ve experienced mental health problems, something the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute says isn’t a coincidence.
Part of the problem is we can now shop at any time of the day. Barclays found one in three of us shop at night – fuelling the so-called ‘Vampire Economy’.
With traditional barriers to spending such as 9-5 opening hours removed, it’s much easier for people to spend money they don’t have, particularly if they use shopping as a boost or reward.
Guest blog: Stopping impluse shopping can help your mental health
In this guest blog, Polly Mackenzie from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shares more of its research, and reveals some new technology to help people avoid the temptation of impulse shopping.
Have you ever bought something on the internet on impulse, only to regret it later? You're not alone. One in three of us have done this - and one in 10 find themselves doing it all the time.
Some people find they make impulse mistakes late at night, when they can't sleep or have had a few drinks. Others tell us they get distracted at work by the deals in their inbox, and end up spending more than they want because they've got to buy quickly before the boss notices.
Impulse shopping mistakes can be small, and relatively harmless. It might just mean a bit less money for your savings, a few cut backs to make it to the end of the month, or just too much stuff at home to fit into the cupboards.
But for hundreds of thousands of people - especially those with mental health problems - impulse mistakes can be a real addiction, causing debt, financial chaos and even bankruptcy. Around 2.7 million people are struggling with the twin burden of mental health and debt problems at any one time.
Returning goods doesn’t work for everyone
Of course, you have the right to return products you’ve bought online: 14 days to tell the shop you want to send the product back and 14 more days to get it back to them.
But the truth is it can be hard to send things back: the postage costs can be high, there are sometimes complicated forms to fill out, and if you’re unwell even getting to the post office can feel too difficult. No wonder three quarters of people we spoke to in our research told us they didn’t send back their last online shopping mistake.
Stopping impulse shopping
We’ve created a new tool to help beat impulse mistakes and keep you on track with your financial goals. It makes sure the shops only open when you want them to - when you’re in the right frame of mind to make good decisions
It's called the Shopper Stopper. It's a tiny programme you can install in your internet browser that lets you set the opening hours for the online shops. We've built it to help the millions of people who spend more than they want, or can afford, because it's just so easy to spend online these days.
You can use it to close the shops in the evening or overnight or prevent shopping during your lunch hour or tea break.
Or if you find impulse buys a huge problem you can turn off internet shopping altogether, and only be able to visit online retailers when a friend or family member is with you, helping make sure you make the right decision.