Personal Finance

How to Stop Shopping Addiction? Do’s and Don’ts

My shopping addiction started innocently enough. A cute pair of shoes here, a nice blouse there. Retail therapy to pick-me-up after a long week. But at some point, casual shopping turned into an unhealthy compulsion threatens the financial goals. I was spending ridiculous amounts of money I didn’t have, buying things I didn’t need or even really want most of the time.

What began as excitement and joy after each shopping spree soon turned into guilt, shame and overwhelming credit card debt. I knew I had a serious problem but felt powerless to stop. Shopping addiction had taken over my life.

If this experience resonates with you, know that you’re not alone. Compulsive shopping and emotional spending are far more common than you may realize. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share my journey to understand the warning signs, break the addiction cycle, achieving successful budgeting and regain control over my finances and mind.

The Anatomy of Shopping Addiction

Defining Shopping Addiction

Shopping addiction goes beyond casual enjoyment of buying nice things. It’s compulsive buying to the point where it causes emotional distress and major financial issues. You buy to cope with negative emotions, then feel regret, but can’t break the cycle.

Signs that your shopping has become an unhealthy addiction include:

  • Frequently buying items you don’t use, need or even really want
  • Spending significant time and money shopping routinely
  • Hiding purchases from loved ones due to guilt
  • Continuing to shop despite negative financial, emotional or social consequences

The Warning Signs

For me, it started with buying small indulgences like scented candles or bath products to cheer myself up. But soon I got hooked on the short thrill of buying new clothes, shoes, home décor – you name it. I’d go on 2-3 shopping sprees a week.

The warning signs appeared quickly – packages arrived daily, my closet space ran out, credit card bills piled up. But I ignored them and continued spending to get that euphoric high.

I thought I was only hurting myself financially but my addiction also hurt relationships. I hid many purchases from my husband once we combined finances. We fought about money as debt increased. I isolated myself from friends to conceal shopping habits.

Facing those painful warning signs is the first step in breaking the cycle. Be alert to patterns of emotional spending and impact on life.

The Emotional Rollercoaster

The Highs and Lows

In the moment a shopping addiction purchase provides a huge rush. For me, tearing open packages with new items felt like Christmas morning. The thrill of treating myself and adding to my wardrobe was incredibly soothing and energizing.

But each time, that high was followed by overwhelming guilt, anxiety and shame. I felt irresponsible seeing credit card bills go unpaid. As debt rose, I worried constantly about money.

That anxiety fueled more shopping trips to recapture the temporary joy. It was a vicious high-low cycle I couldn’t pull myself out of.

The Cycle of Debt

Shopping addiction is strongly linked to credit card debt in particular. I financed every purchase through cards, telling myself I deserve this. The ease of swiping a card versus handing over cash made it easy to overspend.

Within a year I had accumulated almost $15,000 in credit card debt that I couldn’t pay off. I took out new cards with balance transfers just to make minimum payments. Debt fueled more compulsive spending to distract myself from the growing financial mess.

This dangerous spiral impacted all areas of my life. Debt does not exist in isolation – it seeps into your emotional health, relationships and every decision. Recognizing this impact was the motivation I needed to make a change.

Strategies to Combat Shopping Addiction

Practical Steps

I discovered some simple yet powerful steps to control spending:

  • Cut up all but one credit card – the physical act was incredibly liberating.
  • Only allow yourself to spend what’s in your wallet right now. Carrying cash versus cards helps curb overspending substantially.
  • Track every dollar spent. Apps like Mint help spot unconscious spending leaks.
  • Build awareness of triggers and warning signs so you can catch an impending relapse.
  • Automate savings so money is safely tucked away before you can spend it.

Mindful Shopping

To counter those deep emotional triggers, I also implemented mindful shopping habits:

  • Institute a 30-day mandatory waiting period for any purchase over $50. This short pause breaks the heat-of-the-moment impulse buying.
  • Ask yourself 3 critical questions before any purchase: Do I really need this? Can I afford it? Where will it go in my home? If you struggle answering, do not buy.
  • Avoid stores, apps and websites that tempt you. Unsubscribe from promotional emails and ads.
  • Find fulfillment through experiences like travel or hobbies versus acquisition of things.

With this combination, I drastically changed my spending patterns. The impulse faded substantially when I paused and asked those simple questions.

Seeking Help and Support

The Role of Therapy

For some with severe shopping addiction, professional counseling provides the needed support. There were deep unresolved emotional issues fueling my compulsion – therapy helped me unpack and address them.

I know the stigma around getting help. But there is no shame in speaking to a therapist. Mine helped me realize addiction is often a coping mechanism. We worked on building self-esteem, reducing anxiety, finding healthier outlets – all foundations to maintaining financial and mental wellbeing long-term.

Community and Accountability

In addition to therapy, having the support and understanding of others makes a major difference in overcoming addiction. I joined a financial support group that provides a judgment-free space to share struggles, seek advice, and celebrate wins like paying off debt.

I also shared my addiction with close friends and asked them to hold me accountable. Even my husband being aware of my triggers, patterns and relapse warning signs helps prevent it and provides someone to turn to when the urge returns.

Know you don’t have to do this alone. Whether therapy, support groups, friends or family – use every resource available as you take control back.

Final Thoughts

This journey revealed a simple truth – no amount of shopping will ever fill an emotional void. Once compulsive spending stopped being my crutch, I was forced to face the underlying reasons for my addiction and develop healthier habits for mood management.

That work is ongoing. I still occasionally relapse – a bad day at work results in browsing online shops, or seeing an Instagram ad tempts me to hit “Buy”. But having tools and awareness helps me catch myself quickly, close the tab, and refocus my mind.

The difference now is when I do shop, it comes from a place of intentionality – buying something I truly need or will use often. I feel in control of my finances and emotions in a way I never did while in the throes of addiction.

Healing takes time, compassion towards yourself, and refusing to give up. For anyone struggling with shopping addiction – you can do this. Eliminate triggers, lean on support systems, be patient and celebrate every small win. You have so much more strength than you know.

Noah Baker
Noah Baker stands as one of the greatest financial advisors, passionately advocating for financial literacy. With his expertise, Noah empowers individuals to make informed financial decisions, fostering a stronger and more secure financial future for all.

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