By Susana Acosta
You just got a bad test grade. That hot guy from last weekend hasn’t texted you in two days. Your mom is driving you insane. You want to kill time at the airport during your layover. All of these are reasons you may want to go online and start browsing the newest items at your favorite stores or perhaps the clearance items-just to make yourself feel better about the unnecessary purchase. Either way, none of these are valid reasons for buying anything online. What is initially an innocent distraction can become a dangerous path to addiction, debt or worse if you’re using retail therapy to bandage bigger issues.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with online shopping; in fact, it is a convenient way to shop when you’re in college. My roommate and I found that we could even order laundry detergent and some of our groceries online when we didn’t feel like paying ridiculous amounts of money to haul a taxi between our place to the mall or supermarket. It was also nice for weeks when we could not afford to spend any time off campus because finals were coming up. What I want to warn you about is getting too comfortable with the idea of looking through online catalogs everyday just for fun. First, you like the feeling of diverting your attention to something calming. Next, you get hooked on the idea of being able to have anything you want with a simple click. Because most websites allow you to save your credit card information, or even apply for one through their store, you don’t even have to deal with the extra minute or two of digging through your wallet to type in those 16 numbers that are probably costing you more than $16. However, convenience is the trap that leads to the addiction.
How do you know when your online window shopping has become an addiction? Well, you may have started out by just looking at sweaters and purses or shoes online and then closing out of the browser after 20 minutes, but then it turns into an hour or three. And eventually, you’re not just looking at things, you’re buying anything that looks cute or that you think will make you feel better about yourself. Your shopping cart is full with over 10 items, and you are shopping from multiple online sites and getting something delivered to you once a week. The money should concern you, but if it isn’t even your credit card (some are lucky enough to still be using a parent’s card), then you should be worried by the fact that you’re probably not even using half of the things you are buying. You lose interest in the items as soon as they have been paid for so once they come to your dorm room, maybe you will wear it once or twice, but more than likely, it’s going to end up in another pile in your closet or being admired by your roommate. In college, I had a roommate with a limitless credit card that was always online shopping but she wore everything she bought and was usually looking for a particular item-perhaps a coat in a certain style or a specific color of boots. If you find yourself wandering to sites constantly with nothing in mind to buy but somehow can’t close the windows without buying, even if it means you can’t afford other things (that you actually need or want), then you should evaluate some things in your life.
Getting to the root of your problems is an important skill to learn in college so that it doesn’t catch up to you later in life when you’re married and are masking everything with manicures and a new piece of jewelry. Online window shopping can be the best cure for a dull, rainy day or for saving time before you get to the mall or for mailing a birthday present to your brother back home. But like everything else, it has a bad side, and if you let it, it can take advantage of your weaknesses and drag you into a world of debt and more problems. Be strong.
Use the buddy system. Ask your friend before making a large purchase. If she says you don’t need it, you probably don’t!