How to stick to a budget when deal hunting online

With deals season rapidly approaching, and Christmas not too far off, now is the ideal time to search online for the best offers. 

However when prices start falling it can be easy to get over excited and buy everything you click on, which can sometimes mean you end up spending more money than you otherwise would.

To help keep your spending in control we’ve gathered together some top tips for sticking to a budget when hunting the best deals online, ensuring that you actually save money in the long run.

Make sure you know how much you can afford  

This is an expensive part of the year, so before you begin setting a budget you should check your bank balance so that you know how much you’ll be able to afford.

You may find that you need to set a tighter budget to ensure you can afford the deals as well as your monthly essentials. This may not be ideal, but at least by knowing how much you can afford you can set an appropriate budget to avoid any nasty surprises at the end of the month.

You may also be pleasantly surprised, allowing you to set a higher budget than you thought – but don’t just spend the money because you can.

Write down your budget

After you’ve come up with your budget, write it down. This makes it more ‘real’ and can help give you a visual reference for the money you have to spend. 

Jotting it down in a spreadsheet application such as Excel can help you as you can create calculations to subtract the money you’ve spent, giving you a running total of the cash you have left to spend.

Make mini budgets for friends and family

You’ll likely be looking for deals for Christmas presents for friends and family. If that’s the case then it’s a good idea to make mini budgets for each person, listing not just what you can spend on them but also useful ideas for the sorts of gifts that they like. 

This will make sure that you don’t impulse buy gifts they may not like, or over spend on one person, leaving you struggling to afford gifts for other people.

Don’t think this turns you into a digital Scrooge – by carefully setting a budget for people’s gifts you can make sure everyone gets what they want.

You could also agree a spending limit with your friends and family beforehand, so everyone feels comfortable about how much they should spend on each other.

Know what you want to buy and do your research

While it may be tempting to jump in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and spend like there’s no tomorrow, you may quickly end up with buyer’s remorse when tomorrow does inevitably turn up and you’ve spent all your money on devices you don’t need or want.

Just because something is cheap or discounted, it doesn’t mean you should go ahead and buy it. Instead, come up with a list of items that you want to buy and concentrate on finding the best deals for them. This will cut down on your impulse buying and will help you come under budget.

If you see something that has a price that’s too good to be true, then do a little research before you buy.

It may be cheap because it’s not very good, so check out reviews of the product before you buy – if experts and customers say it sucks, then they may have just saved you some money. 

Some retailers also raise the price of products in the lead up to big sales in order for them to claim that they are offering bigger discounts. Sites such as CamelCamelCamel track prices throughout the year, so you can see if a product you’re buying has been sold cheaper before – or if the discount has been artificially inflated.

Combining these tips will help you keep to a budget, allowing you to have a more enjoyable online shopping experience without the buyer’s remorse the next day.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.