Keeping spending under control can be a difficult impulse to control. Especially if, like me, you have a bit of a shopping addiction. Nowadays, we are absolutely bombarded with advertisements flashing the latest and greatest products. These ads are specifically targeted to make us want to spend more and more. Sometimes, it can be hard to resist spending the money on that sweet pair of jeans that is available “for a limited time only”. It’s especially problematic if you’ve slipped into buying these items on credit (also known as “imaginary money”).
Keeping a shopping addiction under control can be pretty hard to manage sometimes. Especially when we’ve grown up in a culture that values YOLO and other forms of instant gratification.
Based on my own personal experiences in overcoming a shopping addiction, I’ve found a few ways to help. Well, let’s not say “overcome” my shopping addiction. It’s like any other addiction – some days you do well, and some days you blow it. I have to confess that I spent $300 of my $250 food budget (for two weeks!) at Costco just TODAY – ugh. Read my post here about my difficulties in shopping at Costco.
I found the best quote that sums up the pain of struggling with a shopping addiction. It may seem like harmless fun at first, but when the credit card bills mount up, and you find your house full of unwanted clutter, it’s not fun AT ALL.
All that clutter used to be MONEY
Tip One – Keep your BUTT Out of the Stores!
This is my number one BEST tip and I’ve followed it for years. How many stores do you go into in an average week? Probably 15-20?? I may only go into 1 or 2 – or even NONE. I have agreements with my husband and sons that if I want something, I will give them a list and they’ll go get it. Groceries, pharmacy items, or just about anything.
Humiliating? A little. But I’ll bet it’s saved us THOUSANDS of dollars that I would have spent on stuff we didn’t need. If you’re serious about fixing the problem, get serious!
But it’s kind of funny to hear women GASP when they hear I don’t step my foot into Target – ever. Wal-mart – never. Dollar Store – rarely and only if I just have cash. It’s like I’m from a different planet. But I’ve had to learn my lesson over and over and over. If I walk into a store, it is GUARANTEED I am coming out the front door with something. Usually a bunch of somethings…..
Another strategy is to switch to online shopping, but only if you can do it without triggering your shopping addiction. I do much better online – I will typically stick with my list much more when shopping online, but only you can know if it’s a problem for you. These new online options for grocery shopping are so much more convenient and it does help you to skip past items that might otherwise tempt you.
Tip Two – Switch to Cash to SQUASH your Shopping Addiction
If you will do this, I promise, you will get serious about your spending right away! I actually wrote a whole post about cash vs. credit. Psychologically, you just act differently when spending spending cash vs. spending with plastic. It’s just a fact, when money is a finite resource, you will make better choices #fact This can be a huge step in dealing with shopping addiction – cash is king!
My post on Toxic Money Behaviors also has some helpful tips in this area.
Tip Three – Find FUN in Non-Shopping Activities
Let’s face it, sometimes you’re overspending just because you’re bored, feeling deprived, or just lonely. Next, find fun, free things to do instead of spending money on entertainment. Have lunch with a friend, take your kids to the park, volunteer somewhere, start a business with another mom – find ways to interact with others that don’t involve transactions. Seeking that connection will help fill you up more than all that STUFF will ever do.
Tip Four – Ask the Tough Questions Before You Buy
Furthermore, ask yourself some big questions before you buy things that you probably don’t need.
DO you NEED it?
How often will you use it?
Do you have room for it?
Can you actually afford it?
Could you borrow it, buy it used, or repurpose something you already have?
Will you still love it a month from now, or will it sit forgotten in a closet?
Tip Five – Turn Off the Shopping Emails
Retailers know that those shopping Emails they send us get results. That’s why they send us so many of them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being part of someone’s marketing plan!
Exercise your option to say NO. When they ask me for my phone number or my Email at checkout, I just politely say – I don’t give out that information. It startles them because probably 95% of the people don’t do that, but they get over it. And when I buy stuff online and can’t get out of giving them my Email, I immediately unsubscribe. I don’t need or want that garbage in my Email.
Or, if you want to take advantage of particular discount codes or sales, set up a filter to send them to a special folder. Then when you’re ready to go shopping, check your folder for the discount codes. I’m all about the discount codes. I’ve got a whole post about shopping Emails.
Tip Six – Get an Accountability Partner for Dealing with Shopping Addiction
Remember, we said we were going to get serious about this, right? Do you think you’re the only one dealing with shopping addiction? It’s more common than you’d think. It’s almost epidemic in American society because it’s a common way to handle anxiety, boredom, or feeling deprived. You shouldn’t be ashamed, especially if you are working on fixing the problem. You should be really PROUD of yourself for making the change.
When you’re an alcoholic, you have a sponsor to help you. Why shouldn’t you have a partner to help you with your overshopping? Could be your Mom, your sister, your best friend, or just an online friend.
I do this sometimes. I have a friend who is a frugal blogger. When I do decide to go into a store for something, I send her a text ahead of time. I say, I’m going to X store to get Y and I’m planning to spend Z amount of dollars. Then I have to follow up with a 2nd text with a photo of my receipt. Man is that a good accountability tool! The thought that I’m going to have to confess to someone that I’ve bought unplanned stuff is a big motivator and it has caused me to put things back that weren’t on my list. Maybe not all the stuff, but a lot of it!
Years ago, I wrote a post called Teach Your Bank to Yell at You. It’s been one of my MOST popular posts over the years. This is another twist on the accountability partner thing. I have alerts set up on my credit cards for EVERYTHING over $1. Not my debit card because that’s what I use for everyday spending, but if my husband or I use a credit card – ZING. There is an Email in my inbox IMMEDIATELY.
I send them to myself to remind me to pay off that charge when I pay bills. But you could set that Email to be anyone you want – your husband, your mom, your accountability partner, whoever. That literally keeps you honest about your spending and it’s a good motivator, especially if it’s someone who loves you enough to hold you accountable.
Although it can be hard to conscientiously remind yourself to say no to purchases that aren’t necessities, these are some of the questions that can make your spending habits less impulsive and more responsible.