Shopaholics Anonymous

Your’re walking down the street, on your way to pick up the dry-cleaning when suddenly, you see a little red sign with the words written in white, like a beacon, SALE. Your heart skips a beat and you immediately forget about your laundry and walk into the shoe store. Your eyes scan around the shop and you head straight for the sales rack, where at 60 per cent off, you hand the sales associate four pairs “In a size eight please.” One shoe fits too snug, but it’s Marc by Marc Jacobs at such a good price. You bring three pairs to the register (telling yourself you’re being good today) and you whip out your plastic.

We’ve all been there, and even during sales season or at the don of a new fall or spring season, we often find ourselves justifying purchases. But what happens when you end up shopping once, twice, or three or four times a week?

You might be suffering from shopaholism. I’ve been there, and thankfully I’m on my way to recovery. All throughout school, I had a steady, well-paying reception job. This allowed me to eat out with friends on a weekly basis, and inflated both my shoe and handbag collection. A few years later, graduated and working as a freelancer, my habits had to change.

Step one to recovering from a shopping addiction is to take account of what you have. If you can’t go through your closet and throw things out, simply reorganizing will allow you to see what you already own. Make sure your new closet organization is visual and clear, but if you are short on space and need to tuck things away, take note of what you own to help remind you.

Once you’ve organized your closet, it’s likely that you’ll come across things you don’t need anymore. Organize a swap party with friends or donate the rest of your articles to charity. If you hoard designer goods, get to work immediately and post your luxuries on eBay or Kijiji. You can use consignment shops, but payments can take longer to clear and the commission is likely higher. Clearing up unused goods is good karma, and it can bring in some extra cash to pay off any lingering debts.

Step two is to change your habits. This isn’t easy, but once you figure out what was triggering your shopping, and you eliminate it, it will help immensely. For me personally, I like to take long walks, which usually ended in me arriving to a shopping mall or strip. Nowadays, I try to center my outings and exercise in parks or areas further from shopping areas to avoid the possibility of falling into temptation. Browsing is one of the worst things you can do if you’re a shopaholic or on a tight budget. Why tempt yourself?

Step three is to find new ways of rewarding yourself. While you might deserve a new pair of pumps after completing a big project, you can find just as much reward with a deluxe latte (forget about the calorie count this time) or a drink with your girls. Your wallet will thank you.

The worst bad shopping habit to recover from is emotional shopping. When shopping as a reward becomes shopping to lift your mood, you’ve stepped into a dangerous territory. Like a drug, you will equate happiness and fulfillment with a new leather handbag. The next time you’re feeling down, skip the mall, indulge in a little “you” time or call a close friend to chat and get you out of a bad mood.

If your kryptonite is online shopping, by all means block any website or your credit card from being used on any of these sites. While online shopping might be a great way to snag a deal, you might not realize how much you’re spending until your statement comes in. Because you don’t actually perform a physical exchange of money for goods, you can easily lose track.

The final step is to appreciate shopping once again. It’s completely unrealistic to swear off shopping for good, because we all need a new winter coat or the need to shop for Christmas gifts from time-to-time. But when you set out to go shopping, come armed with a list. This will keep you on track (jot down a simple budget as well) and will keep your priorities in order so you don’t end up visiting every store in the mall. When you do come across an item you can’t live without, ask yourself, “Do I own anything like this?” and “How will this item make a difference in my life/wardrobe?” If you can’t answer these questions, then put it down. If it’s still in your head after a few days, you can make room in your budget and revisit the item. I always have a philosophy that if it’s meant to be, it will still be there.

Recovering from a shopping addiction isn’t easy, but throughout my experience, I’ve realized that I’d much rather spend my money on travel and activities that enrich my life. While I can tell people all about the time I lived in Europe, I can’t tell my friend’s uncle about an oxblood leather handbag. Material possessions come and go, and once you learn to avoid the beckon call of a sale sign, your spending conscience will be clean.

Tags: bad spending, how to improve spending habits, how to stop shopping, money, money tips, personal finance, shopaholics, shopping tips, tips for shopaholics, tips for shopping addicts

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