So many people have gotten themselves into serious financial trouble because of their addiction to shopping. They will max out credit cards for shoes in every color of the rainbow with matching handbags. They may have a garage full of tools bought on credit or boxes of things in their closet they’ve never even opened.
Those of us who live frugal lifestyles often scoff at these shopping fanatics. Yet, being a frugal person is not without its risks, too. Sometimes frugal shoppers get so excited about their bargain hunting, they spend money they don’t need to spend on things they don’t really need just because it’s a “great deal.”
It’s very easy for a well-intentioned frugal person to get caught up in “spending to save.” You spend money stocking up on a “great buy” because it will save you money in the long run. You end up with little cash in your pocket and a hall closet overrun with shampoo and deodorant because you get nervous you may run out before the next big sale.
Whether it’s shoes or hand soap that’s causing your budget woes, it is important to determine whether you are taking your shopping habits too far.
You may be a compulsive shopper if:
- You often shop when you are angry, scared, or upset. (Retail therapy).
- You feel ashamed after a shopping trip (i.e. you hide your purchases for others).
- Your home is overrun with items you seldom wear or use.
- You use credit cards because you don’t have the cash to pay for things.
- You worry about money constantly and often juggle accounts to cover your bills.
- You are obsessed with buying the right things. You love the thrill of “the hunt.”
- You are obsessed with buying things that are a great deal.
- Your shopping habit is creating conflict with others in your life.
Shopaholics Anonymous has a couple of quizzes and checklists you can review to see if you may have compulsive spending problem. Admitting you have a problem is just the first step.
How to control compulsive spending
Shop only with cash and get rid of your credit cards. You’ll need to work on a plan to pay off your debts, but at least you won’t make the problem worse.
Commit to using what you have. Stop buying new items and commit to using what you have already have. We’re often tempted to throw money at problems when the real solution is already available to us.
Make a shopping list based on your needs and your budget each and every time you shop. And stick to that list! You may also want to establish money rules for yourself.
Avoid places that are triggers for bad spending decisions. You may need to take a break from Target or garage sales. Sometimes just setting foot in a store can be all it takes to cause you to overspend. Delete e-mails from retailers and unsubscribe from their lists to avoid temptation to online shop. If you absolutely must shop at a “trigger” place, bring a trusted friend who can help you avoid impulse shopping.
Be aware of the emotions that push you to shop and find healthier alternatives. For example, if you shop when you are sad or stressed, hit the gym instead of the mall. If you shop to express love for others, find other ways to show you care like making a special meal for that person or writing a heartfelt letter.
Seek professional help if you need it. Approximately 17 million people struggle with compulsive spending in the United States. You are not alone, and help is available. A therapist can help you determine the cause of your compulsive shopping and help you find ways to combat it. Groups like Spender’s Anonymous can also provide you with guidance and support and you may also want to work with an organization like Debtor’s Anonymous to tackle your debt.
Overcoming a shopping addiction can play a huge role in helping you gain control over your personal finances. Learning to buy only the things you need and can pay for goes a long way in helping you pay off your debt, feel financially secure, and begin building wealth.