Do you suffer from oniomania? The term comes from the Greek words onios and mania, meaning “for sale” and “insanity” respectively. The condition is better known as compulsive buying or being a “shopaholic.” Almost everyone overspends occasionally or buys on impulse, but for many the spending is truly out of control, ruining their financial health and steadily building debt. Those who spend to alleviate negative emotions like anger, sadness or disappointment, those who get an adrenaline rush from spending money, and those who consistently buy more than they intended may be compulsive shoppers. Social and cultural conditions reinforce such behaviors. Magazines, TV, movies and other media glorify “retail therapy” and blur the distinction between needs and wants. Credit cards give consumers easy access to money they don’t have. Advertisements are everywhere we turn, and shopping isn’t limited to a physical store location; you can buy from your computer, TV or Smartphone. You can even shop during a flight! Conditions may encourage you to shop ‘til you drop but offer no help or dealing with the debt that follows. Break the destructive spending habits and splurge no more with these easy, creative tricks.
No one has superhuman willpower. The best way to avoid giving in to temptation is to avoid encountering it. Switch the channel away from home shopping networks and stop browsing store websites or one-stop online shopping like Amazon or eBay. Don’t window shop, or if you are going to do it, do it after hours. Recycle catalogs that come in the mail or, better yet, call customer service and unsubscribe. Discount and dollar stores can also present pitfalls; it’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. Since credit card usage often facilitates excessive spending, put your plastic somewhere else. Keep it in a file with your statements so you can’t use it without seeing the balance. Give it to your spouse or partner so that you must justify each purchase to someone else. Having a support system in place will also help you stick to your goals. As a last resort, consider freezing your cards in a block of ice. Waiting for it to melt gives you time to rethink your purchase.
Good news: you don’t have to quit cold turkey. Set aside a specific amount each month for shopping. You won’t feel deprived, and you will actually appreciate your purchases more when they are fewer and more thoughtful. If you’re shopping for little extras, donate one item to charity for every item that you buy. This trick helps you consider what you already have that is similar or maybe better than what you are buying. If you overspend on little items a few dollars at a time, make a list before shopping and stick to it.
Controlling an impulse of any kind requires creating space between the trigger and your response. Like hitting the pause button, you need to be able to stop and consider your reaction. Try the two-day rule: if you must have it, wait two days. If it’s really great you can go back and get it, but chances are you will forget about it as soon as you leave the store. A personalized credit card sleeve with an inspirational quote or picture to remind you why you’re saving also helps you stop and think before you buy. If you’re home and the urge to go shopping hits, sit down and make two lists: ten things you would like to do but never have the time and ten things you would like to do but you never have the money. Consider all these ways you would rather spend your time and money. Make a plan to do one of the things on your list, and you’ll find much more fulfillment that you would by shopping.
Satisfy the Craving (Safely)
You really can keep the fun in shopping while keeping more money in your wallet. Your friends and family can be a great help in this area. Shop with a friend who is also trying to save money and both can act as a reality check for each other.
Instead of buying new, check out local thrift stores and garage sales. The variety and uniqueness of what you’ll find is a shopper’s dream, and the prices are a fraction of the retail price for the same items. Most items are like new or gently used; some items still have store tags (maybe from another shopaholic who couldn’t resist something he or she didn’t need). Many thrift stores also support philanthropy or local charities: Goodwill, one of the most widely known, supports employment and job training programs. The Society of St Vincent de Paul also uses proceeds for works of charity.
Act as a personal shopper for someone who recently changed jobs and needs a new wardrobe or moved and wants to redecorate the new place. You can help them browse, compare, choose and buy without spending a dime, and they will appreciate the shopping help and the second opinion on their purchases.
If you shop with friends for the social experience or if your friends are shopaholics too, host a clothing swap. Everyone brings clothing or other items they no longer use or want and set them on “display.” Guests barter and make trades until all are satisfied with their “purchases.” Everyone gets to clear out the closets and goes home with “new” items. Donate leftover items to charity.
If There Is A Will, There Is A Way
By incorporating these strategies; avoiding any instances that you would be tempted, taking control of your money and money spending habits, pausing before you purchase and making any purchase you do make safe, you will indefinitely lose the title of shopaholic. Not to mention, thousands of other people who are suffering from being shopaholics will have one more person to look up to.