In our materialistic world, it should come as no surprise that many people struggle with compulsive shopping, which refers to a pattern of purchasing that becomes difficult to stop, and ultimately has harmful consequences.
So how do we put a stop to compulsive shopping and not give in to our impulses?
If you’ve ever been to a store or a shopping mall, or have even just seen a commercial, it’s no secret that advertisements are a mission to convince us to spend all our money.
We all go shopping from time to time, whether it be for groceries, clothes, furniture, or holiday gifts, and in the midst of all that consumerism, it can be second nature to start throwing extra things on the pile, buying things we don’t really need just because they looked cool in the store.
How to Know if You Are a Compulsive Shopper
Compulsive shopping is defined as spending money on items that aren’t necessary or spending money on items that you really don’t need. It’s common among both men and women.
There are several signs that indicate whether or not you might be a compulsive shopper. Some of these signs include:
• Spending money on things that you don’t need
• Buying gifts for others instead of yourself
• Overspending on food
• Overspending on clothing
• Going into debt
• Not saving enough money
• Being unable to stop buying things
• Feeling guilty after buying something
• Borrowing money from friends and family
• Buying things just because they’re available
• Lying to others about what has been purchased or how much has been spent
• Using credit cards to buy things
Compulsive shopping is a dangerous habit that can wreak havoc on a person’s financial life, and yet our society is set up to enable constant and unhealthy spending. It’s also important to understand that shopping is not necessarily bad.
Many people enjoy shopping, and it can be fun to treat yourself occasionally. However, if you notice that you spend money on things that aren’t needed, then it’s time to consider taking steps to change your behavior.
What Can Cause Compulsive Shopping?
Compulsive shopping is a problem that affects millions of Americans every day. While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes compulsive shopping, there are certain factors that seem to play a role.
One factor is feeling stressed out. When people feel overwhelmed or anxious, they tend to turn to shop as a form of self-medication. Another reason is having trouble controlling impulses. People who struggle with impulse control may find themselves drawn toward items that they shouldn’t buy.
There are other reasons why people shop compulsively, including:
• Feeling depressed or lonely
• Having low self-esteem
• Being bored
• Wanting to fit into a specific body type
• Worrying about money
• Lacking willpower
• Struggling with addiction
• Failing to meet expectations
It’s important to remember that while compulsive shopping can lead to financial problems, it’s never healthy to spend money on yourself just to cope with stress or boredom. Instead, try to learn coping skills that allow you to deal with life’s challenges in healthier ways.
7 Tips on How to Stop Compulsive Shopping
1. Only Carry Cash
Technology has made it easy to swipe that credit card without feeling the weight of large or frequent purchases, but it’s much more difficult not to notice cash disappearing.
Take all the plastic out of your purse or wallet and only carry cash for a while.
Chances are, you’ll be much less likely to spend impulsively when you find yourself counting out a wad of bills that are about to leave your hands.
2. Track All Your Spending
Write down every purchase you make – what you bought, and what it cost. Literally track every penny.
This is an accountability technique and a real eye-opener.
Most people who try this technique – even if only for a week or a month–end up being shocked (and sometimes horrified) at how much money they spend on little things like fast food and impulse purchases, and how quickly those purchases add up to a substantial amount of cash that could have been better spent (or saved) elsewhere.
If you’re wondering where all your money is going, this is a great way to plug up a leak in your cash flow.
3. Avoid Temptation
If someone is addicted to gambling, we tell them to steer clear of the casino.
If someone is drinking too much, we advise them not to keep alcohol in their house.
The same goes for impulsive shopping, although shopping can be a little trickier to avoid than casinos and booze because opportunities to spend money tend to crop up around every corner.
Still, it’s important to know your triggers.
If your weakness is the mall, try avoiding the mall specifically, especially when you’re feeling disappointed, scared, or angry, as these are vulnerable moods that often lend themselves to relapses.
If you’re a sucker for clothing outlets, don’t go there.
If your thing is the auto parts store, or your local electronics dealer, or the dollar section at Target – you know the drill.
Learn your triggers, and remove yourself from them as best as you can.
4. Focus on Larger Goals
It can be difficult to eliminate something from your life without replacing it with something better.
Rather than focusing on the absence of shopping, remind yourself of the long term benefits you are working toward.
Are you saving up for a major purchase?
Each time you deny yourself a shopping trip, remind yourself that what you are actually doing is saving up to buy your first home, or that car you’ve been dreaming about, or to take the trip you’ve been dying to go on.
The money you would have spent shopping is being reallocated toward something much more exciting than a few new items from the mall.
5. Leave Your Credit Cards At Home
Credit cards have led to massive amounts of debt and countless stories of financial woes, ruined lives, and emptied savings accounts.
Don’t let this happen to you! If you are a compulsive shopper, chances are you’re familiar with credit cards and maybe have a few of them.
You need to do two things as quickly as possible:
Leave them at home, and pay them off.
Remove their info from any websites where the numbers may be saved for automatic purchases.
Then pay down the balances before you get destroyed by interest.
Credit card companies know exactly what they are doing, and if they weren’t making good money by getting people into debt, they wouldn’t still be in business.
6. Wait a Week
Part of the thrill of compulsive shopping is seeing something you like and buying it on the spot.
But it’s amazing how many of our compulsive purchases end up being things we never would have thought about again if we only could have managed to leave the store without them.
Next time you’re tempted by an item in a store, tell yourself that if you still want it in one week, you can come back and buy it.
You might be surprised at how few items you’re still thinking about a week later.
You will forget about most of the items you thought you needed, and this little mind trick can end up saving you a lot of money.
7. Ask for Help
You should never be ashamed of being open and vulnerable, admitting your struggles, and asking for help.
We all struggle with something in life.
If one of your struggles is compulsive shopping, you are not alone, and you do not need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Ask for help. Confide in someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Visit a therapist if you feel it might be helpful.
Invite your partner or a close friend into your recovery process – they can help you cut up your credit cards, remind you to track your spending, and encourage you when you feel like giving up.
Overcoming compulsive shopping is a difficult battle in which the culture is betting against you, but you don’t have to do it alone.
Shopping is ubiquitous in our culture, and there will always be new ways to spend money.
It is not difficult to find yourself in a place where you feel compelled to purchase, and where you may even seek out shopping as a remedy for negative emotions.
If this sounds like you, or if you think your spending may be getting out of hand, do not be afraid to turn the tables and get the help you need. You won’t regret it in the end.