Top 5 Compulsive Shopping Traps to avoid

1. Searching for shopping deals online

True shopaholics don’t quit simply because they can’t get to the store. Instead, the digital age keeps bringing temptation to your doorstep — or desktop. Financial author and speaker Peter Bielagus says the problem with the information superhighway is it keeps finding new inroads to our wallets.

“Websites are getting smarter and smarter. Tracking software is monitoring your purchases, as well as what people like you purchase, and constantly offering suggestions,” Bielagus says. As a result, he says, temptation increases.

2. Owning the latest and greatest technology

While there’s fundamentally nothing wrong with being into gadgets, staying up to date on your purchases can shred your budget and doesn’t really make sense over the long haul. The longer you wait for new technology, the better. For an example, let’s compare the two versions of iPad.

While the iPad 2 is lighter and thinner, the differences between the two are slight and aimed at a very specific audience. For example, the iPad 2 has a self-facing camera and is more adaptable for video conferencing. For the average consumer, the majority of the tweaks would be insignificant and not worth the price tag that comes with buying up. Waiting before pouncing on the newest thing has advantages: Not only does the cost fall (for example, plasma televisions were pricier when they first came out), but the developers work out the kinks over time, and you get a better product.

3. Mistaking shortcuts for savings

This applies particularly to weekly purchases made at the grocery store. While it’s nice to have that salad already made and ready to drop into bowls, you can stretch your cash by purchasing ingredients that require a little elbow grease. “Food that has been ‘pre’ anything — chopped, cooked or marinated — is one of the most expensive ways to purchase (groceries),” says Ellie Kay, author of “The 60-Minute Money Workout”

Kay says a side-by-side comparison with “virgin” (uncut, uncooked) counterparts will show that you’re forking over lots of extra bucks in exchange for a little help in the kitchen. While that’s fine if your budget’s unlimited, most don’t have that luxury. Try going the more labor-intensive route for a change, and see how spending that extra 15 minutes in the kitchen can pay off in the long haul.

As for bulk buying, only do so when the items are ones you know you will use before they expire. Bulk toilet paper for a household with multiple bathrooms and lots of family members might be a good investment, while a purchase of four dozen eggs may result in waste if you end up throwing some away.

4. Buying the brand

Sometimes it pays to buy brand names, and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to know the difference. Brand buying can torpedo a grocery budget, particularly when prices of staple products, such as milk, are climbing in double-digit increments.

There are some exceptions, but brand-name buying is not always the best indicator of quality. Buy generic at the grocery store and using common sense when it comes to other purchases, such as children’s clothes, especially when it comes to items you’ll hand down to your younger kids.

5 Extreme couponing

While reality television has turned couponing into a sport worthy of the Olympics, experts say improper coupon use can drain your finances, not help them.

To make the most of your coupons, sort through them and match them to your grocery list, then store sales circulars. Download store-generated coupons from the store’s website to add more coupons to the mix. Trade coupons with friends to maximize your savings — keep only the ones you’ll use, and pass along the coupons your friends will find handy. Finally, never assume anything is a bargain simply because you have a coupon for it.