Sometimes “going shopping” just means running some crucial errands to get some practical household items. Other times, a shopping trip is a wasteful chance to indulge and spend too much money on frivolous luxury purchases.
For me, shopping isn’t a hobby or a fun way to spend a day – it’s a complete nightmare. But I know plenty of people who consider a shopping spree therapeutic. They get a rush from finding something new and spending money. That psychological boost can get expensive, however, and many people take it too far.
Do you have a shopping problem that’s too big to fix? Or does someone close to you have a shopping addiction that’s draining their budget and creating a credit problem?
Here are a few tips and tricks that can help ease the burden of a bad shopping habit.
1. Find Healthy Alternatives
If shopping is your primary release and escape from the everyday grind, you’re likely to spend your paycheck faster than you earn it. Shopping might be fun, but looking at it as a hobby is dangerous for your budget. It’s time to explore different ways to get out of the house and socialize with friends. Try a new activity altogether – something inexpensive or free. Outdoor fitness activities, like walking, jogging, and running are free options, and martial arts, dancing, music lessons, and swimming groups are relatively inexpensive commitments. Not only are you saving money; you’re also improving your overall health and staying in shape.
These exercise classes are great ways to socialize with old friends or make new ones, but “getting active” doesn’t mean you have to break a sweat. Joining a social group like a book club, will keep you busy, stimulate your mind, and keep you in touch with friends. A new social group – one that’s not focused on shopping and spending – is a great way to distract yourself from stores. Utilize online sites like Meetup to help you find gatherings by cause or location.
2. Get Disciplined
What if your shopping habit isn’t about socializing, but an inability to control your own impulses? If you’re going out to shop for groceries and clothes for your kids, and then finding yourself unable to resist splurging on impulse buys and fancy clothes, then your habit is going to be tougher to break. Going cold turkey isn’t an easy option. You still need to shop for the essentials, but you just need to build up discipline at the same time. Take baby steps.
- Make a plan. When you’re grocery shopping, make a list, and stick to it. If you’re in your kitchen thinking about the specific items you need, you’re not going include gourmet kitchen utensils or tabloid magazines. Putting your commitment in writing will help you stick to the essentials on your shopping trip.
- Change your mindset. Prove to yourself that you can window shop without dropping a ton of cash or relying on your credit cards. You don’t have to avoid the mall completely. Just know when to walk away from a bad deal. Test yourself once a week by browsing the stores without your wallet. You’ll learn to look without spending on every item you like on the rack. It may feel silly at first, but this exercise can teach you that you can appreciate items without buying them.
3. Choose Your Friends Wisely
You might need some time away from certain friends. You know who they are – the ones with the same bad habits as you. If you’re ready to cut back on your shopping budget but they’re not, you’re going to have to learn how to say no and stay within your budget. You’re not avoiding your friends – you just need to find new activities together. A more responsible shopping budget will leave you with more cash to spend on dinner at a restaurant or a night at the movies. You might feel like the “bad guy” for a little while, but in the long run you’ll feel better when you’re older, still friends, and retiring comfortably because of your better spending habits.
Similarly, when you do go shopping, bring a friend – a responsible one. Your shopping companion should be someone who will keep you in check, tell you when to put an item back on the shelf, and reinforce your new habit of buying only what you need.
4. Inventory Your “Stuff”
For many shoppers, it’s just fun to walk into the house with some new stuff. But the novelty quickly wears off, and a lot of purchases just sit unused. My closets have been full of junk that we felt we really needed – at the store. But we eventually forget about the things we spend plenty of money on. To avoid making a repeat purchase, spend some time “shopping” in your own closets, and you’ll probably find that you already own a lot of things you planned to buy. Cleaning out the closets might not be as much fun as shopping is, but make a day out of this treasure hunt. You’ll be surprised by what you find.
Compulsive shopping is a very real problem. Organizations like Debtors Anonymous and Shopaholics Anonymous can help you if you’re having perpetual trouble controlling the urge to spend. We’re surrounded by over-consumption, advertising, and 24/7 online shopping store options, making it tough to hold on to our cash. Just a few small adjustments can make a huge difference. The next time you yearn for a trip to the mall, exercise restraint. Shopping can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.
What tricks have you used to change your shopping habits?