Everyone shops. We all need the basics in life, right? Food, shelter, clothing, etc. It’s the “etc.” part that presents a wide range when it comes to shopping habits. While there are many amusing adages about shopping—”Shop til you drop,” “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness…,” and “Shopping is my cardio” are a few that come to mind—for some it has become an unhealthy situation, both mentally, physically, and financially. It is called a few different things: “shopaholism”, “Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD)” or “oniomania”. Not sure if you are just guilty of the occasional splurge, or if you need help to rein in your spending? You’re not alone. Read on for 7 signs of unhealthy shopping habits…and some real talk on how you can change them.
1. You browse or shop online as a source of entertainment or happiness.
Got some time to kill, so you open your Amazon app or spend a couple of hours at the mall. We’re all guilty of the occasional “retail therapy”. However, if this is how you always fill your spare time and the result is a constant influx bags and boxes of stuff you don’t really need, then it is definitely not a healthy habit. Give yourself better options to spend that valuable free time. Schedule regular coffee or walk dates with a friend. Go to the library—browsing and borrowing is free! Sign up for an online class. Basically, fill up that space with options that do not indulge those shopping urges.
2. You cannot pass up a sale item, even if it’s something you do not need.
Sales used to be special, and it would truly be the best time to buy those things, whether it was electronics, linens, jeans, or toys. Nowadays we are barraged from all sides with “Best Deal Ever” and “70% off” and “Buy One, Get One” and “Almost Gone!” It’s maddening! Are you buying stuff because it’s such a great deal, and you didn’t even need it to begin with? Are you buying random items for family or friends, “just because”? Are you buying multiples of things because they were dirt cheap, but you don’t actually use? No bueno. Unsubscribe from all merchants’ emails. Minimize ads on your social media. Get off catalog mailing lists. Basically, do what you can to stop marketers from reaching you, and lower the temptation to spend.
3. You have brand new items in your home that are still in their shipping boxes or shopping bags, unused and with price tags on.
Are you buying so much that you’ve lost track? If you’ve got boxes or shopping bags in your home and you’re not quite sure what’s even in them, then that’s definitely not a good situation. Senseless shopping is a symptom of compulsive buying—you are buying things you don’t want or need, and your home is becoming cluttered with these items. To track your buying and spending, create a log or a spreadsheet and start listing what you are purchasing and how much you’ve spent. Seeing the list of itemized purchases and the cost will hopefully help you work on changing this habit.
4. You keep buying things, even if you know you cannot afford them.
Credit cards and online shopping make it all too easy to keep that “Add to Cart” habit going. Even if something seems out of your price range, and you know it’s going to create a budgetary problem later, you are able to ignore your common sense and with a few clicks, it’s yours. Maybe it’s time to put your credit cards away and just use cash. When you have only “X” amount of cash for the month literally in hand, it is easier to limit your spending because it is much more tangible and clear-cut how much money you have to spend on extras.
5. You are ashamed or embarrassed by how much you’ve bought or spent, and you need to hide or lie about it.
Does it seem normal for you to hide your purchases from your loved ones, or even to lie about how much something cost or how much you have bought? Sadly this is not normal or healthy behavior, and being able to admit that is the first step towards being able to actually change that behavior. Try this: Stop shopping solo, stop shopping online, and then only go shopping with a trusted friend or family member who can help you weigh your purchases and curb your spending.
6. You shop when you are upset, angry, or sad.
Is shopping the thing that helps you when you are having emotional turmoil? It’s not unusual to buy something awesome to reward yourself when you’ve hit your goal weight or gotten that raise. But when you shop merely as a response to your negative emotions, and the only thing that can make you feel better is to buy things, then you’ve hit an unhealthy space with your shopping habit. When you are about to buy something, make it a practice to always ask these three questions: 1) How do I really feel right now? 2) Why do I want to buy this? 3) How will I feel tomorrow if I don’t own this? Hopefully this will help you figure out what triggers your impulse buying and to work on this behavior.
7. Your shopping habits are becoming a source of friction between you and your partner.
Do you often have arguments or stressful conversations about your shopping habits with your partner? Is your spending causing financial anxiety and burden for your household budget? It may be necessary to bring in a financial advisor to help you and your partner with budget planning. This third party’s involvement in your finances can help present a clearer picture of your household income and expenses. Knowing how much you may actually spend without going into debt could be the wake-up call you need to work on your overspending tendencies.
Don’t beat yourself up over this—everyone has lapses in spending judgment sometimes and that is okay. But if you have read this and find that you can relate to several of these signs of unhealthy spending habits, it may be time to seek help. When any habit is impacting your home life, your emotional health, your relationships, and your financial situation, it’s become something that needs to be addressed with treatment. Tough love is exactly that.