I’m a Shopaholic. How Can I Stop Over-Spending?

by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach on January 10, 2010

in Credit Cards, Debt, Saving Money


If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us will admit that so much of what we spend money on – and why we spend money – is tied to our emotional state.

Sometimes we spend money completely on a whim because something struck us a being a “must have” item in that moment. Later, that item simply hangs in our closet or collects dust around the house.

At other times, our purchasing decisions are wrapped up in the way we feel overall – and it may be a sentiment we’ve been carrying around for weeks. As a result, we spend money for a host of reasons: out of boredom, depression, elation, or angst, to name just a few emotions.

Read on to discover 8 ways to stop engaging in “retail therapy.”


Do You Often Tell Yourself “I Deserve It”?

We also shop to reinforce our egos, to impress others, or simply because we feel like we “deserve it.” The important point is to recognize when such emotional spending puts you in the red. What good is it to “feel like a million bucks” on the outside, simply because you have the external trappings or appearance of success – but on the inside you’re really a wreck about your finances? This is what emotional spending does. It makes you feel guilty about your purchases, and it sets you back financially.

Putting an End to “Retail Therapy”

Especially among women, too many of us shop as a way to feel better. It’s easy to engage in “retail therapy” if you’re angry, depressed, frustrated about something – or even happy. But going on an emotional spending binge is just as dangerous as going on a drinking binge: You may get a short-term sense of euphoria, but any emotional boost you experience will quickly give way to renewed feelings of guilt and despair. Moreover, you’ll face the ultimate shopper’s hangover: credit card bills that take months to pay off.

8 Ways To Stop Emotional Spending

Leave the credit cards at home

As a matter of practice, leave your credit cards at home more often than not. Having credit cards, charge cards and retail department store cards in your wallet or purse makes it easy to make spur-of-the-moment shopping trips. You’ll think more about your spending practices if you have to part with your hard-earned dollars, versus just whipping out a credit card. Plus, people tend to spend more when they use plastic, instead of cash.

Use the “24-hour Rule”

When you see something expensive that you think you “must” have. For an unplanned purchase, be willing to wait for just one day, and tell yourself that if you still really want the item, you can always go back and get it the next day. In many cases, that 24-hour cooling off period will be just the break you need to not indulge.

Set a budget

For most shopaholics, it’s fruitless to simply say “Just don’t shop!” If it was that easy, no one would have a shopping problem. The real issue isn’t shopping, in and of itself. The real issue is excessive shopping, or compulsive, habitual, out-of-control shopping. Sometimes it happens at certain periods, like during the holidays. To combat the emergence of the problem, and keep your finances in tact, give yourself permission to do some shopping – within reason. Set a realistic budget, namely a monthly amount of money that you can spend, without racking up debt and without harming your personal finances. Once you hit your limit, do everything in your power to stop shopping for the rest of the month.

Enlist the help of friends and family

When you go on a shopping excursion, take a buddy shopping with you who will not let you go overboard. That friend should know your budget or your spending limit for that particular outing. Then it’s the friend’s job to get you out of the mall or away from the stores once you hit your limit. Also, tell any supportive or positive family and friends you have that you’re working on curbing your spending, and ask for their help and encouragement in helping you meet your goal.

Limit shopping trips to “emotion neutral” times

Be aware of your emotional state at all times, and make a pledge that you will not shop when your emotional state is off kilter. This means forgoing shopping trips when you feel any kind of emotional extreme – like elation, sadness or depression. Instead, if you must shop, do so during “emotion neutral” times, i.e., when you’re on a relatively even emotional keel.

Channel your energy

Find alternative things to do to replace your shopping trips. Instead of hitting your favorite stores, or shopping only, channel your energy into more positive activities like exercising, reading or pursuing a hobby. If you’re busy, especially if you’re doing something fun and physical (tennis anyone?), you’ll not only be too occupied to do mindless shopping, you’ll also be engaged in a healthy, stress-busting activity.

Get to the root of the problem – and recognize your emotional spending “triggers”

You can also get a handle on your impulse shopping binges by preventing them in the first place – or learning why your spending is out of control. Start using a journal. Write down what happens in your life and look for patterns to see if there is something that often serves as a “trigger” event that makes you want to shop. Also, spend some time reflecting about your past. Write down notes about when you first became a shopaholic, how shopping makes you feel, and what ramifications and emotions you experience before, during and after you shop.

Join a support group for shopaholics

Lastly, for serious shopaholics, try joining a support group, such as The Stopping Overshopping Program (www.StoppingOvershopping.com), created by April Lane Benson, Ph.D., the author of I Shop, Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self. Benson has been in private practice in New York City for nearly 30 years and has treated many women who are excessive shoppers. Dr. Benson’s program is available to New Yorkers, in person, for individuals, couples and groups. A similar program, is offered by psychotherapist Olivia Mellan, the author of Overcoming Overspending. She has teleclasses, CDs, books and online resources on her website (www.MoneyHarmony.com) to help shopaholics.


By getting to the root of why you consistently splurge, you’ll understand how your habits first began and how to combat the cultural and media influences that make you want to hit the mall and shop unnecessarily or in excess.


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Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach

Personal Finance Expert and Co-Founder at Ask The Money Coach.com
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach is a personal finance expert, speaker, and author of numerous books on personal finance. She appears frequently as an expert commentator on television, radio and in print.

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laura

my main problem is always wanting a bargain. i’m always good at finding them to them point where i’ve found so many bargains that all in all i’ve actually spent a lot of money because i’ve bought so much. i don’t get that much money but everytime i go out i spend all of my money. this has drove me to the limit that i never go out for pleasure anymore, just incase i spend all of my money. i don’t know what to do.

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