Since becoming a mom, I’ve become a habitual online shopper. Apart from groceries, I haven’t shopped for myself in a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer in more than a year and I rarely shop for my son in person.
Rather than clip coupons and sort through endless sales racks, I typically save money on clothing and supplies by ordering through Amazon or by searching for discounts online. In theory, this approach has not only saved me time, it’s also saved me money since I rarely buy anything at full price. The problem is it’s so easy to order stuff online nowadays that I often buy more than I actually need.
For example, I once bought so many diapers through our Amazon Prime membership that we wound up with towers of boxes strewed around our bedroom. When my son slept for more than four hours straight for the first time, I celebrated by impulsively ordering a gift set of luxury beauty products that I’ve now used twice since they arrived five months ago. When he reverted back to his old sleep schedule of waking up every two to three hours, I consoled myself by spending $79 on a Kindle.
The ease of one-click shopping has been especially bad for my budget since it takes the thought out of whether to buy something. “Do we need half a dozen more bottles for day care?” I’d think to myself while scrolling, bleary-eyed, through Amazon’s baby section. Click. And the bottles would be on their way.
Chronic sleep deprivation has a way of sapping your willpower and making you more likely to cave to temptation. When you’re fighting just to keep your eyes open, thinking about whether or not something fits into your budget can feel like more hassle than it’s worth.
According to a February 2015 survey from BabyCenter.com, I’m not the only new mom who’s suddenly spending far more time shopping online. Twenty-three percent of moms between the ages of 18 and 32 say that they now do at least half of all their shopping on the Web. Thirty-two percent say that they do up to 50 percent of their shopping online and 44 percent say that they’re more likely these days to buy clothes through a browser than in person.
To capitalize on parents’ sleep deprived shopping habits, online retailers are designing parent-friendly apps that make it easier than ever to overspend online. According to an article in the Atlantic, Diapers.com figured out online shoppers spend the most time browsing for baby products between midnight and 5 a.m. — prime time for bleary-eyed overspending.
Diapers.com also discovered that parents frequently shop on their mobile phones while feeding or holding their babies. So to help encourage mid-feeding shopping, it specifically designed its mobile shopping app so that it’s easier to use with one hand.
According to the Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance, the app appears to be working. Orders placed through Diapers.com’s mobile site jumped from 25 percent of all purchases in 2013 to around 50 percent last year and parents are singing its praises. “The app’s reviews section is awash in references to shopping while mothering,” wrote LaFrance. For example, one user wrote: “‘Lifesaver! Last week I placed an order with one hand while holding my newborn and my 2-year-old ran around.”
Enthusiastic parents may want to give their phones a rest, though, before they become too reliant on mobile apps that make it easier to shop on their phones. A 2015 study on mobile grocery shopping, for example, found that once mobile shoppers get accustomed to buying groceries on the go, they tend to do a lot more of it.
Personally, I’m thinking about taking a break from online shopping — at least for a while. Now that my son is older and I’m somewhat less sleep deprived, I’m suddenly more aware of what ordering online has been doing to my budget. In my experience, the easier it is to pay for something, the more likely I am to buy things I just don’t need.