Is Online Shopping Sending You Broke?

In the current climate, online shopping is more prevalent than ever, as lockdowns and coronavirus fears force many Australians to turn to the internet for more of their needs and wants.

Make no mistake though – online shopping was well on the rise before COVID-19 existed. According to this Australia Post report, 2018 saw the number of online purchases in Australia increase by more than 20%. Almost ¾ of Aussie households shopped online during 2018, and eCommerce spending accounted for 10% of all retail sales.

With this trend on the rise, it’s essential for you to be aware of the tactics businesses use to encourage you to spend more money when shopping online (e.g. free shipping for orders over $X, discount codes for return buyers).

Let’s explore the links between coronavirus and panic buying, with some tips for controlling your online shopping during the pandemic.

Panic Buying and Coronavirus

People often respond irrationally or in an exaggerated way when faced with a perceived emergency. We saw this in how medical supplies (e.g. hand sanitiser and face masks) and essentials such as toilet paper were rapidly snapped up during the early stages of the pandemic.

According to this piece from Big Commerce, this type of panic buying is driven by 3 fundamental psychological needs:

  • The need to feel like you have some control during uncertain times
  • The need to feel like you’re doing something to help your family
  • The need to feel like you’re a savvy shopper making smart choices.

This was all combined with the instinct to over-prepare and a dash of crowd mentality, which is why so many people turned to panic buying – even people who initially scoffed at the idea.

How to Control Your Online Shopping During the Coronavirus

Most people have moved beyond panic-buying essentials at this point. But that doesn’t mean we’re all making wise decisions when it comes to our shopping. As this ABC article explores, plenty of people are making some unique – and sometimes unaffordable – online purchases in response to the pandemic.

Whether driven by boredom or aspirational thoughts (this is my chance to become the master pianist I always dreamt of being), many of us are making purchases we typically wouldn’t consider. And we’re not necessarily thinking about our budget as we do so.

It doesn’t help that Buy Now Pay Later services like Afterpay are giving us an inflated sense of how much we can afford to spend on non-essentials.

Here are some quick tips to help you control your online spending during the pandemic.

Ask yourself: Why am I shopping?

Do you need that fifth jigsaw puzzle? Or do you just want it? Of course, during troubling times like these, it’s not a bad idea to indulge in some fun items that can fill our time and keep our minds occupied. But if your finances are running thin, it’s worthwhile putting a magnifying lens over your online purchases to determine whether each item you’re buying is truly needed.

Set a budget

The easiest budget to blow is a budget you haven’t even set. Examine your income (including any changes due to reduced hours, etc.) and set aside a reasonable amount each fortnight or month for discretionary spending. If an item you’re tempted to buy doesn’t fit within that budget, don’t buy it.

Do your research

If you’re determined to buy a certain something to help you get through the pandemic, make sure you shop around. You may only save a couple of dollars by buying from a different website, but those few dollars can really add up if you research your options and compare prices every time you shop online.

Unsubscribe from websites

How many times have you bought something you saw in a marketing email and then had buyer’s remorse? Limit your temptations by scrolling straight to the “unsubscribe” link whenever you receive promotional emails.

Be wary of tactics that make you spend more

A 10% discount for making another purchase sounds nice. But unless you were already planning to buy something else from that company, you’ll just be spending more money on things you don’t need. Similarly, “free shipping for orders over $X” is only a real treat if you already have that amount in your cart. Otherwise, you might find yourself spending an extra $30 on something you don’t really want just to save $10 on postage.

It’s important to see offers like these for what they really are – marketing efforts to get you to increase your spending. Only take advantage of them if it truly benefits you to do so.

With a strict budget and some smart choices, you can set yourself up to be a sensible online shopper during the coronavirus – without running your savings account into the ground. But if you need a small financial boost to buy some essentials, consider if a quick cash loan might be the right solution for you. Or for more information on why an online loan might be right for you, check out our article Crucial Reasons to Get Your Cash Advance Online.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that Cigno Loans’ articles do not replace advice from an accountant or financial advisor. All information provided is intended to be used as a guide only, as it does not take into account your personal financial situation or needs. If you require assistance, it is recommended that you consult a licensed financial or tax advisor.


Ordered by the Federal Court of Australia

The Federal Court of Australia has found that Cigno Australia Pty Ltd (Cigno Australia) and BSF Solutions Pty Ltd (BSF Solutions) have breached the law by engaging in unlicensed credit activity and charging prohibited fees.

In the period from July 2022 to 3 October 2023, over 100,000 consumers have been lent a total of $34 million, and charged fees of over $70 million, under the ‘No Upfront Charge Loan Model’ operated by BSF Solutions and Cigno Australia. At no time has either BSF Solutions or Cigno Australia held an Australian Credit Licence.

The Court also found that Mark Swanepoel (director of Cigno Australia) and Brenton James Harrison (director of BSF Solutions) were involved in these breaches of the law.

With effect from 24 May 2024, the Court has granted permanent injunctions preventing Cigno Australia and BSF Solutions from:

  • demanding, receiving or accepting fees or charges, including amounts of loan principal, from consumers in relation to credit provided under the ‘No Upfront Charge Model’; and
  • engaging in further credit activity pursuant to the ‘No Upfront Charge Loan Model’, including by entering into new agreements with consumers, for so long as they do not hold an Australian Credit Licence.

Cigno Australia was ordered by the Court to, by 5th July 2024, send written communications to consumers who between July 2022 and December 2022 entered into agreements with Cigno Australia and BSF Solutions under the ‘No Upfront Charge Loan Model’.

The Court will later determine whether (among other things) Cigno Australia and Mark Swanepoel ought to pay a pecuniary penalty in respect of this conduct, and whether Mark Swanepoel should be restrained from carrying on a business engaging in credit activity.

Cigno Australia, BSF Solutions, Mr Swanepoel and Mr Harrison intend to appeal the decision of the Court and have filed an application for leave to appeal. If the appeal is successful, some or all of the orders of the Federal Court of Australia may be set aside.

Where can you get more information?

Where to go for further support

You can access legal advice in your state at: Free legal advice –

If you are experiencing trouble with debt, or money worries in general, contact:

  • the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or online chat (9:30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday).

If you need someone to talk to, contact:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hours) or their crisis support online chat or
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 (24 hours) or their webchat