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Stress Spending: How COVID-19 has Affected Ecommerce and the Student Perspective

Image of people by Emma Keisler

According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent over  $861 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, boosting online spending by 44%. The main factor to the dramatic increase in online spending is COVID-19. Digital Commerce 360 writes, “If it weren’t for the bump in online sales from the pandemic, the $861.12 billion in ecommerce sales wouldn’t have been reached until 2022.”

Students at the University of North Georgia are noticing the impact of online shopping in their own lives as well. UNG nursing student Kaitlyn Johnson said, “Ever since not going shopping in person, I have been spending double online.” She explains that before COVID-19, she would spend her money on groceries and necessities, only splurging on occasion.

James Crisp, a senior,  says, “I feel that I have spent more during quarantine because there is more time to kill, and I want to be productive in a sense.” He explains that online shopping is easier for him because he can find the products quicker while saving time in his busy schedule.

 Even though stay at home orders are lifting and stores are reopening, most people are still coping with fear of the disease and financial struggles according to Pew Research Center.  This has led to many people shopping for necessities in person, while stress spending online as a coping mechanism.

 “I online shop way more than I do in person because it’s safer.”- Kaitlyn Johnson

Crisp says, “With some businesses enforcing their regulations and others not, to some it’s not worth the gamble of going to the wrong business.”

However, the fear of going inside of stores isn’t the only cause for the increase in online shopping. USA Today writes, “4 in 10 say they’ve made impulse purchases to deal with the stress of sheltering in place and social isolation.” UNG sophomore Lauren Han says purchasing items that aren’t necessities, “keeps me temporarily happy and distracts from the stresses of school and everyday responsibilities like work.”

College students are one of the largest demographics among consumers, spending a combined $67.7 billion in 2020 on various personal items according to

“I think students are more likely to be online shoppers because it is very convenient, and there are many online deals for students specifically,” said UNG sophomore Adria Phillips. Crisp agreed, saying, “Honestly, some students can’t make the time to go out shopping. Everything we do is now online anyway so might as well shop that way too.”

Even though online shopping has been beneficial for some students, saving is also an important aspect to maintaining a healthy college lifestyle. Phillips says that she tries to control what she spends by thinking about how the item she wants to buy will benefit her in the future. She says some of the questions she asks herself are, “Will it make me happy?; Will I use this item a lot?; and  Have I been good with my money recently?”

Crisp uses a similar method when deciding to buy something saying, “I rationalize my unnecessary purchases by asking myself: When the last time I bought something for myself was; How many of those things do I have?; Can I or can I not go without it?” Budgeting and asking yourself questions before making purchases can lead to curbing spending, and saving money for the future. 

If you are in need of advice on how to manage your funds you can contact UNG’s Student Money Management Center via email at [email protected] or over the phone at 706-867-3308. Also check out the link below.



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Stress Spending: How COVID-19 has Affected Ecommerce and the Student Perspective