How To Take Control Over Your Compulsive Shopping Habits

Saturday, March 3, 2018, 6:00 PM | Leave Comment

There’s no question the nation has a debt problem. We collectively owe an almost unnamable number of dollars in debt, as the Treasury Department’s website indicates.

The average household credit card debt stands at $16,883 but there are outliers who have double, triple and even quadruple that amount. Many have a penchant to overspend, whether it’s at the mall or on the Internet. About 17 million Americans fall into that category, with both sexes to blame.

Compulsive shopping can have disastrous consequences and requires help. Fighting over money is the leading cause of marital and relationship stress, playing a huge role in millions of breakups each year. Not to mention the impact it has on consumers’ credit, hurting their ability to buy a car, purchase a home, or save for their retirement.

Compulsive shoppers come in all sorts of flavors, from the ones that live beyond their means to those seeking to fill a void. For lots, denial is the chosen coping method. It’s much easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend you’re not racking up any debt.

But there are ways to reign in that addictive behavior before it leaves you alone and destitute.

How to Curb Compulsive Shopping Behaviors

  • Admit You Have a Problem

    Regardless of what addiction you suffer from, the first step is to admit that there’s a problem. You may not be addicted to painkillers or alcohol, thinking your shopping habits aren’t a real problem. But if you find yourself doing a harmful action over and over, you’re an addict. Not sure your shopping is out of control? Check your relationships and bank account for telltale signs.

    People who are addicted to spending tend to splurge on all sorts of things, even if they can’t afford it. They put it on a credit card and forget about it until the bill comes. But that bill does come and interest mounts. Before you know it, those “little” purchases create thousands of dollars in expensive debt. It’s OK to splurge if you need it, but it becomes a problem when you don’t.

    Overspending isn’t an individual problem. It can affect the entire family, particularly those in a relationship. Money fights are a leading reason why people break up, with one often spending while the other is not.

    Another sign: you get a rush from shopping, similar to how an adrenaline junkie gets high from risk-taking. If your shopping gives you a surge of excitement, it may be a sign you have a problem.

  • Determine Your Triggers

    The need to spend isn’t an all-the-time occurrence for shopaholics. Typically, something triggers it. For some, it can be a jealousy thing, while for others it can be prompted by extra stress at work. Lots of times, it’s boredom or anxiety that will trigger a shopping event.

    Whatever the culprit, being able to identify the reasons you do it, is the first step in getting better. If you can predict when a feeling will manifest, you can take actions to redirect it.

    Let’s say the need to spend peaks when you have added stresses. If you know being taxed at work or home is going to spark a shopping binge, seek out other activities to burn off those feelings.

    If a certain friend triggers feelings of inadequacy that prompts a spending spree, stay away from that person. It’s easy to quell boredom by hopping online to shop but a better choice would be to call a friend, organize a closet or go for a walk to redirect those urges.

  • Reduce Temptation

    The temptation to shop is everywhere. Open your email and deals and discounts abound. Billboards, newspapers, television, and even sidewalks can all induce you to spend money. Some of it is out of your control, but there are also a lot that is in your power to block.

    Take email, a trigger for the deal hunting, shopping addict. If an email from your favorite retailer triggers a shopping event, block it from your inbox. Stay off the internet when you have an urge, and strengthen your resolve. The less it is in your face, the greater the chance that you won’t buy anything. It’s also a smart idea to stay out of malls and discount stores unless you absolutely need to.

  • Find Happiness Beyond Possessions

    We live in a materialistic world where people want the best car, the biggest house, and brand name clothes. In this world, buying things is deemed the key to happiness. For compulsive shoppers, it’s an excuse to do what they love best: spending cash.

    The reality is, moments matter the most. Instead of focusing on acquiring more of everything, create experiences and memories. A great way to lower the urge to spend and get happier is to swap material goods for quality time with family and friends. Place the emphasis on the things that are free in life but can pay you dividends. They don’t cost a dime and can enhance your life more than a new TV.

  • Set a Budget and Establish New Goals

    Binge shopping can be time-consuming and costly. It often becomes an obsession for many of the addicted. If that behavior is redirected to paying down debt or saving money, it can transform an overspender into a saver. That doesn’t mean throwing every extra penny into your debt, but it does mean setting limits on what you can purchase and how often.

    Paying with cash can help curb spending. After all, you can only spend what’s in your wallet if you left your credit card at home. Calculating, creating, and abiding by a budget can also be a wake-up call that moves you to action. If you are honest with yourself and find out how much you have and owe, it can prevent another spending spree.

    Shifting your goals can also have a positive impact. Instead of saving for an $800 pair of Jimmy Choo shoes or a fancy watch, focus on socking away money for a home or your golden years. Establishing new goals may spark a new obsession, but at least it’s a productive one.

  • Set Realistic Expectations

    Curbing spending isn’t going to happen overnight. The bigger the problem, the longer it will take to heal. It’s a process, just like with any compulsion, requiring commitment and resolve. If you do get the urge and you can’t overcome it, don’t beat yourself up. Try harder to fight the urge next time. It can take people years to overcome an addiction and that’s true of compulsive shopping.  Baby steps is the name of the game to achieve long-term success.

Final Thoughts

Everyone likes new things and enjoys spending money. But for millions of Americans, it’s out of control. Some have lost their families, jobs, and homes all because of a need to spend.

If your shopping is resulting in piles of debt or souring relationships, it may be time for a change. Understanding what sets you off and making a real effort to stop it can put you on the path to kicking your compulsive shopping habit once and for all.

Author BIO

Charlotte Saverey is a market analyst, regularly consulting with retail businesses on consumer behavior as well as the best practices on ethical business.

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