Shopping addictions are real. They are every bit as authentic as a gambling, drug, or alcohol addiction. People with shopping addictions will often spend (generally overspend) when they are angry, scared, or disappointed. They will find themselves having arguments with others about money and their shopping habits. And their shopping habits often will cause chaos and emotional distress in their lives. They will think about money an inordinate amount of time, lie, cheat and steal to get what they want and then often feel guilty about their behavior afterward. But then they will still repeat those same behaviors over and over again.
So, yes — in short — shopping addiction is far from a fairytale affliction. It can wreak havoc on one’s life. So, here are some ways to get out of the habit of mindless, frenzied spending. Or, at the very least, some ways to keep it at bay, fight back and reclaim one’s life.
Cut up your credit cards
One of the best ways to put yourself on a proverbial shopping time-out is by cutting up your credit cards. It only has to be a temporary measure until that time when you feel more in control of yourself. And don’t jot down the account numbers someplace secret “just in case,” either. Get new cards when you have learned better habits. For now though, just say goodbye to the temptation. Because that’s what credit cards are to you right now. Temptation.
And stick with cash only! Although this may be inconvenient what with the … well … having no checkbook or debit card on hand to make purchases … that is kinda the point, now, isn’t it? To make things just a little bit more inconvenient for yourself and thus less easy to go on a crazy buying spree? To break your habits you absolutely must make sacrifices. While spending money with plastic makes the connection between spending and forfeiting funds fuzzy, every time you hand over a greenback, on the other hand, you are more likely to understand the real-life implications of that expenditure.
One way of keeping a shopping addiction well-managed is by being more mindful about your expenditures. You might not even be aware of how much you are spending when you are in such a frenzy. When you track your spending habits, patterns become clear. And when patterns become clear, you then can act on those negative spending patterns. And eventually, you can replace those habits and patterns with better habits and patterns.
Play mind games
Play them a lot! Here, unlike in a dating scenario, mind games are very healthy. Find ways to play tricks on yourself. Give the 30-day rule a go: This essentially states that if you go without something (or don’t do something) for 30 days, you can reward yourself in some way. Another variation of the 30-day rule that is especially fitting for shopaholics is telling yourself “if I still want it in 30 days, then I will revisit the topic of buying it.” You might come back in 30 days and wonder why you ever wanted that thing in the first place.
One way to avoid temptation is not to put yourself on the path toward temptation. Don’t go near a shop where you are infamous for spending up a storm. Walk an extra few blocks to avoid places that will bring you into harm’s way. Especially when you are under emotional stress, do not go to places where you would normally spend money.
Think big picture
When you are tempted to spend, remind yourself of your larger goals. With food addiction for example, it is often helpful to remember what one’s long-term efforts are all for. What you really want out of life. Not just immediate and ultimately fleeting gratification. It is the same thing with any addiction, including shopping addictions. Before you spend, remember that this short tryst with spending will not help you achieve your long-term goals: Which are being a healthier, happier, and more financially responsible person.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask a close friend or family member to help you out with your addiction if the situation is becoming especially dire and you feel like you are out of control, or that you are losing control quickly. Ask for support in breaking the cycle of your compulsive spending habits. Oftentimes, doing something with a loved one can be the push you need to get over the agonizingly difficult hump. If you seek professional help, then remember this: Don’t get angry when they call you out on your mistakes and missteps. Because, after all, they are just there to help. And sometimes that involves “being real” with you.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you feel tempted to buy. When you just know that it is your shopping addiction steering the wheel instead of any real need for the desired thing in question:
When will I use this?
Sometimes, with a shopping addiction, a ton of the stuff that is bought is never actually used. Before you buy something, ask yourself when and how you will actually be using said object — and be honest with yourself about that answer, too!
Can I wait to buy this?
Again, here is an opportunity to use the 30-day rule. It is a mind game that will take you far. Tell yourself that you can buy it in 30 days if you still want it. Chances are, not only will you not still want it, but you probably won’t even remember about its existence.
Why do I want this?
Sometimes we don’t even know why we buy something. We just want it. But we don’t stop to think about why we want it, per se. Will this thing fill a need-void in your life? Like the way a refrigerator does? If the answer to that question is no, then you probably shouldn’t be buying it. If you are trying to fill an emotional lack instead of a practical lack with your purchase, then it is important to be aware of this distinction. Sometimes, by asking yourself why you have the urge to buy something, you can make the urge itself disappear completely.
Can I get it for cheaper?
Sometimes, in the case of shopping addictions, there is a thrill in buying something expensive (or something new). The mere question, posed to oneself, about whether you can buy it at a cheaper rate, can be enough to bring yourself back down to earth and can help you acknowledge that the goal shouldn’t be to spend more but to spend less. Remember: There’s nothing wrong with a thrift store or even (gasp!) a department store. They have some awesome bargains as well as some awesome stuff!
Shopping addiction is a pain in the neck, just as any addiction is a pain in the neck. But it can be combated and beaten down into a manageable, little nuisance. With some well-placed effort, discipline, and the attainment of some practicable techniques for fighting off the warning signs, there is no reason why a shopping addiction should rule or ruin your life.
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