Have you discovered that you are shopping when you don’t need anything or when you don’t really have the money to spend on anything other than bills? Has credit card debt become so out of control that you don’t even want to think about how or when you will be able to pay it all off?
These questions are about much more than shopping, they are about an addictive problem known as compulsive buying. And it is a cyclic issue that will continue to eat away at your finances and even your personal relationships until you understand the true problem and commit to fixing it.
The Real Problem
It may be a bit of an issue that all of your closets are overflowing or that you have a lot of credit card debt but the real problem is something far deeper and more difficult to eliminate. Compulsive buying is an emotional problem that is a response to dealing with stress, anxiety, depression or grief. You are not shopping for an item you are searching for relief from whatever is bothering you so deeply. Shopping is just a mechanism to try to find some instant satisfaction, even if it is only for a moment or two. But sadly, no item that you purchase is going to fill the need or resolve the issue that is plaguing you. Professional therapy and support groups are an option if you are dealing with a shopping addiction but you might also want to try speaking to a close friend. Often times it is easier to open up and explain feelings of loss, guilt or depression to someone who knows you and understands you. It offers a feeling of security and trust. With your feelings out in the open, there are several ways you can begin to monitor and control your compulsive buying.
Cold, Hard Cash
Most people find it more difficult to spend actual dollar bills than they do to swipe a credit card. Holding the actual money makes it mean more than just a tiny piece of plastic. Using cash to shop will reinforce the fact that you are spending the money that you have worked hard for and not just picking up an item for some arbitrary financial exchange at the end of the month with a credit card company. It will also limit your ability to overspend on the spur of the moment. You have a ten dollar bill in your hand and that is all the money you have with you. You cannot spend more than that ten dollars. It is a way to impose a limit on your spending before you are ever in a situation where you are at a store and want to make a purchase. It is the beginning of a plan to lower your spending and one that can’t really be changed once you leave the house.
Track Your Spending
If you are not comfortable carrying cash or it is not feasible for you, then tracking your spending might be a better solution. With this plan though, you will be working completely on the honor system. You must commit, and that means promise yourself, that you will honestly list each and every purchase that you make. Only then will you have a complete record of your shopping habits and a way to reconcile your selections at the end of each week or month. To help hold yourself accountable, you might want to ask your trusted confidant to join you to examine your spending log and to help you to decide how well you are progressing away from your compulsive buying habits of the past.
Eliminate Impulse Buys
Another trick to curbing your spending is to impose a cooling off period before you make any purchases. It might be 20 minutes or even 24 hours. But you never make an unplanned purchase without waiting for the set amount of time and reevaluating your decision to buy the item. Of course, this is not going to apply to items such your weekly run to the store to buy food or putting gas in the car but other, nonessential and non-emergency items that can wait a few minutes or even a few days. You will find that if you have to go back to a specific location or store to buy an item that you saw yesterday, somehow the item does not seem as appealing or as needed.
Find Other Connections and Happiness in Your Life
The instant gratification of shopping is fleeting. It lasts maybe for a few minutes or until you get the item home and add it to the pile in your closet. But then it is pretty much out of sight and out of mind. And the social interaction of shopping, speaking to the clerk and maybe another shopper is short and on a very shallow level. The connection is more about proximity and not a deep or meaningful experience. So take the time that you were spending walking around the mall with strangers and invest it in meaningful time with friends and family. Reconnect with them for a leisurely meal or a walk in the park or even at a charity event. Buy into building lifelong memories with those who you care about and not collecting items that will just collect dust.
It’s More Than Money- It’s About Your Happiness
Compulsive buying is about much more than just shopping and wasting money on items that you don’t need. It is about taking a long look at yourself and choosing to figure out what is making you upset, depressed or anxious. You deserve to live a happy and fulfilling life and not to be hiding your pain by searching store after store for something to help you feel better. No purchase is going to meet your emotional needs, but your friends, family and loved ones can. Sharing your problem with them and asking for their help and support as you find the answers will let you end your addiction to compulsive buying forever.