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Battling Shopping Addiction: Making Behavioral Changes

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The other day one of my good blogger friends, Joe at Retire By 40, wrote a post titled Finally, A Pill For Shopaholics. According to his article, a pill that is used right now to treat Alzheimer’s might curb shopaholic tendencies as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an easy solution in the form of a small pill? Take a pill, and instead of spending money on stuff that you don’t need, you start a new life of a conscious consumer and a thrifty saver.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a spender, who is also a shopaholic. If you are new here, you might want to read some posts in the tab Battling Shopping Addiction. If I could take a pill that would solve all my spending problems, I probably would. The problem is I don’t believe in pills. I also don’t believe in easy solutions to big problems.

Why I consider myself a shopaholic

I guess it all depends on my (or your) definition of this term. I love to shop. There is nothing wrong with this fact, right? How about this: I like to shop so much that if I start I cannot stop, spending over my limits, draining my saving accounts and piling debt on credit cards? Now it sounds … sick, doesn’t it?

I don’t physically depend on shopping to get myself to feel better. However, I do use shopping as a tool to improve my moods. I guess there is an emotional dependency buried deep in me. After binge shopping, I slide into a buyer’s remorse state, return my purchases to only go back later to buy them back.

Behavioral Changes

I tried to make changes to my shopping habits. For example, I lasted two months out of three with a self imposed no-buy challenge. I failed it miserably. However, I still consider two months a great achievement because before this I could not go two weeks without finding myself in the mall.

However, just because I failed this challenge, it does not mean that my motivation to change myself disappeared. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I am more determined than ever.

After my no-buy fiasco, I thought about why I keep failing. This is what I figured out:

I did not define my behavioral change in concrete terms. All I said was “I won’t shop for three months.” There was no measure to this goal other than a “three month” term. What I should have said was “I will not shop until I save up an extra $500 dedicated to shopping.”

I put myself into shock by going cold turkey. Instead, I should have reduced my shopping habits gradually. If I’d set myself a shorter period of time for a no-buy challenge, I probably would not fail it. Two weeks seems like a much better timeframe. Ultimately, I’d most likely had felt better about myself and stayed encouraged to try more.

Setting a short-term goal, instead of a long-term goal could have helped me to stay motivated. I am a sprinter, and not a marathon runner. Short-term goals always worked best for me because a reward of achieving a short-term goal is so much closer than trying to reach a long-term goal.

Analyzing and differentiating my needs versus my wants is a much better approach than just going to the mall to “look around.” Somewhere along the way my wants mixed with my needs, and I lost clear vision of what was happening. I made a list of stuff that I have, and stuff that I want. No one will be surprised (not even me) to find out that my wants overlap with the stuff I already have. My wants vary in color, design, shape, but really it is all the same.

In the end, I decided that it all comes down to what behavioral changes I am willing to try. I am taking baby steps now. I’ve not shopped for a month!

This post was featured in the following carnivals:

Yakezie Carnival at Edward Antrobus
Carnival of Retirement at Write and Get Paid
Carnival of MoneyPros at I Am 1 Percent
Y & T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty
Fin. Carn. for Young Adults at 20s Finances
Lifestyle Carnival at Musings of an Abstract Au
Canadian PF Happy Hour at Canadian Personal Finance
Carnival of Fin. Camaraderie at The University of Money
Carnival of Financial Planning at The Skilled Investor

Comments (36)

  • I think you need to find a hobby or have a baby. I’m serious – when you have something other than your addictions to turn your mind too you’ll be cured – it doesn’t take a pill!
    When your mind is fully engaged on something that you love you’ll not have the time for shopping. I have three children and my spending habits have greatly improved as a result- I’m committed to passing on good financial habits. I have very little time to shop, apart from the groceries.
    Aloysa, you need a crusade and a conviction!

    Reply
    • Well, let’ see: I don’t want children. I do have a hobby that I love – blogging. It helps me but I still slide down quite often. I don’t have much time to shop, but I make time. 🙂 I think the problem is more psychological. Some analysis needs to be done to determine the real cause.

      Reply
  • We’re so alike Aloysa! I have the same problem. For me, shopping addiction is a recurring theme in my life. It’s something I always have to work on. Like exercising, I already added exercise into my lifestyle so it is a constant. With battling a shopping problem, I constantly have to work on it. It’s not a one-time fix or quick fix, like this pill! I wish I could take a pill and be done with it, but at the same time it’s such a psychological problem. We get happy from the act of shopping. I’m glad to say that I haven’t shopped a ton, and I try to really ask myself if I really NEED whatever I’m wanting at the time. I admit, I still have trouble though. I have a wedding to go to in July…and last night I was looking at dresses and shoes already. For some reason I always want to buy a new outfit for special occasions, but when do we draw the line? Maybe I need to set a budget for this outfit.

    Reply
    • I am trying to work out more regularly now. It clears my mind. lol I feel better now, knowing that I am not alone, know that there is support.
      I agree with you. There is no quick fix, it is psychological.

      Reply
  • I also consider myself a shopaholic. Whenever I have to buy clothes, this weird thing happens to me. I literally start moving quicker, feel energized and super happy, even forgetting to drink or eat for hours. It probably sounds completely crazy to people who don’t have issues with spending, but to people that do, you know what I’m talking about. It’s like a drug! Good job fighting the urges…I know it’s hard. Even though I’ve been on my debt diet for several months, I still go a little crazy when I have to purchase something and I have to restrain myself. I’ve even gotten depressed recently when I had to purchase a pair of shorts. I was depressed because I wanted to buy buy buy! I couldn’t, though. I only came for a pair of shorts and that’s all I was going to leave with. When will these feelings get better? I hope I’m not always afflicted with a need to spend money. This could get exhausting.

    Reply
    • OMG! I was reading your comment and I even got goose bumps. You described me. I can shop for hours and hours and not eat, not drink, and function on this high, adrenaline high that I get from shopping. It is very tough to fight the urges. For example, I just had one today. I wanted to go and get myself some cute shorts. (believe me I have shorts!) I could resist it because I was swamped with work. Luckily!

      Reply
  • I don’t really care for shopping so I have none of these worries. My wife loves to buy clothes but luckily she also loves to save, so she only buys stuff on sale. It adds up but it’s not nearly as bad as I’ve seen and she can stop when she needs to stop.

    Reply
  • I am the opposite of a shopaholic. But I have had a shopaholic in our family. Made me cringe at the cash register, or when we had to “hide” new purchases!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, behaviors, and experiment. Good luck with everything.

    Reply
    • I hope one day I will be able to say that I am the opposite of a shopaholic. 🙂 That would be a great day!

      Reply
  • Wow, this has to be beyond tough. I like concrete goals like making sure to save $500 for shopping before even looking at a mall. Good luck!

    Reply
  • I’m not exactly a shopaholic, but there are definitely times when I just wanted to go buy a shirt and I leave with a pile of bags full of stuff and if you asked me what I bought I wouldn’t be able to tell you. When this happens I try to return all the things I don’t need. I’d say my Achilles ankle is online shopping though. I just doesn’t seem that real or that bad when it’s on a computer, but I can go a bit crazy especially when free shipping is included!

    Reply
    • I try to stay away from online shopping. It can get really out of control for me. Especially if a store is running a promotion. I can go crazy getting stuff I will never wear.

      Reply
  • You know what might fuel your behavior and not get you back into debt? Thrift stores. I’m currently wearing a pair of designer jeans that set me back $15. Nothing makes me happier than paying thrift store prices for things that are still selling at retail value!

    Reply
  • Only a few survive the cold turkey method. My wife has a shopaholic problem and I am trying to gradually ease her out.

    Ebay has great deals. I one time bought a $500 suit for $20. Check on actual holidays where there are great deals from people who forgot they shouldn’t post an ad on a holiday.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the mention! 🙂
    I’m glad to hear that you are working on your problem. You might consider talking to a psychologist to see what mistakes you are making. I don’t know. I think as long as you are making progress, you’re doing well.

    Reply
  • Behavioural changes are so difficult. I made a lot of them when I was losing weight; now I’m working on making them to get out of debt. My first (big) issue is to stop using credit in the first place. I’m struggling with this!

    Good luck, and congrats on the first month.

    Reply
  • I’ve recently moved from a monthly budget to a weekly one. I feel like it keeps me on track, and I can readjust more easily in 7 days if I overspend than I can after 30 days of too much shopping 🙂

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  • Good post, and very honest. With all advertising we are bombarded with daily, it is surprising that more people are not in the same boat. When I worked in the ‘real world’ as opposed to home, I must admit shopping a lot for clothes and shoes…one of the perks of having my own freelance business is working in shorts and tank tops all summer:)Not driving past Kohl’s on the way home is a definite plus as well.

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