Time to Plan: Keeping an Online Purchases Journal

I love that the Internet exists so that I can take time to research products, find great deals and even find products that I would never be able to find locally. But we definitely need to be careful when shopping online as it can be very easy to spend too much too fast on items that we may not really need. The fact that we can just buy something with a few clicks of a button can sometimes lead to some impulse buys.

While I try to be careful about what I buy online, I decided to keep an online purchases journal this year. If you are starting to learn how I am, then you know that I kept it very simple! My first plan was to keep a notebook by my computer but I feared I would lose it. So I created a very simple Excel spreadsheet instead. I can easily update it and sum it up to keep track of how much I am spending. I also created a separate email folder for all of my order confirmations.

I gave my spreadsheet simple headers of “$ Spent, Where Purchased?, What Did I Buy, How I Paid and Where the $ comes out of our budget.” Anything that I’ve allocated as “my allowance,” I also put in a separate area so I can keep track of what I spend. I make sure I don’t go over the money I have on-hand to “pay back” our funds for anything I buy online. I added the “How I Paid” category so I can check my Paypal or Bank Account to make sure the purchases were charged correctly.

I’ve been doing this for about 3 weeks now and I truly wish I had started it sooner! What I love about it is that every time I log a purchase, it’s a trigger that I’m tallying more money being spent. There was one purchase I made this year that after I tallied it, I decided that it truly wasn’t a need and ended up canceling my online order right away. I don’t recommend making a habit of continually canceling orders but when you truly feel a change of heart, definitely do it if you can!

My plan is to take a few minutes each month and look through all my online purchases and review what I bought and ask myself, “Was that a smart purchase?” I’m hoping that by keeping track of my purchases, it will make me an even better online shopping that doesn’t have any unnecessary impulse buys.

Overall, I do my best to buy our things locally, as I like to support my community but there are certain items that I can’t buy locally or truly can find a higher rate of savings online–such as some Organic Products. Our area has such skyrocketing prices on some Organic products and I do buy some of them online so I can continue to feed my family those great products. I might not be able to fit them into our budget, otherwise. I am seeing more stores offering a larger range of Organic products and that is very exciting! (If your stores don’t offer them, make sure you email them and let them know you’d be interested or tell your store’s manager.)

I’m hoping that if you do a lot–or even some!–online shopping that you take a little Time to Plan and make an Online Purchases Journal so you can make sure you are sticking within your budget and making smart purchases.

If you do shop online, I highly recommend signing up for an online portal, such as Ebates, that awards Cashback for going through their links for your purchases. They have over 1,200 stores listed, including most of the major ones where you may shop. It’s free to join, if you haven’t already.

What are some of the items that you regularly buy online? Where have you been able to find the best online deals?