How to Cure Your Shopping Addiction

December 17, 2012

shoppingShopping is one of those activities that feels really good until it’s over and you realize how much money you’ve spent. It’s even worse if you use credit cards to pay for your spending. The arrival of one or more credit card bills the following month chronicling your excesses can be a painful awakening.

Of course, we’re not talking about shopping for necessities here – everyone has to do that. What we’re talking about is recreational shopping, that kind of shopping that you do because it feels good or passes the time. If you shop for these reasons, you may have a shopping addiction. That’s not unlike cigarette smoking or excess eating or drinking. It’s a bad habit! Just like all bad habits, it leaves a trail of consequences in its wake.

The only way to get out of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Take a look at some new habits you can add to your schedule that might help you to spend less time shopping and more time doing activities that will improve the quality of your life.

1. Make a list of your most important goals.

Start making a list of your most important goals. Now notice that we’re saying goals and not things? There’s an important distinction.

Goals are something you achieve. Achievements are what you want to do with your life, and have the potential to make you feel a lot better about yourself and your life. Things, on the other hand, are something you acquire. That means buying more stuff, which feeds your shopping addiction. Either the shopping or the stuff make you feel better at the moment, but neither makes you feel better about yourself or about your life.

Once you’ve identified your goals, you can begin focusing your time achieving those goals. That will move you in a worthwhile direction that should eventually take you away from the need to acquire stuff.

2. Start an exercise program.

Whether it’s a goal or not, give strong consideration to taking up an exercise program or expanding the one you have. Exercise programs take time and will also soak up some energy. It will be something constructive to do in some of those moments when you feel like going shopping.

There are also significant psychological benefits to exercise. It tends to make you feel better in general, and better about yourself in particular. When you take control of your health and your body, by extension you take control of your life. That has important psychological and emotional benefits, in addition to the physical improvements it produces.

When it comes to good habits, exercise is one of the best – and a worthy replacement for time you might spend shopping! Oh and there’s a financial benefit too: Most exercise programs will cost you little or nothing.

3. Plan more activities with family and friends.

Shopping could be something that you do to make up for a void caused by a lack of time with family and friends. In a world in which we are often surrounded by home entertainment equipment, computers, and the Internet, there can be little room for interaction with people. That can cause a need to find emotional connection in other directions, one of which could be shopping. Let’s face it, when you are out shopping you’re out around people – even if you don’t necessarily know any of them.

Becoming more purposeful about your time and relationships with people can be a way of minimizing your shopping time. Relationships require time, which will leave you less for shopping. In addition, you may find that the more you bond with people – and the closer you become – the less need you’ll have for shopping.

4. Get more involved in charity and volunteer work.

Shopping can also be the result of a lack of meaningful involvement. That’s a void that can be filled by charity and volunteer work. The more time you spend on these activities, the less time or need you will have for shopping. You will also be doing your part to bring about positive change in the world, and that also has incredible emotional benefits that may lessen the need for shopping.

Charity work is shifting the focus to other people and situations beyond yourself. Shopping is largely about doing something for yourself; we all need some of that, but it should never be a dominant activity in our lives. When you get involved in charity work you move at least some of the focus in your life to other people.

Charity and volunteer opportunities are everywhere. Churches and synagogues need people for various purposes, schools and hospitals need help for just about everything, and there any number of charities in your community that could use your help right now. You don’t need any special skills, just a willingness to get involved.

5. Find a hobby.

A hobby is another constructive activity. Identify an activity that you really like, something that you may have been putting off that would be a natural draw for you if you would allow it to be. Start putting some of your time and efforts into the hobby, and you may find yourself spending less time at the mall.

You may even find that you have a hidden talent, such as playing an instrument, drawing, painting or writing. Each is a form of self-expression that can fill an emotional void and even set an entirely different direction in your life. Through that expression, you may find that you have less need to shop and to spend money.

The shift away from shopping may not be an overnight event. But if you involve yourself in enough non-shopping activities, eventually you’ll be saying goodbye to a bad shopping habit. Once you do, you’ll begin to notice your finances improving too.

Have you ever considered the possibility that you might be addicted to shopping? Is it something you wish you could stop?


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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4 Responses to How to Cure Your Shopping Addiction

  • Anna Christina

    I used to shop A LOT. Then, I decided to run a half marathon. I dedicated a lot of time to training and, about a year later, I realized the impact it had on my shopping. I was buying less and I was a more conscious buyer. It wasn’t intentional, but I definitely agree with point #2!

  • Kevin

    Hi Shannon–I think the saying, “idle hands are the Devil’s tools” really applies to recreational shopping–and a bunch of other bad habits. When we’re busy, especially doing activities that add meaning to life, we don’t need to buy things to find meaning. It’s usually a lot cheaper too!

  • Shannon-ReadyForZero

    This is a great post! I definitely shopped to give myself fulfillment when I first graduated from college. Then I moved to another city where I was more creatively challenged and spent my time writing and volunteering. It was suddenly much easier to become frugal and I was a lot happier!


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