There is a specific appeal to the fantasy of having enough money that you can buy anything that appeals to you on impulse. It is a tendency that is supported by much of what we see on TV shows, in the movies and through commercials: the allure of walking in somewhere and putting that coveted item on a credit card. So cool, so controlled. Or so it seems.
Unfortunately, like many addictions, while shopaholicism may come disguised as a way to express control in your life, it is indicative of a more fundamental lack of control. Shopping to ‘buy off’ negative emotions, or through panic that a missed purchase is a lost opportunity, is merely illustrative that there’s something else going on inside. Maybe you’re already aware of tough emotional problems you’re dealing with, or maybe your impulse shopping is simply a bad habit you’re struggling to escape. In either case, you can begin to ‘train yourself’ away from this pattern by adopting certain behavioral changes.
The good news is: taking control of your habit in this manner will make you feel empowered, and save you a whole bunch of money! So where to begin?
Well, first thing is to take control of that credit card. When you’re young and you receive your first credit card, it can feel like a magic wand, some kind of superpower. Unfortunately, at best it is more like a crutch – and should only be used when you need a helping hand to get through a difficult moment.
A credit card doesn’t just give you the means to make bad spending decisions – it positively encourages you to do so. When you’re at the store, for example, paying with your card gives you all the thrill of buying with none of the regret of seeing your earnings dissipate. Leave it at home: taking just the cash you intend to spend will give you a more concrete idea of what you’re spending, and also a safety belt to prevent you burning through your paycheck.
At home, too, your credit card makes it all too easy to spend. One-click shopping is touted as a convenience, but the only ones truly profiting from this innovation are the web merchants. You’re more likely to back out of an online transaction if you actually have to type in every digit of your credit card before clicking ‘Make Order’ – each little number is an opportunity to step back and make the right decision. Turn off one-click shopping and delete your credit card details from each site you use. Liberating, isn’t it?
The internet isn’t all bad, though. As long as you don’t have a propensity to get addicted to bargains (things you’ll buy whether you need them or not because they’re such a good deal) then price comparison sites can be a lifesaver. Use one before you start a shopping ‘trip’ online or to the store, and make a list of everything you intend to buy, and the best priced brand to get. And then force yourself to stick to the list. If you happen upon anything extra that you suddenly feel you need to buy, make a note of it – and keep it for your next list. Hopefully, by the time of your next shopping excursion, you’ll have seen sense and crossed that item out of your notebook. Shoppers who use a list spend 30% less than those who don’t, but you’ll need to be disciplined to enjoy this saving.
Another self-discipline technique that is super-helpful once you get the hang of it is to set yourself a personal timelock. Another name for this is the ten-minute rule: while you’re out and about, if you see something that you have an urge to buy (and it’s not on your list), promise yourself to walk away for ten minutes before doing anything rash. It’s easier to make this deal with yourself than to walk away altogether, but hopefully by the time that ten minutes passes so will your need for that once-appealing item.
If these are all shopping techniques, it’s worth bringing it full circle and looking once again at your feelings. Take time to think about why you shop. Take time to think about the things you buy or want to buy – where they came from, how they were made, how – or even if – you might use them, and how they will eventually be disposed of. Consumerism has an impact on our planet as well as on our bank balance and our emotions!
And finally, take time to think about the things that you already have. Sort through your stuff, make an inventory, rekindle your love affair with your favorite things, and pass on the things that you never should have bought or which no longer have any meaning for you. Expressing acknowledgement and gratitude for the things you have and the privileges you enjoy can reduce your desire to always have something new.
The path from impulse shopping addiction is not so difficult to find when you clear some of the emotional and physical clutter out of the way. For a few more ideas on how to do so, try working through this handsome new ‘how to’ from PoundPlace.